Skip to Content

How to Live and Work in Australia as an American Expat

How to Live and Work in Australia as an American Expat

Pin this post for later!

I saw something large and black move out of the corner of my eye.

When I whipped my head around to see what it was, it was at that moment, I immediately regretted my choice of moving to Australia.

THIS is what I was afraid of! Why did I come here! TAKE ME HOME!

A massive eight-legged freak stood there staring at me.

It was as large as my FACE!

I screamed.

Garrett came running in, saw what I was looking at, and immediately retreated only to return with his phone.

He took his photos while I was screaming for him to get it outside before it got lost in the house. He eventually somehow shooed the man-eating Huntsman spider outside without killing it or freaking me out any more than I was.

If you’ve already dismissed the thought of living and working in Australia, don’t!

This was actually the only large spider I saw in my year there and I come from a state where alligators run free, so I really wasn’t THAT scared (but it made for a fun intro, no?).

It’s also not why you’re here (you are still here, right?). So let’s move on from this story, shall we?

Australia, despite its scary spiders, is a continent not only worth visiting but a continent worth living on. If I was able to return to work *legally* I would…

Why I Moved to Australia From the USA

Actually, I didn’t. I was already on my crazy travel venture long before I headed to Australia, and maybe you are too.

But I am from the USA, so as an American working in Australia, I have everything you need to know (seriously, I have tons of working in Australia info, I’ll link everything below too)!

Working and living in Australia as an American
Wandering Darwin on my day off.

It is relatively easy to live and work in Australia if you are from the USA. Plus, the benefits are premium. You get to live on a giant island with giant spiders for a year! (Okay maybe not the best example of fun.)

Seriously though, I had been teaching English in Thailand for a few years, and I had already decided that I wanted to live on every continent. I figured that learning to live and work in Australia could not be that difficult. And I was right.

RELATED: How to Teach English Abroad in Thailand – Live and Work in Thailand!

After a year of living and traveling Asia, Australia was an easy trip that would still allow me the adventure of travel, but with a bit of the comfort of home.

Oh, of course, and for the major “why” this American moved to Australia, MONEY. They pay well and I’m kind of a pro at traveling and living cheaply so Australia’s scary price tags didn’t scare me a bit (the spiders on the other hand… *shudder*)

Resources for Your Trip:

Don’t forget insurance!

Get a quote with the best and easiest travelers insurance: Safety Wing

Where to Stay?

How to Get Free Accommodation Anywhere!

Check my top 3 (legit) ways to get free stays!

Moving to Australia—I Just Did It.

Australia had always been on my travel list (what’s not to love? Beautiful island, high minimum wage, social safety net, the generally happy populace, giant man-eating spiders… kidding!), and I kept hearing about the Working Holiday visa.

I figured it was my sign that Australia would be my next stop. I applied for the visa, got approved, and BAM! I was off to live and work in Australia.

My thought was I would check it out for a year, try to save up some money while there because of the high minimum wage, and take it from there. And guess what? I did!

I worked hard (there are plenty of jobs in Australia for Americans), saved a shit ton of money (a SHIT TON!), and left before I had overstayed my welcome (aka my visa expired because I did NOT want to leave).

Working in Australia as an American is easier than you think.
Working in Australia as an American is easier than you think.

Should I Move to Australia?

You ask. I answer. Here’s my answer: I don’t know!

Would I encourage to do it? Yes. I totally would. My experience was wonderful, and if you are an adventurous spirit with a ‘down for whatever just go with it’ kind of vibe, don’t walk, run to your closet, pack your bags and go!

Factors: Moving to Australia From the USA

There’s lots to consider here. I was a bartender with no bartending skills. A “shop girl” who hung out, folded clothes and talked about the weather (also with little experience). I went with the flow; I put myself out there; I never gave up.

Your biggest challenge will be making sure you have enough cash stashed away to set you up for your first couple of months. But, the best part is, you DON’T need experience to live and work in Australia.

RELATED: How to Work Abroad in Australia (Without Experience).

