This Indian Chartered Accountant who immigrated to Australia shares Tips on Visa, Living Costs and Job Search in Sydney

  • Varun is a qualified Chartered Accountant from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).
  • He is currently working in the Direct Tax Team - KPMG, Sydney (Australia) gaining strong exposure to the Australian Tax Laws. Prior to moving to Australia, he was associated with PwC, Mumbai in their Corporate Tax Team for 3 years. 

Moving from India to Australia

We wanted a change in life. It was easy to get comfortable in India, with Jital (my wife) having a decent corporate job, and me with my Chartered Accountancy practice.

However, we didn’t want to get comfortable at such an early age. We wanted to learn and experience more in life.

We wanted to move out of our comfort zone, understand how different cultures and systems work. And you can never get that experience by traveling just for a few days.

We wanted to move to a country where we could travel, explore and live a life beyond just work, where we could focus more on health and discovering a new lifestyle.

We searched for a country where our skills are transferable and acceptable, and where a visa isn’t an issue (where a country wants and appreciates immigrants i.e. not the USA).

We could earn well in Singapore or UAE, but only Canada and Australia gave us what we really wanted. And Canada is COLD… so we decided to move to Australia.

A lot of people are moving to UAE/Singapore, however, we never considered UAE/Singapore, because for us work has been a means to an end, the end is, as mentioned above -Travel, exploration, self-growth, and development.

So initially when we moved to Australia we flew to Melbourne. However, Jital got a job opportunity in Sydney (Transfer Pricing profile) so we happily moved our 'not yet unpacked bags' to Sydney and made it our new home!

How did we apply for Australian PR in our 20’s

A lot of people ask us - How did we get our VISA to Australia. Did we go through an agency and if yes which one etc. This is what we did:

  • We researched a lot online and DID NOT go through any consultant (that is the best thing we did!).
  • I believe if you wish to migrate to a new country and adapt and settle into a foreign land, you need to understand at least the visa requirements of a country by yourself.
  • And for the Australian Permanent Resident visa, once you go through the visa requirements, you realize that there’s nothing which any agent can do for you. I’ve had friends pay more than INR 2,00,000 to an agency, but prepare the documentation themselves.
  • The entire visa system is based on POINTS – The more you can get the better (80 points for Accountants as of 2017!). Work experience, language skills, age and spouse skills all help in accumulating more points.
  • Australia issues immigration visas to people having skills that are on their skill-shortage list - Accountants is one of them.
  • As regards the approval, we got approval in 2 weeks on 80 points, but I know of friends with a similar background (and 80 points) who had to wait for 6 months to get their visa.
  • Expat forum is the most comprehensive site for any visa seeker. The amount of accumulated experience on that website put in by the members cannot be matched.

Finding a job in Finance in Australia as an immigrant

  • One really needs to get their 'VISA' sorted before applying for jobs in Australia.
  • Most companies don’t want to sponsor visas since there are already a lot of options available out there (unless you are a Transfer Pricing professional). If you have good transfer pricing experience in a big consulting firm, there is a much greater demand. In fact, some firms even sponsor visas for experience Transfer Pricing consulting professionals (it’s just a few, not all). I am in Corporate Tax, not TP just sharing what I know!
  • Can You move to Australia without a job in hand? Most of the time you have to move to Australia without a job in hand. We migrated to Australia without any job offers in hand (like most people).
  • We reached Australia and started connecting with people. Indians working in the Big 4’s and other tax consulting firms were very helpful. Indian seniors working in the consulting world referred our CVs and that enabled us (my wife and I) to get the job interview.
  • While it’s a tendency to connect with recruiters when you are moving to Australia, our personal experience was that - Recruiters won’t bother helping you unless you have local experience. Your best bet is to apply to companies directly through seek.com.au or through connections.
  • Indians, in general, are very helpful and it’s a good thing to connect to fellow Indian professionals when you are moving here.
  • ICAI has a chapter in Sydney, and one in Melbourne as well. The ICAI chapter community out here is extremely helpful. So that is really amazing.

