Thursday, 31 October 2013

Of Swiss and sampans

Wow! When I saw my Facebook newsfeed exploding with pictures of sampans, I was wondering what on earth could have sparked off these series of memes.

Sampan 2.030, as seen on the Fabrications by Antonii Facebook page.

As it turned out, our Supreme Leeder has put his foot into his mouth yet again (see previous examples here and here)! Comparing Singapore to a sampan! Clearly, he has forgotten his predecessor's promise to give Singaporeans a "Swiss standard of living", never mind that most of Singapore has never been to Switzerland - the promise is thus effectively so vague that he must have thought himself capable of getting away with not making good on it.

I remember a similar 'promise' (more of an exhortation, in hindsight) made by my Mum back in my formative years. Study hard, become a doctor, earn lots of money and have a good life. 

"We will provide you what you need to achieve good results. Just study hard, and everything will happen smoothly for you."

Of course, she didn't use those exact words, but I got her message loud and clear. Until I saw for myself that she was hopelessly out of touch (she has been a housewife since before I was born) with reality, and didn't have much information to gain useful perspective on her 'strategy' for my life.

Now, my mum probably has average intelligence and at best average education ('O' levels, average for her time, I guess?). Her only sources of information are similarly-misinformed relatives and mainstream media news sources.

Therefore, I cannot blame her for being misguided when I was too young to correct her. In any case, the only people to suffer the consequences are her three kids.

But I really expected more from the world's highest-paid politicians. I did not expect a literal Swiss Standard of Living for everyone. But I did expect that more effort be taken to prevent people from being left behind so drastically. I expected Singaporeans to be first, and that NS to be a worthy cause because we would be defending Singapore and Singaporeans, rather than foreigners or newly-minted citizens gaining the coveted red passport while skilfully avoiding the minefield of sacrifices which the born-and-bred have had to suffer. I expected our aged to enjoy their golden years, regardless of income levels.

Quite an accurate depiction of the reality... Picture from EDMW.

So if you are telling me that now because the dynamic has changed, that we will always need to have spurs stuck in our hides, that someone will always be looking to steal our lunch, I say: "I quit".
After the recent elections fiascoes and Population White Paper furore, I see instead of foreign nationals cleaning our tables at hawker centres, elderly Singaporeans doing so. I am happy that these seniors get a source of income, if they really need it. I am happy that seniors who would rather be cleaning tables than sitting at home twiddling their thumbs, have these jobs (yes there will be such old folks - bless their souls).

But I do NOT want to see the situation where the pioneers who built this nation and raised the current pillars of society being forgotten and left behind. If you and your cadre can pay yourselves multi-million dollar salaries and pensions, and blow millions of dollars on expensive wayang, then I say you guys have lost the plot completely.

Before anyone attacks me for complaining without taking action, do note that I am unemployed (not sitting in parliament with million-dollar salaries) and have no means to help. FWIW, I usually manage to clear my own tray if those old table-wipers aren't looking, or quite far away, but they seem to want to avoid that, be it out of sheer industriousness/enthusiasm, or fear for their jobs. That doesn't speak well for the Clear-Your-Own-Tray campaign but that's a minor issue for another day.

Sampan 2.0? Bitch, please.

Hsien Loong ah, I drove this for a tiny fraction of your salary... I know you really 'drive' a 'mega-yacht' for the ultra-wealthy, rather than a sampan. You must do better.

- S

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Just upgraded to Mac OSX 10.9 (Mavericks)!

Hello to my dear readers who are also Apple computer users!

I have just upgraded our shared Macbook Pro to Mavericks from Snow Leopard, and thought I might share my experience with a minor hiccup which cropped up during installation. Google is our friend as always, but the first few hits appear to be targeted at users who are upgrading from newer versions of OSX such as Lion or Mountain Lion.

I am not attempting to convince anyone to upgrade. In fact, I don't believe that there is a real need to upgrade at all. But since Mavericks is FREE, why not? Apple charged for upgrades to both Lion and Mountain Lion, and I've paid something like $40 for a Snow Leopard upgrade for my former iMac, so this seems like a fantastic deal in comparison.

