Australian Working Holiday Visa: The Ultimate Guide
If you are lucky enough to be from one of the many countries that participate in the scheme, then you should consider working and travelling in Australia!
Backpacking in Australia is fantastic, and it’s also a great country to live in. Most of the cities are regularly ranked among the best in the world to live in, along with the excellent weather, make this a great place to live.
There are lots of backpacker jobs in Australia in many different sectors, so finding a job is not too difficult and if you’re persistent, you’ll find work easily!
The Australian working visa is open to people aged 18-30 from select countries, it is a fantastic opportunity to experience a different culture and further yourself as a person and it beats going straight into work after you finish university!
Australian Working Holiday Visa Guide
Getting the visa
Applying for an Australian working holiday visa is straightforward. You go on the Australian immigration website and complete the online application form for visa subclass 417. That’s it, simple! This page also lists the countries that are a part of the working holiday scheme.
You have to provide information such as your personal details, passport number and whether you have had any criminal convictions. Make sure you fill in everything correctly, as getting something wrong could result in problems further down the line.
The process is quick and you usually hear back within a few days. As long as you don’t have any criminal convictions and fill the forms out correctly, you should not have any issues receiving your Australian working visa.
Once you have received the visa you have a year to enter Australia. So if you received your visa on 1 January 2016, you have until 1 January 2017 to enter the country.
The visa costs approximately £240, there are packages available that sort out your visa, flights, bank account, tax file number and accommodation upon arrival. However, as all of this is relatively straightforward, you should do it yourself. The packages can be quite expensive and you’re paying for something you can easily do yourself!
There are a few things to bear in mind before you embark on your year Down Under. In most cases, the visa issued is an e-visa, which means that when you get to passport control, they should be notified of your visa when they scan your passport.
Flights to Australia can be expensive, so it’s best not to do what I did and book your flight ten days before you leave! If you book in advance, you can normally pick up a cheap deal.
Whether you book a return or not is totally up to you, I didn’t and again only booked my flight home a week before leaving, although this time considerably cheaper!
An open-ended return might be a good idea, or around the world ticket if you’re unsure about when you will leave.
Customs are also extremely strict regarding what you can and cannot bring into the country. Australia has some of the toughest quarantine laws in the world, so it’s worth checking what is on the prohibited list before you arrive!
Most food will have to be discarded and for some reason, they’re even fussy about your shoes being dirty, so make sure they’re extra clean when you go through customs!
Although there are lots of backpacker jobs in Australia, I would also take some time to research various job sectors. For instance, if you are looking to get construction work, then I would recommend doing it in South Australia or in the Northern Territory.
The whole of these states are classed as regional, so three months work in construction in the centre of Adelaide for instance, is the same as three months work on a farm in Mildura. It’s something to consider.
Extending the visa
It’s possible to extend your Australian working holiday visa, all you have to do is work for 3 months in an area that the Australian government deems to be regional. A list of these ‘regional’ areas can be found on the visa application page.
The most common way of extending your visa is fruit picking for 3 months in regional Australia. This is the quintessential backpacker job in Australia and needless to say, it’s not the most glamorous or fun job. However, it is a means to an end if you want the extra year in Australia.
There are a lot of horror stories regarding backpackers doing farm work and it is certainly worth doing your research before you agree to go to work on a farm. Bear in mind, that the hostels and farms will have a lot of backpackers wanting work, so they might entice you with the prospect of work when in reality there is little.
It’s also worth checking what the terms of your pay are. Whether you get paid by how much you pick or have an hourly wage can make a huge difference to the amount you earn. There is the prospect to make good money fruit picking, as you are away from big cities, so an hourly wage would result in big savings!
In general, most of the farms and working hostels are not that bad and remember you only have to complete 88 days of work, which includes weekends. So, it is a small price to pay for an extra year in a great country!
Remember that you have to get your 88 days signed off by your employer to extend your Australian working holiday visa for another year! You don’t want to forget this and not get your visa after working your ass off fruit picking!
Tax File Number/Bank account
Getting a Tax File Number (TFN) and bank account is very straightforward. Applying for a TFN is done online through the official website and takes a few minutes to fill out. The TFN is processed within 28 days of the application. If you are about to start work soon, they issue you with a temporary one you can use until you receive your TFN.
Again, getting a bank account is very easy. Simply walk into any of the major banks and ask to sign up for an account. Make sure you bring some form of identification with you and a printout of your visa stating you have the right to work in Australia.