How I found an opportunity in KPMG Sydney in Transfer Pricing 

  • Well in my case it was more of the company choosing me. KPMG gave me an opportunity to get back into Tax consulting so I happily took it up. You can read my CA Journey here. I wanted to get back into consulting, and having prior PwC experience in India helped a lot.
  • If you have Transfer Pricing experience, getting a job here won’t be difficult once you have a visa and move to Australia.
  • As mentioned above, we moved to Australia and then started applying for a job. We applied through Indians working in Big 4’s and they are all really helpful.

What is the job process in Australia and what you need to know as an immigrant? 

  • Getting the first job is the biggest struggle (at times) in Australia. Everyone wants a Local Experience, but no one wants to give a newcomer a chance.
  • It’s almost impossible to get a job in Australia while you are in India.
  • Moving from a Big 4 internally to an Australian branch might be feasible, but even that’s not easy. Within a Big 4 to Big 4, you may get to start just one designation lower if you are extremely good at whatever field you are in.
  • Also, if you transfer from one Big 4 (eg: EY, India) to another Big 4 (eg: PwC, Aus), you’ll definitely start at a much lower level (there are always exceptions, but this is in most cases) so be prepared!
  • Once you’ve got the first job, half the battle is won. If you are lucky, you may get the first job within weeks if not it can take even up to 6 months. It’s a huge patience game.
  • You can’t possibly lose hope because getting a job can take forever (at times) and once you’ve got your first job, life becomes a lot easier / manageable. But a Finance professional will get a job for sure, so don't worry!
  • One needs to be prepared to do low paying and volunteering jobs side by side while you hunt for a good job.

Living in Sydney as an Immigrant 

Cost of living in Sydney

  • The cost of living in Sydney is crazy-expensive. Only New York and San Francisco can compare to Sydney in terms of rent. The average rents are 500 AUD per week for a small one-bedroom house about 30 minutes from the city center.
  • A very important point which I would like to make is – Sydney is an amazing place to live, but not the place if you want to save/ earn/ repatriate to India (at least for the first few years when one just moves to Sydney). Everything from the rent, to commute, to groceries, is very expensive. Most people out here, including young locals, can’t afford to buy a house because saving money is extremely difficult.
  • If you need to find a place on rent in Australia do check out the following websites flatmates.com.au and flatmatefinders.com.au are 2 good options for sharing. For renting - domain.com.au is the best option. There are a lot of other options as well!

Is it necessary to drive in Sydney?

  • Is it important to drive in Sydney – This is very debatable.
  • While Melbourne is surely a city which you would never need a car, a lot of my colleagues argue that you need a car in Sydney. The public transport is good, but not the most extensive.
  • We haven’t missed having a car yet, so I could say one can easily manage without a car in Sydney, again it is a personal choice.

Weather in Sydney

  • While they call Melbourne the most liveable city, it actually has 4 kinds of weather in a day (at times). It can be sunny, rainy, windy and cold, all in the same day.
  • It is not that Melbourne’s weather is bad, it's just that the variable and unpredictable nature of what is actually going to happen during the day can get inconvenient.
  • Sydney has amazing weather! It has a lot more balanced weather. Winters do get chilly, but not freezing. Some days in summers are hot but not as humid as in Mumbai.
  • It rains during the winters here (Sydney) and it can get dark and depressing for a couple of months, but the rain is nothing like in Mumbai. I don’t think any city gets downpours like how Mumbai does! The weather, in general, is not extreme out here, I think it’s overall mild and pleasant.
  • There are so many bushwalks and national parks nearby and it also has some of the best beaches in the world.
  • You are always close to nature and there is always something to do around the year.

Work Culture in Sydney

  • It all depends on the type of work you do and the sector/industry you are in.
  • If you are into consulting and in a field like Transfer Pricing (TP), work will be demanding and challenging. Late sittings happen, but not as much as India. Also, there isn’t as much pressure to perform like back in India.
  • You can manage your work hours, but you need to put in a lot of hours in consulting nonetheless. The difference is, you can get the flexibility of leaving on time and working from home post-dinner if you need to.
  • But yes, it would definitely not be right to say that work is more relaxed here. It’s just that people actually start work very early (say 8-8:30 am) and work a lot more efficiently (including eating lunches on the desk while working).
  • However, working in the industry is a lot more relaxed. The work-life balance is really good, and unlike India, the pay is also better.

CPA Australia

You can connect to him over Linkedin - Varun Jajoo. 

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