It seems that if you have a decent system with ample RAM (I have maxed out at 8GB for this 2010 MBP, additional system specs below), Mavericks will work well enough. A friend with an older iMac told me that his system seems laggier after the upgrade, which is why I wouldn't advocate that anyone upgrade to Mavericks.

My experience

I am using an M1 200mbps fibre connection. Speedtest benchmarked at 36mbps while I was also downloading Mavericks, which sounds a little on the slow side, actually. Nevertheless, this connection worked well enough while downloading shows stuff so I figured that the connection wasn't an issue, even if it wasn't benchmarking as advertised.

The thing is, the Mavericks download progress bar is a bit misleading. It ran fairly quickly (in about 15 minutes or so) to about 90%, then 'hung' there for another 15. The progress bar was on the Mavericks download icon in the dock, so it wasn't huge.

Of course, Apple could have made the download info and ETC (estimated time of completion) display in an application window, but there was none. Just a piddly download bar on the dock icon.

So I Googled for answers, and the closest relevant information was this:

"If you suspect that there’s something wrong with your Mavericks download, you can check on it’s progress by opening Launchpad. From there, locate the Mavericks icon. If you do indeed have a problem with the download, it could be that it was mysteriously paused somehow, which is what happened in our case.
From there, all we had to do to resume the download was click on it. Why simply hitting the download button in the App Store wasn’t doing the trick is beyond us, but at least we found a workaround."

Read more: 
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Problem is, there is no "Launchpad" for Snow Leopard. So how?

The simple solution I discovered by accident is to right-click on the Mavericks download icon in the dock. From there, you can check whether the installation has paused or not. Even if you have a fast connection, budget at least 45 minutes for the download, before resorting to such measures as restarting the computer. In fact, I'd just give an hour to be safe, though my download took about 40 minutes.

The installation took around 30-40 minutes after that. Not much to do after that, just set up iCloud and resume using the computer as per normal.

Do back up your computer before attempting any form of OS upgrade!!! I use Superduper to clone two separate external drives, but I am kiasu that way.

Other than this perceived hiccup I faced, everything ran smoothly as one might expect from an Apple OS upgrade. It's way too early to rave about Mavericks but I have no complaints in the two hours that I have been running it and I'd expect Apple to come out with 10.9.1 shortly, to iron out any kinks in this relatively early release.

Hope this helps! As usual, do feel free to leave your comments and any useful tips for our fellow readers!

System Specs

2010 Macbook Pro running (formerly) OSX 10.6.8
2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo

- S (obviously!!)

Friday, 25 October 2013

Exit plan: Selling or renting out your property in SG?

Hi everyone,

We've just received an Anonymous comment in this post. The commenter said:

"I am also in the process of migrating to Vic, Australia. Wondering which neighbourhood is safer. Will you be able to share?"

Unfortunately, if you were to ask us this very question about Singapore itself, or turn that question around and ask yourself this, could you give a very good answer? Apart from "avoiding certain Lorongs in Geylang". Maybe I'm slow, but I can't answer this question for Singapore. And by extension, I can't give a good answer for Victoria or Melbourne, as I haven't lived there before. I do have a friend with a lot of opinions and anecdotes on this, and would invite him to do a guest post if he's keen, but I don't feel that whatever I have gleaned from our conversations on this is definitive enough. All I can say is, take your time to recce for your 'permanent' home while you are renting - if your long-term plans are to buy. Remember that if a place is unusually cheap, there are often reasons. And whether for short-term or long-term residence, stay away from Housing Commission areas. Hope that helps.

The pleasures of Geylang... Image from

Now that comment is not the reason for this post. I'm posting because one of the questions we've frequently received as prospective emigres is: "So are you guys selling your place, or renting it out?" Usually, the asker wants to hear a certain answer, which almost invariably is the opposite of what we did.

Selling one's flat prior to emigrating is akin to burning the bridges and just a step below renouncing one's citizenship. It is a blatant vote of no-confidence in Singapore/PAP/Singapore Government/economy/one's personal decision to buy property in the past few months/not emigrate from Singapore... Etc. Anything which one wants to project onto our decision, they will. We can't stop them, and we don't care.

