For most British migrants arriving into Western Australia, there are a number of competing priorities however almost universally, most will rate finding a house to rent or buy, finding a job and enrolling kids in school in the top 5 things to do on arrival. In addition, having access to a car or means of transport is usually just as important too in order for the new family to be able to take care of the above! Visiting 6 houses in 6 different suburbs in one day is very difficult to arrange if you are working around bus timetables! Most States of Australia give new migrants a little flexibility in this respect. While the rules vary slightly from States to State, the general rule of thumb is that new migrants who have been granted permanent visas are given 3 months from the date of arriving in Australia to transfer their recognised licences over to their Australian counterparts. That is, except if you are intending on living and driving in Western Australia.
In a curiously worded statement on the website of the Department of Primary Industries (the Western Australia authority charged with driving licensing provisions) the period within which British licences can be transferred to Western Australian licences has been limited to 3 months from the date of grant. This is irrespective of whether or not the applicant actually even steps foot in Western Australia during this time. This fails to take into account the fact that the new migrant may still be living, working and driving in Britain (or indeed anywhere in the world) during this period. While there is no uniform time period that new migrants have from the date their visas have been granted to the date before which they must travel and enter Australia; it is usually more than 3 moths. Indeed under Policy the Department of Immigration and Citizenship will extend the date by which a prospective migrant has to enter Australia by at least 3 months if there is not already a reasonable period for the migrant to enter. In my experience, I have never experienced a visa being granted that provides for less than three months for entry. As such, almost all British nationals who are granted permanent visas for Australia will have more than 3 months available to legitimately travel to and enter Australia.
The upshot of this is that British nationals who have been granted permanent visas to Australia and who arrive in Western Australia, more than 3 months after their visas were granted (which they are legally permitted to do), do not have legal authority to drive on their British licences. With an enormous number of new migrants heading straight from the Baggage Reclaim area to Hertz, Avis and, we can envisage many falling foul of this slightly absurd interpretation of the law. This scenario could be avoided, we suppose, by the DPI setting up shop just beyond the immigration officials at the Perth International Airport, but really is it necessary to come to that?
There is one straight forward remedy to this situation; the Department of Primary Industries should adopt the following interpretation of their licensing laws:
1. If a migrant is granted permanent residence while in Australia, then they are authorised to drive on their British licence for up to 3 months from the date of grant; and
2. If a migrant is granted permanent residence while outside of Australia, then they are authorised to drive on their British licence for up to three from from the date they arrive in Australia.
We have contacted the WA Government to alert them to this anomaly in their regulations and will post up an update as soon as we have some feedback.