Spend a Year in Australia!!
Updated: Jul 15
Everything you need to know about doing a working holiday in Aus
As I type this, I've just returned home from an 8-month journey through the breathtaking country of Australia. I visited countless beaches & cities, made friends to last a lifetime, and learned more about myself (and the world) than I could ever hope to by sitting in a classroom.
But how did I do this? How did I manage to sustain my travels for 8 full months in a foreign country?
After chatting with friends and family upon returning home, I've realized that although the concept of a working holiday is now far from foreign to me, most people (much like my pre-travel self) have no idea what this is or how to go about obtaining one.
What is a Working Holiday?
As defined on the inter-webs, a Working Holiday Visa is:
"...a residence permit allowing travelers to undertake employment (and sometimes study) in the country issuing the visa [in order to] supplement their travel funds."
And it is just exactly that. A working holiday visa is a visa that allows you to take an extended holiday (or "vacation") in another country while also giving you the rights to work while you're there. The "working" portion of the title is what makes this visa so special. As Americans (and yes I should clarify that I am American and that not all countries allow their citizens to obtain a working holiday visa for Australia), we can obtain regular "holiday" visas multiple times throughout our lives. These visas allow us to visit Australia for up to 3 months at a time. However, only with the working holiday are we allowed to work. This was vital for me and my travels because I didn't have enough money to sustain myself for more than a couple months when I got there!
How long is the visa for?
The Working Holiday visa grants us an initial 12 months in the country. If we wish to obtain an additional 12 months (totaling 2 years) we must complete 88 days (roughly 3 months) of farm work in approved areas throughout Australia within the use of our first year visa and then apply for a second working holiday. As Americans we now also have the option of completing 88 days of hospitality work in Northern Australia in place of farm work. If we wish to obtain yet a third year working holiday in Australia, we must complete 6 months of farm work (or described hospitality work) within our 2nd year and then again apply for a third visa.
How many times can I do this?
You can only do a first year working holiday once in your lifetime. As stated above, there are ways to obtain second and third year visas, but the required work must be completed during the first (and relatively second) year visa(s) in order to obtain these.
Is it free?
No. The cost to apply for the Working Holiday Visa is roughly $440 AUD or $286 USD. The money has to be paid upfront upon submission of your application.
How long does it take to get one?
According to the Australian government website, visa approval could take as little as 48 hours or as long as 48 days. Most people I've talked to got their visa approved within hours (myself included). I however, did apply for my visa a month prior to my intended travel date just in case of any delays (and I would suggest anyone else do the same)!
What are the requirements?
To obtain a working holiday visa, you must:
- Have a valid passport from an eligible country
- Be between 18 and 30 years of age (as an American) or between 18 and 35 for citizens of some other countries (including France, Ireland, and Canada).
- Apply for this visa from a country outside of Australia (you cannot get to Australia on a regular holiday visa and then decide to apply for a working holiday visa with hopes of extending your stay).
- Not be accompanied by children (this visa will grant entry to you alone).
- Be able to show that you have at least $5000 AUD or roughly $3,304 USD in your banking account to guarantee you will have money to support yourself for the first part of your stay.
- Meet health criteria
How long is the visa good for once you get it?
Once you obtain your visa, you have 12 months to enter the country of Australia or your visa expires and you will not be eligible to apply for another one.
Do I have to use all 12 months at once?
Yes. While you are not required to stay for 12 months, once you enter the country, the metaphorical clock of your visa starts ticking. Your visa will expire a year from the day you step foot in Australia (therefore you could not stay for 2 months, leave for 3 months, and come back expecting to still have 10 months left on your visa. You would only have 7 months remaining).
Where do I even begin when planning my trip?
Backpacking culture is huge in Australia. Traveling the East Coast is where most backpackers start. Many begin up north (in Cairns) and then make their way down to Melbourne throughout the course of their travels.
Knowing this, me and a friend booked 4 nights at a hostel in Cairns and decided to wing it from there (with plans to progressively travel south). It ended up working out so well for us, as we each ended up making friends and planning further adventures within the first week of arriving.
When deciding the starting point for your adventure however, you should also take into consideration what time of year you will be visiting. Australia and America have opposite seasons. When it is winter for us, it is summer for them (and vise versa). You should also consider that it will be warmest up north and coolest down south. Therefore, if you are traveling during Australian winter, you might consider starting up north where it's warmest (if you prefer warm weather that is). But if you're traveling during Australian summer, it could be wise to start down south and work your way up to prevent ending up in Melbourne during the colder months.
I'd also say that it's best to leave your plans open. Make a list of places you want to see and have a rough blueprint but don't lock yourself in to specific dates etc.
How do I go about finding work?
Most of the positions you will likely be applying for in Australia are casual. The employers are entirely familiar with the premise of working holiday visas and often have traveling employees who come and go.
One rule is that you cannot work for a singular employee for more than 6 months on your visa.
I always just printed off resumes and walked around handing them out. I also sent emails with a picture of myself, my resume, and a short summary of who I was and what i was looking for. I had plenty of friends who had luck using sites like Indeed/online job boards to find work as well.
Pro Tip: If you're a planner like me and don't want to get stuck in a new location paying rent with no job, consider getting a work-for-accommodation position set up at a hostel before you arrive. (Click the link to learn more about this!)
Is it safe to go alone?
From what I gathered in my 8 months of travel, Australia is a very safe country. It's backpacker-friendly and full of lovely smiling faces. Regardless of your destination however, I would always recommend that solo travelers be mindful of their surroundings and carry a basic level of street smarts with them, just as you would if you were walking around your hometown alone.
Pro Tip: Pack a lock! Most hostels have lockers available in the dorm rooms so it's smart to have a lock in order to safely store your valuables.
Is it easy to make friends?
In general, yes! But it definitely depends on the effort you put in. For the most part, hostels are bustling with likeminded travelers looking to make friends/find a group to do activities with so you certainly won't have any trouble finding people to mingle with. (Start by talking to your room mates and seeing what kinds of things they're getting up to!)
Hostels often host event nights as well which can be really great social opportunities!
Another thing to consider is that the more you travel, the more friends you will make! Your network of friends around the world will only continue to grow. And after traveling for a while, you're likely to build connections and have familiar faces in nearly every place you visit! Who knows, you might even meet a lifelong friend/travel buddy to continue your travels with :)
Want to know more?
If you have any more questions or concerns that I didn't address, feel free to comment below or send me an email :) Happy traveling guys!
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