The view from our kitchen window...

Yes, we sold our HDB flat. We've mentioned it earlier in some posts which I don't deem relevant enough to dig up. But this is why:

1. Several months of attempting to rent out our property via online advertisements, with limited response.

2. Having to worry about and/or administer our rental arrangements back in Singapore remotely. Yes we could use an agent, but that eats into the revenue and can't completely eliminate the worry. Call us paranoid if you will.

3. Intel from reliable (to us, at least) sources that the world economy is going to shit, and by extension, Singapore's. Never mind who we elected as President, or that we have the world's highest paid Leeders. They will be among the first to tell us that the Singapore economy is very dependent on external factors, and they'd be exactly right this time. It makes no sense holding a Colonel Sanders lookalike to his election campaign mantra that he is fit to steer us through troubled waters, or that with the current team at the helm, Singapore will have smooth sailing throughout. 

In short, you are pretty much on your own, you have to fight for your own lunch, nobody owes you a living, dig the spurs into your own bloody hide, meritocracy, yadda yadda... Hey, they did warn us!

And in case it isn't clear enough, this can - independently of any cooling measures our brilliant Gahmen can think of - lead to point 4.

4a. Intel from various reliable sources that the Gahmen is throttling back sharply on the influx of foreigners, who have been the primary driver of housing prices. Then again, maybe this can't be considered 'intel', it's more like news.

4b. Intel from reliable sources that the housing market was at a peak, and was looking at the next year or two's downturn. It seems to be happening already... This would make matters worse whether you decide to hold and sell, or rent out your property for the next few years, especially if you plan to emigrate AND own a HDB (which you have to sell if you intend to take up Aussie citizenship or buy property in Oz. By right lah. Not sure how many overseas property owners who also own HDB flats are found out...)

If you own additional or private property, you don't have this situation. You can have your 'escape plan' back in Singapore. But we don't, which brings me neatly to my next point...

5. Generating capital and liquidity. We are inclined to buy a place in Australia, if that makes financial sense. Even if we don't, there are safe options for parking our money in Australia and earning half-decent interest along the way. Much better than doing CPF top ups or any pathetic banking options we can get in SG. We are bracing ourselves for potential unemployment in Oz, and the S$1400-$1800 a month that we could optimistically earn from renting out our 3R flat isn't going to do a whole lot for us in Oz. At best it will help us maintain a subsistence-level existence. At worst we may lose this income if we lose our tenant, and then have to fly back to SG to sell our flat at whatever pathetic price we can get due to point #4.

If you have tons of money, this wouldn't concern you. But then, you probably wouldn't be reading this blog. After all, Singapore is an excellent playground for the rich!

6. A symbolic gesture of burning the bridge. This is a minor issue, subordinate to all the other reasons listed, and in itself insufficient cause to sell our flat. But it is a bonus that we have this means to demonstrate our resolve. I have no doubt that some people we know (I wouldn't describe them as friends) were not so much concerned for our welfare as emigrants, than for their own need to feel good with their own decisions - or indecision wrt migration. We do know people who are genuinely happy to stay in Singapore. Ironically, it is these people who do not seem to feel that our decision to sell prior to migration erodes their belief in this country, or in their decision to stay. Then, there are those who openly confess to being interested in migration, but have their own reasons for staying - I respect this group as well, and we have lots of healthy discussions. The worst are those who condemn our decision or get extremely defensive about their own choices, you guys should really wake up and smell a good cuppa of Australian coffee!

7. Rental income (if any) from SG is taxable in Australia. It's not so much that we refuse to pay the Aussie taxman, but it adds needless complexity to our financial affairs. All for what? S$1.4k a month? (bearing in mind that having this income means we do not get the lump sum from selling our flat)

Now that we've discussed our reasons for selling, who do I think should rent out their property instead of selling, and why?

a. If you have tons of cash and don't need to generate liquidity.

b. If your property is private, thus no ownership restrictions and you can freely buy Aussie property.

c. If your property in Singapore generates a good rental yield (whatever you define it as). You would of course need - and already have - a good tax accountant to sort out all your affairs in this regard because you are rich and have better things to do with your time...

d.  You have an emotional attachment to Singapore, and see yourself potentially coming back in future. This could work especially if the property in question is not HDB. Then you truly know that you love SG and come back because of that, rather than being squeezed by the balls/tits/ovaries due to HDB regulations and unable to buy the Aussie dream house.

