Want to go travelling but don’t have the funds? Then a working holiday visa is for you!
I’m off to Australia in May, after spending many years wanting to go. The process is surprisingly easy, and if you think you can’t do it, you can! I know many friends that have done it. It’s an easy affordable option for those who don’t have a huge sum of savings, but want to see the world. It gives you the opportunity to work, and travel at the same time.
Having spent many years looking into it, I feel like a little walking knowledge box when it comes to a working holiday visa in Australia. There is quite a bit to know, but once you get your head around it all, it’s pretty simple. So here is everything you need to know about the process. (Please be aware, the visa requirements may change over time, but were correct at time of posting.)
YOU CAN APPLY IF:
* You are 18-31 years of age (There are talks that this may be changing to 35 in the future)
* No dependable children
* From an eligible country (UK & USA are, along with others)
* No criminal convictions
* Not already in Australia. If you’re on holiday in Oz, and decide you want to stay, you can’t. You need to go back home, or go out of the country for a bit, then apply. I know UK residents that have gone to Thailand for a bit to apply for WHV. That’s not a problem, as long as you’re not in Oz!
* Have a valid passport. Make sure your passport is valid for the full duration you are in Australia, otherwise you will have to change your visa across when you are there to your new passport, which they charge you for. Having to apply for a new passport down under, costs more money than doing it at home, and takes longer. So you’d have to go months without your passport, which is just going to be a pain. You won’t be able to travel anywhere, plus some accommodation ask for your passport as proof of ID. I realised mine would run out 6 months into my trip. Rather than have the hassle in Australia, I just applied for a new passport before I applied for my visa. I had an extra 9 months on my new passport, because I had some time left on my old passport.
* $440AUD, which is roughly £260 with the current exchange rate
REQUIREMENTS WHEN YOU ARRIVE TO OZ:
* Have at least $5000AUD in your bank account. This is roughly around £3000. This is to prove you can afford the cost of living when you enter Australia, if you can’t find work immediately. This can be spent the minute you are in Australia. It doesn’t have to stay in your bank account the whole time you are there, something which I originally thought. Take a copy of a bank statement with you to the airport for when you arrive, as they can ask for proof of these funds when you’re going through visa control. People will tell you not to bother with this part as they never check. DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS ADVICE. It is some of the worst advice you can get. They do check, I know plenty of people that have had to prove it. You’ll be on the first plane home, if you can’t. Plus, Australia is expensive. You’ll need it anyway, so it’s a good starting amount to have.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO PROCESS THE APPLICATION?:
* They say it can take up to 4 weeks to process, but sometimes you can be invited along for an interview. Nothing to worry about, it’s completely normal, doesn’t mean you’re not going to get accepted. But it is best to apply a few months before you’re planning to actually leave to be on the safe side. 3 months before you plan to leave is plenty of time. Most people get a response within a few days. It just depends how many applications they’ve had at the time you’re applying.
HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE TO ENTER AUSTRALIA:
* Once your working holiday visa has been accepted, you have up to 12 months to actually enter Australia. If your 12 months are up, and you haven’t been to Australia to activate your visa, it will expire. You can still apply again, but you will have to go through the whole process, pay again, and there is no guarantee you’ll get another. I know friends that have let it expire, then applied again a few years later, and have been accepted. I also know friends that have had their visa refused, because they’ve already applied for one, and never used it. There’s no guarantee. Best advice is don’t apply unless you know 100% you’re definitely going. That way you won’t be disappointed.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU GO:
* Unlock your phone – Buy a sim once you are in Australia, it’ll work out a lot cheaper to keep in contact with your new backpacking buddies, plus it’ll work out cheaper contacting home.
* Take a CV with you – Update your CV before you leave, put it on a memory stick, or save to your laptop (if you’re taking one).
* Let your bank know – Let them know you’re going abroad for a year, otherwise they’ll block your card. Most people open an Australian bank account once they are in Australia, and move their savings across. See the next point
* Get an Australian bank account – Most places will require you to have an Australian bank account to pay your wages. It also makes your life so much easier, and you don’t get stung with exchange rates. You’ll get what you earn. It’s best to sort this before you get into Australia, as the process is so much easier, and you’re not wasting any time waiting around for a bank card to arrive. You also don’t have to mess about proving ID etc. You can apply online. Commonwealth is one of the popular Australian bank accounts with backpackers. Do this around 2 months before you go to Oz.
* Sort out some travel insurance – You MUST have travel insurance. There are plenty of things in Australia that can kill you (or just make you really ill for a little while.) Either way, don’t risk it. Comparison sites are great for getting a good deal. Check the fine print, and make sure activities you plan to do are included.
* Make sure you’re up to date with jabs – Go to your GP, they’re free! Never pay for your jabs!
* Make sure you have plenty of meds – If you take medication for anything, such as asthma, or ladies if you’re on the pill, take as much as you can get. It’ll cost money in Australia, and they aren’t cheap!
ONCE YOU ARE IN OZ:
* The visa is valid for 1 year, from the day you arrive in Australia.
* You can leave Australia as many times in that year, or even leave and go home earlier. But be aware, you can’t pause and restart your visa. Those 12 months will run, no matter if you are in the country or not.
* You can have as many jobs as you like in those 12 months. But you can’t work for an employer longer than 6 months and you can’t work for the same employer twice.