How Can I Live and Work in Australia?

This is the easy part! Fill out the application for the Australian Working Holiday Visa, get approved (if you’re from the USA or a few other countries it’s pretty much a sure thing), and go!

Also: be prepared to stay for the full year. Any time period you leave Australia after your year has begun is lost. Use it. Or lose it. (So don’t lose it.)

Getting a job in Australia is pretty easy.
Coffee is life in Australia. Being a barista is one of the most popular jobs.

How Much Money Do I Actually Need to Move to Australia?

Technically? $5000 AUD. That’s what the application requirements say. And hey, it’s not bad advice, but don’t let money hold you back. They usually don’t really verify this, and if you’ve got about $1000 a month to get you through your first few months, you’ll be alright mate.

You’ll need to pay rent, eat, and buy any other little things (like a spider grabber—that’s an actual thing) until you get used to living and working in Australia and for your first paycheck.

Jobs in Australia for Americans

Moving to Australia from the USA, you can do pretty much anything in retail, food service, customer service, or labor. There are even “regular” desk jobs up for grabs!

Established shops and restaurants or bars are the easiest to get positions in because the turnover is high and the work takes fairly little training. Just be aware that some jobs, like farm work or day labor, may not pay as much as other jobs.

RELATED: How to Get a Job in Australia and Save a Sh*t Ton of Money.

The minimum wage in Australia is dramatically higher than in the US, but so is the cost of living!

Think about it the same way you would the job market in the US. You could be a nanny, a day laborer, or even a dishwasher. These might not sound like the most exciting and life-changing jobs because they aren’t, but as long as you’re stashing cash away, does it really matter?

Check the local listings, walk the neighborhood shops, and make friends! You can pick up odd jobs here and there; you could even get one full-time job and another part-time. It really depends on what you enjoy doing and what your plans are for making money.

Moving to Australia From the USA – Tips and Things to Think About

1. Save Up BEFORE You Move to Australia

You’re gonna need some money. So before you go, pick up some odd jobs if you need to. Stash as much extra moola as you can prior to packing your bag. The last thing you want is to end up broke and homeless in a foreign country before you’ve even had a chance to get a job.

The main point: Don’t arrive broke.

Working and living in Australia as an American.
Moving to Australia from the USA is one of the best things you’ll do. Promise!

2. What Is Your Goal?

You want to think about why you’re going in the first place. If you’re like me and want to go to live and work in Australia to save, you can get a couple jobs, like I did, and save a boatload of cash very easily.

On the other hand, if you want to travel around the continent a bunch, take in the sights and sounds, fight kangaroos and grab spiders in every region, odd jobs will be more up your alley, and you also may want to save up a bit more before you go.

The main point: Are you saving, traveling, or both? Figure it out because there’s no time or extra money for thinking too hard about it there.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to the Australian Working Holiday Visa and Why to Go Now!

3. Where Do You Want to Start?

On a map, compared to the US, Australia looks like a small island. Newsflash: it’s not. It is a massive continent. It takes ten hours to drive from Sydney to Melbourne and they are basically on the same corner of the southeast coast.

Pick a spot to start and map out a rough plan from there. Remember that our seasons and theirs are flipped upside down. So our summer is their winter and vice versa. Also, know that the regions can be dramatically different climate-wise.

The main point: It’s expensive moving around, so choose a place and stay there for 6 months (6 months is also the time limit you can spend at one employer)

4. What Kind of Plane Ticket to Buy?

One way! You may never want to go back home. Things in the US aren’t that hot right now, and you may find yourself taking a liking to the nomadic lifestyle. Hey, you may end up reversing my trip, Australia on over to Thailand.

You can save up a ton slinging drinks in Sydney and then blow all your money (okay not all of it; you will eventually want a flight home, or somewhere else) on a fabulous bungalow on the beach in Thailand.

The main point: You certainly do not need to buy a round-trip ticket a year in advance. Trust the travel queen.

You can save so much money in Australia by being a bartender.
You can save so much money in Australia by being a bartender.