I still can't believe...

The problem with this post is that if you've only just read it, you've probably missed the boat. But if you are really keen on migration, now is the time to get yourself qualified. Take a course, brush up on your English. Do something useful to that end. Catch the next 'upturn' in the housing prices, because even a pessimist like me knows that's going to happen. In fact, I'm so sure that prices will eventually rise in the long term that I wouldn't want kids even if the baby bonus were $100k!

I know there could be some who disagree with us, but it's ok. The intel that we've got about the world economy might be false, that's ok too. Even if the property market skyrockets unexpectedly, good for those of you with property! I'd sure be kind of sore that I was wrong and cashed out at a wrong time, but at least there's some money to start a new life with, and really, that's all that matters for us.

- S

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Migrating to Oz: Top 10 considerations

In the past year, S and I have made a lot of new friends and acquaintances over discussions on migration. I must say I didn't expect the number of Singaporeans who have crept out of the woodwork and approached us, expressing their earnest desire to migrate and asking for advice. Some have posted questions on the technical/administrative details, some want to know why we picked Oz over other possibilities (Canada, US etc), and many others have asked told us about the drawbacks of migration.

Given the sizeable number of migration-related questions we've been posed on the blog, over Facebook and in person), I thought it might be helpful for me to do a post on the top 10 considerations we had when choosing the country to migrate to. Hopefully, it will answer some of the questions you have posted / have in mind and get you started on your own migration journey ;)

1. Language and culture

This point is pretty self-explanatory. Without a doubt, language is one of the most important factors of consideration. Coming from Singapore and with English as our first language, this limits us primarily to all the English-speaking countries, such as US, UK, Oz, Canada etc. Though I am effectively bilingual (华语是我的第二语言), S has quite a strong disdain for the Chinese Language - so that rules out countries like China and Taiwan completely. Besides, as prominent blogger LIFT has pointed out, speaking a particular language by no means leads to embracing the culture the language originated from. We are probably as jiak kentang (literally, to eat potatoes in Malay Language - a Singaporean colloquialism for someone who is westernised) as LIFT..

Taiwan is lovely! But somehow it didn't speak to us. Language is a huge turn-off, even though some Taiwanese speak good English, and the Taiwanese are a wonderful people (unlike the PRCs). - S

2. Support from Family and Friends

Do you have family and close friends living abroad? Given the initial uncertainty associated with adapting to and living in a new country, the importance of emotional support from family and friends cannot be emphasized enough. If you have intentions to migrate in the near future, it will be wise to contact any overseas relatives or close friends as soon as possible. Even before you move, they are an invaluable source of information and advice.

Whether by coincidence or divine intervention, all of our relatives and close friends who live overseas, are currently in Australia, with the majority choosing to work or settle in Melbourne. To make matters much easier, my aunt's family are all Australian citizens and they have settled in Melbourne for more than 30 years - so that gave us the reassurance and impetus to pick Melbourne as a starting point. We don't intend to rely on them, but it's good to know that we have a source of support if required.

3. Weather

Some of you readers may know that hyperthyroidism (a condition that S has) causes heat intolerance. A couple of minutes outside an air-conditioned room (on a typical 95% humidity, 32 degrees afternoon in Singapore) and you will find S looking like he has just consumed a huge bowl of chili. A typical Singaporean will be complaining that he is "hot and sticky" but S will be completely drenched in perspiration. Most outdoor activities not involving water can be unbearable and even simple pleasures such as a walk in the park is denied us because he simply cannot tolerate the weather. It is similar when we travel to Malaysia (except the Highlands), Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Even so, S reports slight improvement in these countries, perhaps because the humidity is slightly less due to the coastal locations we tend to visit. Therefore, cool weather is very high on our priority. It rules out all the hot and wet Southeast Asian countries as migration destinations.