There are a number of major banks, ANZ, NAB, Westpac, and Commonwealth. There isn’t really much difference between them and most of them are very good. One thing to note is that if you have an account with ANZ for example, you will be charged if you use an ATM that isn’t operated by ANZ. This is true for all the banks and an annoying part of life in Australia. The charge is $2.
Working in Australia
The Australian working holiday visa is great, but the search to find a job in Australia can be difficult. If the search drags on, you can start to question whether the decision to go there was worth it. However, my advice is to persist no matter how annoying the job search is. Working in Australia is great and the pay is so good that you can save a lot enabling you to travel around the country later on!
There are certain things to consider when looking for work as a backpacker in Australia. Some of the work can be seasonal, for instance, there are more jobs in Darwin, during the dry season from April to September, but also more competition for work. Also as Australia is a federation, the laws vary from state to state, and completing an RSA course in Victoria does not mean you can work behind a bar in South Australia.
Seek is the best website for jobs in Australia. The listings are regularly updated and you can create a profile, where you upload your CV and cover letter for prospective jobs. There is also indeed, which is similar to Seek and has numerous jobs as well.
Many backpackers also work for accommodation in hostels. This is a good option if you are struggling to find work as you will only be spending money on food and going out. As you are normally required to do the job for a minimum of 1/2 months you have to weigh up whether you want to stay in the same place for that length of time. These are one of the easiest jobs to find on an Australian working visa.
Personally, I would try and find paid work, staying in a hostel for a long time can get to you, and it can work out cheaper to rent your own room. The earning potential in Australia means you can save a lot of money which will allow you to travel later on in the year.
It’s called an Australian working holiday visa for a reason! So it would be stupid to come to Australia and work for the majority of your time here. Such is the earning potential in Australia, you can work for a number of months and save up enough money to go travelling, for a while and still have funds left over.
As Australia is a gigantic country, it’s not like you can take a weekend trip somewhere, like you can when backpacking in New Zealand for instance. There are a lot of reasons to visit Australia and a lot to see, from Uluru to amazing beaches and weird places such as Coober Pedy. So it would be a shame to spend the year or two, stuck in the same place working.
As you have a year, or perhaps two, to explore the country, you are bound by seeing everything right away. You can take your time to decide what you want to see and work your year around that. For instance, you can avoid visiting Darwin in the wet season, as you have more time to do as you please!
My advice would be to work for a few months in a city, such as Melbourne and after saving up money, move on to a new city. You could do a road trip in Australia, such as the Adelaide to Darwin road trip. A year is a long time but it soon goes, so have an idea of what you to see and try and squeeze as much as you can into your Australian working holiday visa!
Tips for finding work in Australia
I mentioned this before, but it is really is key. You have to be persistent in your job search in Australia. There are many other backpackers who are doing an Australian working holiday visa as well. This means you have to be applying for lots of jobs daily.
They may not be the best jobs in the world, but as a backpacker, you should be willing to take anything you can get. Plus, the minimum wage in Australia is so good, that even mundane jobs pay well and you can save a lot of money in Australia if you are sensible!
Get out and about
Handing out CVs is not my favourite method of finding work, but it can be highly effective. There are lots of shops and restaurants throughout Australia that want workers. Many of whom are happy to employ backpackers. It can feel disheartening when you get knocked back, but if you get a job it is worth it.
Keep your CV to 2 pages maximum and don’t go overboard on your details. Your three most recent jobs are all you need and your qualifications as well. Most employers will just be looking for friendly and social people, and as this is a general description for backpackers, you should be grand!
This is a big one! Make sure you take out a travel insurance policy before you travel on your Australia working holiday visa. World Nomads are a great travel insurance company and specialise in insurance for backpackers, so it may be worth checking them out.
Whatever you do, make sure you read the fine print, or you could end up like me and end up buying insurance for just 90 days and not the whole year! A year is a long time and anything can happen. As I found out when I got hit by a car on my way to work in Melbourne! Luckily, I only had a few cuts and bruises, but I would have been screwed otherwise!
So don’t be an idiot like me, and check the small print before you leave for Australia!
The Australian working holiday visa is a great way to see the country. The experience I had was amazing and I would recommend it to anyone who is between 18 and 30!
I credit this experience with improving my me considerably as a person. The only bad thing about the whole year was when it came to an end!
- Working Holiday guides – Great selection of guides about working holidays in Australia available on Amazon!