Settling in a new country can be confusing, overwhelming, and even intimidating. It involves learning new cultural norms, and sometimes a new language. Even for those already familiar with the culture and the language, every country has its own set of systems, rules and regulations which new immigrants need to get their head around, and Australia is no exception.
One of the first things new immigrants, and those coming to Australia on working visas should do on arriving in Australia is apply for a tax file number. This is a unique identifier given to individuals and businesses which you need to use to declare income and tax related expenses to the Government, as well as to access some Government services. To receive a tax file number, new arrivals need to lodge an application with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
New permanent residents, and some visa holders, are also eligible for free health care services through Australia’s Government health care system, Medicare. They need to enrol with Medicare at any Medicare service centre in order to access these services. It is also advisable for recent immigrants to register with Centrelink, the Australian Government social services provider. Not only may they be eligible for social security payments, Centrelink helps new permanent residents look for work, find courses or training, and to navigate the process of overseas skills recognition.
Other considerations to cover in the initial weeks after arriving in Australia include enrolling children in school, whether in the free public education system or a private (non-Government) school, applying for an Australian driver’s licence, and opening a local bank account.
The Australian Government also provides a range of services to allow new migrants to settle into Australian life as quickly and easily as possible. These include English language courses through the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), and the National Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National). The AMEP provides up to 510 hours of free English language lessons to migrants and humanitarian entrants who meet the applicable requirements – generally adults with a permanent visa or some categories of temporary visa, who speak little to no English. Teenagers aged between 15 and 17 years old may also be eligible. The Australian Government also offers intensive English language tuition for children in similar categories. TIS National provides an immediate telephone interpreting service in over 160 languages and dialects, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in order to assist migrants with limited English skills in emergency situations, as well as helping them communicate with Government agencies, businesses, and community groups. TIS National can also assist eligible migrants to translate personal documents related to their settlement into English.