Looks like paradise? Not quite. Bali was less humid than Singapore overall, but by no means comfortable.. - S

I came to know of a friend's aunt who migrated to US to join her son working there, only to regret her decision soon after because she could not tolerate the cold winter. She gave up after spending less than a month in the US. Although I attribute her failure to migrate as a lack of foresight and preparedness, I suppose those who are used to hot, humid and tropical weather will have difficulty adjusting at first. I don't foresee this being an issue for us though, because we have both experienced winter overseas and we love the 4 seasons. No doubt the temperate countries can have scorching summers as well (Oz has 40+ degree days in summer) but that only happens a few months per year, and almost always in the day only. We are told that people facing the brutal Australian summer get a respite at night, where it usually drops to the mid-20s and comfortable humidity.

4. Work-life Balance

MOE tells teachers like me that my typical work-week will total 42 hours. I'm not sure how many teachers out there agree with this 'official number' but it's plainly not true for the majority of the teachers I know. For many occupations in Singapore, work-life balance is virtually non-existent because of the highly competitive society we live in. I used to work 60 - 70 hour weeks (including weekends) and prolonged exposure to such long, unhealthy hours has really put a toll on my physical health and well-being for those 4 long years. Therefore, countries that offer better semblance of work-life balance (compared to Singapore) will also influence our decision. If you are a true workaholic, then I suppose this consideration does not apply to you. 

5. (Some) Familiarity with Destination Country

It is really crucial to do a (long) recee of the country you are considering to migrate to if you don't want to set yourself up for disaster. To date (for Oz) I have visited Perth, Brisbane, Tasmania and Melbourne. S has traveled in WA from Perth to Albany, and also visited Sydney in addition to the places I've been to. I have also spoken to several ex-Singaporeans and family members who have migrated to Australia, as well as Singaporeans who have worked / studied / lived in Australia before. Having done so much homework and having visited the country four times, the small sense of familiarity gives me some comfort before our big move.

Some may point out that holidays or short trips do not paint a complete picture. While I cannot disagree with this, I would argue the same of most other decisions in life. How do you know you married the correct man/woman? How do you know that buying your current property is the correct decision?

Migration is not entirely different. In fact, it's arguable that it is by no means as significant as the decision to marry a particular person, or to have kids.

At least, emigration is easily reversible, as compared to having children. 

6. Education

If you have kids, this aspect will probably rank more highly in your considerations. Australia offers free / subsidized public education for children of permanent residents so that's something to think about. For a list of other countries offering free primary and secondary education, you can click on this link. To be fair, Singapore also offers many subsidies for education, schools fees are affordable (unless you are in an elite/private school) and there are plenty of bursaries available for families of lower income. 

For those with older kids or those interested in the possibility of furthering your own education, countries such as UK, US, Canada and Oz with world-class universities will probably come to mind. Being a PR in these countries will mean paying domestic instead of international student rates - huge savings there! Personally, I find the option of pursuing a PhD /Masters by research in Australia pretty attractive because citizens/PRs do not need to pay a course fee.

I should probably mention that all of the parents with school-going kids I have spoken to want to migrate primarily because of concerns that their kids are unable to withstand the stressful and grades-driven environment in Singapore. This issue has been discussed to death in the Singapore Conversation -- and I don't believe the situation will change. Call me pessimistic/realistic.

7. Cost of Living to Income ratio

Cost of living is a component so complex that it will require a dedicated blog post in time to come in order to do it justice. For the moment, I will just (simplistically) reiterate some major ballpark figures for a basic comparison between Melbourne and Singapore. 

Average Annual Salary for Secondary School Teacher
S$60,000 (based on personal experience, incl bonuses)
A$66,000 (taken from here)

Housing Prices

3 room flat (2 bedroom)

60 sqm to 80sqm
S$200k to S$400k

99-year lease, or less if you buy resale

Based on HDB website and personal experience

3 bedroom house incl garage
100 to 300sqm
 A$250k to A$400k

No such thing as 99-year lease

Based on for houses in Werribee

Car Prices

New Toyota Corolla Altis

10 year COE

S$130k to S$160k based on sgcarmart

Same car

No such thing as COE

A$24k based on

Average weekly expenditure on food and general

S$300 per pax

A$300 per pax (based on all the people I have spoken to and this link)

Petrol (95) per litre



Yes, I know I have left out many components of other daily expenses... Stay tuned for a more detailed comparison including more price components in the future after we settle down!