5. What to Bring With You?

Everything. Remember what I said about the cost of living? You don’t want to have to buy a sweatshirt in an emergency because you landed in the middle of winter in Australia with tank tops only. If you’ve got it, pack it. You’ll be there for a whole year! Bring whatever you can. Sure, you can shop thrift stores and sales if you have to, but, really, you don’t want to have to.

But let’s not be extreme. Don’t pack three suitcases worth. I’m just saying, packing what you need to live in and work in so you don’t have to buy much there. Don’t spend before you make, right?

The main point: Don’t buy shit there if you can help it.

6. Make Friends

I’m not the most social butterfly but I try to make friends everywhere I go. I join groups, I make friends at work, and I make friends on the street. It is part of what I love about traveling and it’s pretty easy to do as there are plenty of backpackers in Australia.

I even made friends with a spider once. Okay twice. Those huntsmans are pretty cute and furry looking! (JK, they are terrifying)

But you do not have to be an eager beaver socialite to make friends in Australia.

You could, of course, make friends at work. If that’s all too social and in your face, then join Facebook groups for the area. That’s actually how we found our roomie in Darwin who ended up being super cool!

The main point: Friends = insider tips for Australia and people to split things with which = money saved. It’s easy math, mate.

RELATED: How To Complete Farm Work in Australia and Extend Your Work Visa.

What to Do Once You Move to Australia

  • Apply for a Tax File Number or TFN. It is much like the social security number in the US; you can use it to file taxes, to work, and to collect government benefits. Filing is easy, just click and begin the process.
  • Get a bank account. You don’t want to run around with a bunch of greenbacks in your pockets from all your savings. It’s always a good idea to go with a big, national bank, especially if you do plan to run around the continent. I had my account with ANZ, and I was happy.
  • Finally, if you plan to serve alcohol in Australia, you will need an RSA, a Responsible Service of Alcohol, certificate. It is a cinch to get, so grab it once you hit town if you plan to show off your flair bartending skills!
Moving to Australia From USA
Sometimes moving to Australia to work on farms can pay decent and they give you a room too.

Finding a Place to Live in Australia

If you’ve ever had to look for a place to stay in the US, it’s pretty much the same in the land down under. Check the online sites, Flatmates, Gumtree (watch out for this one, it’s a bit like Craiglist back home—it can work but it’s sketch). You can even check Facebook. Find a housing group in your area and watch for roommate posts or post one of your own.

The best thing to do for starters is head out into the neighborhood you’d like to stay in. Wander aimlessly, down the streets, into cafes. Make friends! (yes, that again.) Pick up advice and tips from the locals. You never know who may have the hottest scoop on a room to rent or a studio to score.

Here’s more info on living and accommodation in Australia.

Benefits of Living and Working in Australia

Savings. Savings. Savings. I cannot stress this enough. You can work your whole life at a lousy minimum wage job in the states and never save up the money you can save as a surf shop cashier in Australia for a year. Moving to Australia from the USA can, shockingly, save you money.

Remember, we’re talking about a country with average wages in cities of $18-$25 AUD ($14-$20 USD) an hour (for EASY jobs) and paid vacations and holidays. The savings are legendary! You can live and work in Australia for a year and end up ahead of the game.

Working abroad in Australia
Working abroad in Australia was the best things I did for myself and my bank account.

For the record: You likely CAN do this in the US as well. Live cheap and save money. But it’s certainly a bit harder. Just a quick note on this… American’s usually have to work a more demanding job to earn that kind of hourly wage, having a car in about 97% of the country is absolutely mandatory, and when you’re home (aka more comfortable) you’re more likely to spend more. It’s just what it is!

Also living in the US isn’t really exploring beyond your boundaries, is it?

Most people say they can’t travel because of money. So here’s a country you can get paid to work in and explore. What’s the excuse now?

RELATED: How I Saved Over $17K USD in 10 Months Living in Australia.

If your mind is on seeing beauty, experiencing their culture, meeting new people (and spiders!), and having wild adventures, Australia is the place to do it.