* You won’t be able to work in a bar serving alcohol, unless you get your RSA. – This is a licence you need to serve alcohol in Australia, and applies for locals, as well as backpackers. How you get your licence is down to you, and the company you choose to go with. Some do the training online, which is around 4 hours, but then the licence isn’t valid in the state of Victoria (which includes Melbourne, a popular backpacker city). Or you can go to a training centre, which will be a days training, and the licence is valid in the whole of Australia, including Victoria. Prices vary from $24AUD to $150AUD, depending on the package you choose and company you go with.
OTHER THINGS TO DO ONCE IN OZ:
* Get your tax file number – You’ll need this when you start work. Don’t worry, you can claim your tax back (see website link at bottom under ‘useful links’). You can do this online, just simply google Australia tax file number, or link is also at the bottom under ‘useful links.’
* Get a sim card – Goes back to the point I made about unlocking your phone. You’ll also need it when applying for jobs.
* Apply for a medicare card – This will allow you to go to the doctors for free. Saves you paying $50 a visit should anything go wrong, or if you need a prescription for any meds etc. Also saves you messing about filling in travel insurance forms, trying to claim money back.
SOME POPULAR WHV JOB OPTIONS:
* Bar work (Need RSA, see above)
* Specified Work – If you’re wanting to get a second year WHV in Australia, you need to do 88 days specified work. You must complete this within the first 12 months you are in Australia. This includes plant, animal cultivation, fishing, pearling, tree farming, felling, mining and construction. If you do 3 months specified work, make sure you keep your payslips, as you may need proof later when you apply for your second visa. Also be careful for the rip offs. A lot of places don’t pay you, just give you accommodation and food. 3 months is a long time to work without being paid, and it means you’ll have no money afterwards to go travelling with. Weigh up the pros & cons yourself. Some people are fine with it, some aren’t.
* Call centres
* Hostels – Work in the hostel you’re staying in, but again be wary of the scams. Some of them don’t pay you and just give you a bed and some food. If the hostel is only advertised for $20 a night and you’re doing 9 hour shifts, that’s not a lot per hour, and you’re losing out big time. Average wage in Australia for a non-skilled job, is around $20 AN HOUR! Not per day.
* Hostels – Most people doing their WHV live in hostels. It’s a great option, also the cheaper option if you’re going over there alone. They’re really social places and you’ll get to meet plenty of new people. Hostels are actually pretty decent in Oz from what I’ve heard. They’re modern & clean, some even have pools. If you’re doing a long stay in a hostel, speak to them, and most of them will give you a discount.
* Rent an apartment/house – If there’s a few of you, club together, and rent somewhere. It’ll be cheaper than a hostel, or it’ll work out a similar price but with the added benefit of having your own room.
* Flat share – Or you could risk it, and just look around for a room, and rent with complete strangers. Obviously they might turn out to be awesome, but sometimes you can get put with people that are completely opposite to you. It ain’t going to be like a hostel, where you can just up and leave, try a new one if you don’t get along with the people you’re living with. It’s always a risk.
SECOND YEAR VISA:
The great thing is, if you enjoy Australia, you can go back and do a second year. Which a lot of people aren’t aware of. But, it comes with some terms. You need to have done at least 88 days specified work, within your first year of your working holiday visa. This includes farmwork, picking fruit, construction work etc (all noted above in ‘some popular job options.’) You don’t have to do the 3 months in one go. You can break it up. As long as you have done 3 months in total, in the first year. Some people prefer to break it up, others like to get it done and out of the way. These kind of jobs aren’t the best paid jobs, and are usually poor working conditions. You’re usually picking fruit in 40 degree heat, in the sun, doing long shifts, with very little breaks. Some don’t pay at all. They pay you through accommodation and food. It’s up to you whether you want to work for nothing. Personally, I see it a bit like slavery, so would sooner do the work and get paid. The government are supposed to be clamping down on these kind of scams, but my friends that are over in Australia, are saying it’s still happening!
You can find these jobs on the internet, or most hostels will have information about the jobs, or agencies that work at the hostels will be advertising the jobs, scouting for workers. Harvest Trail website is really good that has been recommend by friends, with well paid jobs, and no scams. It’s a government run site, so they’re constantly checking who’s advertising jobs on the site.
You must keep your payslips as proof for when you apply for you second holiday visa. A lot of time they ask for evidence when you’re applying for your second visa. Some people say they make pay slips up, but if you get caught, you’ll be banned from entering Australia for life.
You don’t have to do your second year straight after your first. You can go home, go travelling in New Zealand, or South East Asia for a bit. It’s completely up to you. If you apply in Australia, you must be in Australia when the visa is granted. If you apply outside Australia, you must be outside Australia when the visa is granted.
Watch the video by Psycho Traveller, who knows a lot more about the scams than I do. Anyone considering doing their 88 day specified work, should watch this! She also talks about the different payment options: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNwKCw_xipo
* All the information you need to know about the WHV, plus the website to actually apply from: https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/417-
* Get your RSA licence: http://www.onlinersa.com.au/
* Check out hostels in Australia: http://www.hostelworld.com/
* Look for a flat share (reputable site): http://www.flatmates.com.au
* Website to apply for a tax file number: https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Tax-file-number/Apply-for-a-TFN/
* How to claim any tax back you’ve paid while in Australia: https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/international-tax-for-individuals/coming-to-australia/returning-to-your-home-country/
* All about getting your second year visa: https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Work/evidence-payment