Tax is another quagmire which could demand a whole series of posts. We have CPF that is really a sort pension which we will never get to see again, and Australia does have a higher personal income tax and their own version of CPF. For other detailed posts on tax comparisons, check out a post from LIFT, and another from A Singaporean Son. We might kao peh kao bu (literally "cry father cry mother" in Hokkien, or kick up a huge fuss) if we ever make enough to be in the top tier bracket. But I think that's not going to happen anytime soon.

8. Nature / Range of Activities

This consideration is only valid if you love the outdoors. Australia has so much natural beauty to offer - Great Ocean Road, Great Barrier Reef, real wildlife, real mountains to climb and ski on, endless backpacking opportunities, several UNESCO World Heritage Natural and Cultural Sites... just to rattle of some. The same can be said for many other countries, of course.

Pinnacle of Singapore's nature.

Now, let's look at Singapore.... We have... tons of shopping malls, some small nature reserves and parks, almost no diving (Hantu does have nice stuff but near zero visibility), some contrived tourist traps such as MBS, Sentosa, casinos, Universal Studios and our tallest point is Bukit Timah Hill. Much of our landscape is artificial and most places vaguely worth going to are generally overcrowded, which brings me nicely to the next point.

9. Population and Overcrowding

Melbourne: current Population of 4.3 million in land area of 9,990 square kilometres.

Singapore: current Population 5.4 million in land area of 716 square kilometres. Population estimated to exceed 6 million by 2030 with land area not expected to increase significantly to cope with overpopulation.

Enough said...

10. Overall Sustainability

Australia has just had a change of government. In most truly democratic countries, this is an extremely common occurrence which nobody bats an eyelid about. It's not to say that having the same party in power for over 40 years is a completely bad thing. But it does says something when the founding father of Singapore claims that a change of government would cause great political instability in Singapore. Will it? What will happen in 2016 and beyond? Is Singapore's economy like a tower of cards, ready to collapse with political change? There has been so much online speculation but only time will tell. Are you willing to bet your future on the outcome of the next GE if you had a choice?

At this point, haters will probably point out that no one can tell the future and long-term sustainability of any country cannot be guaranteed. That is true in theory. To provide more local context, let me direct you again to above points 4, 7 and 9 and the reality in the Little Red Dot. Singapore's populace is overworked and highly stressed. The environment is highly competitive at all levels and our infrastructure is barely coping due to severe overcrowding (with the population STILL growing). Housing prices are exorbitant due to scarcity of land and the country has neither natural resources nor critical mass. If Melbourne becomes equally stressful and overcrowded in the future, we have numerous other less crowded cities within the same country to consider: Adelaide, Hobart and Perth for example. Where can I move to within Singapore? Tuas? Pulau Ubin? Horsburgh Lighthouse? 

Fellow blogger LIFT has mentioned and explained several times on his blog that migration is a journey fraught with complexities, uncertainties and considerations. It truly is. This post has only scratched the surface.

So there you have it, our top 10 considerations and why Australia came up tops for us. I know of ex-Singaporeans who have applied similar considerations and ended up in other countries such as UK, US, Canada, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and even Africa - so clearly migration destination varies for every individual.

- A

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Migrating to Oz: PR or work permit?

Hey everyone!

It's been quite a while since our last post. We've returned from beautiful Sabah as PADI Divemasters after a month-long internship! There's so many things we can and want to blog about (our experiences, observations, diving, dive gear, and migration), but I guess the most pressing issue should be what NRSC has largely come to represent - a "true blue Singaporean" couple emigrating from Singapore.

A common question which crops up every time we mention that we are migrating is this: Do you have a job in Australia?

To which our answer is "no", and we are in no real hurry or need to start work proper the moment we reach Melbourne, thanks to prudent financial planning.