You could also be like me and just hunker down for six months at a time, enjoying the quiet life, as an American working in Australia, saving money, knowing you can come back to travel any other time. This was my chance to experience the Working Holiday, so I did!

Really, by now you should already be packed and ready to move to Australia. At the very least you should have your visa application in.

Oh! And in case you’re wondering… The spiders aren’t actually all that bad. They aren’t in the cities, they aren’t going to eat you, and they aren’t crawling everywhere. You’re all good, mate.

Let me know in the comments! Are you an American moving to Australia?


Moving to Australia: The Price of Living Down Under (11 Cities)

How I Saved $17k USD in 10 Months Living in Australia

An American Expat: Working and Living in Darwin, Australia

10 Tips for Moving to Melbourne After Your Travels

7 Days in Sydney Itinerary- for Those Who Want a Bit of Everything!

Cheap Things to Do in Melbourne When You’re Broke AF

Pin this post for later!

  1. Merrilynn says:

    Hey there! My husband, daughter and I are very seriously wanting to come to Australia to visit Beerwah, as I am an avid animal lover & have DREAMED of going to the Australia zoo!! Half-jokingly, I looked at my husband and said “why don’t we just get a visa for the year, rent our home here in the US and move to Australia”. Little did I expect, he agreed!! Well, we’ve never been there.. so I need things broken down barney style! LOL! In order to travel from the US to Australia do you need a passport and travel visa? Do you know of any not-so-expensive places to stay within a 20 minute drive to the zoo? I read the part where you stated it’s expensive there; how much do you feel an average supper would be for 2 adults and a 4 year old (probably your average chicken tenders & fries for my husband, cheeseburger for the kiddo, and fish for myself)? I am trying my best to pin-point the exact amount of money we will need for a 4 night, 5 day stay somewhere! Thanks!!

  2. Rachel says:

    Hi Merrilyn- there is a subreddit page where you can ask all sorts of detailed questions like this. The people on there might have more time to respond than Nina.

  3. David L Blakley says:

    Nina or Rachel,

    Is there an Apartment Guide similar to the ones we have in the U.S. that you would recommend? Thank you!

  4. Nina Ragusa says:

    Hi David, I don’t know what apartment guide you’re speaking about but I’ve provided helpful links above in regards to accommodation.

  5. stephania says:


    I have two small children and a single mother, i have future plansto move to Australia. Yet I dont know where to begin,do I only get visas for myself or them as well? What city would you reccomend and is there a website such as or craigslist that show administrative jobs or HR jobs? I am also bilingual in english and spanish, would that even help me out in Australia? Sorry for all the questions lol i just loved your helpful article and you seem to know a lot.

  6. Nina Ragusa says:

    Hi Stephania, check out my other Australia blog posts that show you where to start, city info, and job info. I don’t know anything about getting a visa for a child, you’ll need to check the official website for visa info regarding kids.

  7. Donovan Bragg says:

    Hi! I am an American with dual citizenship with Australia looking to move there to explore my native roots. I haven’t been in almost ten years and I miss it Dearly! Your blog gave me a lot more information and confidence in potentially moving once I graduate this May. Did you have a job lined up before you moved? And what was the best way to find a cheap place to stay? I’ll be working and exploring and only using the room to sleep and have down time so nothing fancy for me, but do want ease of access to transportation to get around the city.

  8. Nina Ragusa says:

    Awesome Donovan! Enjoy your time there 🙂 I got job once I landed. Check out the other posts with more info.

  9. Fresca says:

    Hi Nina!

    Love reading your posts! I’m an American living in California and my boyfriend lives in Perth. We’re both in our mid 20s and I’m convinced on moving and living in WA with him but I have student debt (about 7,000USD) that I am still paying off. I am starting to save like you have mentioned to make sure to come with savings but what are my chances? Will they still allow a work holiday visa or do I have to be debt free first? Your posts have helped me find the courage to discipline myself. Thank you so much for sharing!