However, there is another sub-question which often goes unasked, and we feel that we have yet to address adequately in our blog. A has mentioned this before in Migration Chapter 2, under Myth 4, but I feel we can further emphasize this issue.

How do you migrate there without even having lived or worked there?

Fact: You don't need a current job in Australia or to have lived in Australia to get the PR. You do, however, need to be qualified as a professional in an occupation listed on Australia's SOL. Having a job there/studying in Australia before can help by giving you more points in the application process. However, working in Australia does not automatically qualify you to apply for a PR visa. At the end of the day, it boils down to whether your existing (or prospective, as the case may be) job is on the SOL. Which brings you back in a roundabout manner, back to the migration process we have detailed in our blog thus far.

Yes, it sounds counter-intuitive, like putting the cart before the horse, but that's how it is. For better or worse, that's how Australia attempts to attract and retain suitable candidates for permanent residency.

A 'work permit' (or generally known as temporary work visa subclass 457) means a lot more uncertainty, as it is dependent on one having and keeping a job in Australia. Should one lose his or her job and be unable to find another (as a foreigner, Australian employers would have to make the extra effort and expense to apply for a work permit to hire this person), it's bye-bye Australia, and you have no legal means to prevent being effectively repatriated back to your home country within a specified period after you leave the job.  This is a pretty risky option especially if you are married with kids.

Job first?

To be honest, we feel that there aren't many reasons to choose to apply for a job in Australia first, unless you meet the following criteria:

1. Your skills/qualifications are highly sought-after by Australia

We currently have a friend who works in Melbourne as a Research Fellow. Australia seems to prioritize academics in general, and thus as a PhD holder, she is offered a carte blanche. Be it a PR visa in the future or a work permit at present, she would likely have no problems obtaining either.

In her case, most Universities there would be happy to pay her top dollar and go through the relatively easy process of applying for her work permit. In addition, she doesn't have to pay for the work permit. The process for her employer would be relatively easy because Australia needs/wants more academics. It's difficult to find a suitable local to fill the post because there is a nationwide shortage of qualified academics.

2. You are not in it for the long run i.e. you wish to work in Australia temporarily and intend to return to your home country eventually

DUH, then applying for a work permit through getting a job in Australia first is definitely the option for you. The application fee for subclass 457 is a lot less than the PR, the process is generally a lot quicker and the application costs may be covered by your employer. Do note that Australia has recently clamped down on the issuance of 457 visas though, possibly because of several cases of identity fraud

Are you in it for the long run?

3. You really can't afford to migrate unless you have a job waiting for you over there.

Quite self-explanatory... But if you are in such a situation, a work visa could be a stop-gap measure provided you can take the risk of being repatriated should your 457 visa be cancelled. We can't really see how such a scenario would end well, but in theory at least, this is possible.

If the high cost of living in Oz is of concern, it would probably be better to obtain the PR first (assuming you are eligible), take a short holiday in Australia to validate the visa within the first year, then apply for jobs in Australia from your home country (or wherever you are based) in the meantime. This way, you have the PR in your pocket, have access to a wider spectrum of jobs in Oz, and have the flexibility in terms of when you have to enter Australia while keeping your current job in your home country. Don't take too long though, as you have the two year residency requirement ticking away. But I'm sure three years is plenty of time to find a job!

PR first?

In contrast, being a Permanent Resident first (before going over to find a job) comes with other benefits which are not available to work permit holders, such as:
  • eligibility for Housing Grant
  • eligibility to register for Centrelink / welfare (after a waiting period)
  • eligibility to register for Medicare
  • eligibility to apply for citizenship in the future
  • ability to live and work anywhere in Australia and New Zealand
  • paying domestic instead of international rates for tertiary education
  • free / subsidized public education for children of Permanent residents up to Secondary Level
At the end of the day, if you are in it for the long run (like we are), the decision is pretty straightforward. However, there's nothing to stop one from applying for a job first if you fit the above criteria, whether you are in for the long haul or not. It's really up to the individual - there is no one-size-fits-all.

To all our regular readers, we will be starting our new life in Melbourne soon in November, so stay tuned for more posts when we begin our next chapter there! Cheers!

One-way ticket bought!