  10. Nina Ragusa says:

    So happy these posts are helpful, Fresca 🙂
    Debt free?! What Americans are debt free? haha. I have about five times more student loan debt than you and make my payments monthly. That debt has nothing to do with working abroad in Aus, so go for it and SAVE while you’re there! You will be able to pay off that $7k within a few months and have some extra to travel with if you take some of my tips for saving in Aus. Go for it! 🙂

  11. Anastasia says:

    This is a great post! Thanks so much for the tips. I just got back from gold coast and planning to move there as soon as i have enough saved. So probably won’t be able to move till september. If you have any other advice (especially about purchasing a car lol) let me know!

  12. Nina Ragusa says:

    Good luck and have fun! I have a ton more posts on living in Aus!

  13. Maria Smith says:

    Thanks, for sharing this informative article with us. People find it difficult to move from one place to another. But if we do the right thing than it became fun.

  14. Krisi Seal says:

    This is great info..I am a So Cal. beach older woman ready to change things up a bit and get out of the USA.
    I like to visit Australia and check it out.
    What’s your recommendation for the best time of year and location to check out homes and jobs and atmosphere.

  15. Nina Ragusa says:

    Hi Krisi, any and all Aus info can be found here.

  16. Gwen says:

    Hi there. I noticed you mentioned that you tend to stay in Australia for 6 month periods and I was wondering if there’s a reason you haven’t fully moved there/why you don’t want to permanently live there. I’ve always considered the thought of moving there and your post makes me want to move there that much more!!

  17. Nina Ragusa says:

    I did the working holiday visa, which at the time only allowed me to stay for a year. I can be a tourist anytime but it’s not a cheap country to travel and my money goes further elsewhere. I’ll travel it more eventually and living there would be great but I don’t live anywhere right now and that’s how I like things 🙂

  18. Gwen says:

    Ah okay, that makes sense! I was thinking you lived in the U.S. permanently and chose to live in Australia for 6 months at a time before going right back. Thanks for clarifying!

  19. Jodi says:

    I’m 44 and finally at a place in life where I’d like to check this off of my bucket list. I had my kiddos young & they’re all finally on their own & independent. Are there any alternatives that would allow an older adult to do this..?

  20. Nina Ragusa says:

    Hey Jodi, definitely look into the skilled visas that Australia offers!

  21. noelle says:

    Hi! so grateful I found your post, I am in the process of moving to Perth and I was curious how you showed proof of the 3000$ on your Visa app.

    was it just a screenshot of your bank account?

  22. Nina Ragusa says:

    Great! Not sure where you saw $3k or anything and you don’t need it for your app. It’s $5k and you’ll have to show it at the airport. An official-looking print out from my account online is what I had.

  23. Max Murphy says:

    Hi nina
    I’m an American citizen.
    I’ve been trucking for the past 20 years mostly heavy haul and oversize loads.
    I was wondering if I can get a job doing the same thing also I’m diesel mechanic , I can overhaul any diesel engine from Cummings to Detroit .
    I’m saving up my money to take a trip to Australia so I can check it out and talk to other heavy hauler out there and weigh my options and see if my experience and skills are needed out there.
    Please any advice will be helpful and appreciated.
    Most kind , have a wonderful day

  24. Lauren Cline says:

    Hey There!
    Great post! I just wanted to add a tidbit for you as fruit for thought as I see a few responses here are in regard to the Working Holiday Visa in Australia. To be eligible, there is an age requirement: You must be between 18 and 30 except for Canadian, Irish and French passport holders who can be between 18 and 35. They have made this unfortunate change in recent years and would make my life (and seemingly other readers here) much easier if they hadn’t set this age limit. I am currently moving to Oz on a more permanent visa, but just thought I’d throw that out there for us “old” readers 🙂 Happy Adventuring!!

  25. Nina Ragusa says:

    Yes, there are actually far more rules than this which I have outlined in my WHV guide-linked in this post. I actually will be updating this post to reflect more updated info soon too tho! 🙂

Comments are closed.