How To Get A Working Holiday Visa in Australia

This is a guest post from the well-travelled Anna of Global Gallivanting. She travels the world on a budget, and found a unique way to earn money for travel by working in Australia! Read on to learn how you too can get a working holiday visa in Australia, how much you can earn, and where to find travel jobs

Australia had always been my dream destination, for years I dreamed of a laid back life in the sun with kangaroos hopping all around me. The only problem was money – Australia is not a cheap place to travel.

Luckily I was eligible for a working holiday visa in Australia and this allowed me to have the time of my life exploring the country. I lived and worked in a remote country pub up in Queensland, and as well as becoming immersed in the community through my job I also saved lots of money for more travels!

What Is A Working Holiday Visa?

A year-long working holiday visa in Australia could be the perfect way to explore Oz while also making money to fund your travels. Plus, once you start earning Australian wages, this expensive country feels a lot more affordable!

Officially, the Australia Government states that “The Working Holiday visa is a temporary visa for young people who want to holiday and work in Australia for up to a year. It is a temporary visa that encourages cultural exchange and closer ties between Australia and eligible countries.”

how to get a working holiday visa for australia
Hanging out in Yarra Valley.

☞ SEE ALSO: Where to Stay in Sydney – A Guide to The Best Accommodation and Neighbourhoods

So what can you do on a working holiday?

A Working Holiday Visa allows you to stay in Australia for up to 12 months and you can leave and re-enter any number of times while the visa is valid. You can work in any kind of job in Australia (for a maximum of six months with each employer) and you can also study for up to four months. You can also apply for a 2nd year Working Holiday Visa if you do 3 months regional work. ( Subclass 417 visa holders only though)

Who can apply for a working holiday Visa?

It’s a reciprocal arrangement so you need to be from an eligible country, and aged at least 18 but not yet 31 years of age (that means if you are 30, yes, you can still apply!) and not have any dependent children travelling with you to Australia.

There are two streams to the Australian Working Holiday Visa – Subclass 417 and Subclass 462. They are quite similar but apply to different countries. The main difference is that Subclass 462 holders cannot extend their visa for 2 years.

31 countries are eligible for the working holiday scheme. Eligible countries for an Australian Working Holiday Visa Subclass 417 include:

Canada, Hong Kong, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom and many European Counties. Citizens from the USA (along with 11 other countries) are eligible for the Subclass 462.

You should also be in good health, have no criminal record and have enough money to support yourself initially. Sometimes they may ask to see proof of funds of AUD$5000 (approx £2700 / US$4,350 ) when you arrive.

working visa for australia
The Pioneer Valley – wouldn’t you want to live/travel here?!

How do you apply for a working holiday visa?

Applying for my working holiday visa was just a quick and simple process of filling out a form online, my visa was approved via an email in only 30 minutes, but it’s best to allow 4 weeks for approval. To avoid any extra agent’s fees it’s best to apply straight on to the Australian Immigration Website. And as visa requirements can change and vary for each country, check out the whole list of requirements and eligible countries here on the Australian Immigration Website.

The price of an Australian Working Holiday Visa for 2015 is AUD$420 and once the visa is approved you have a year to enter Australia to activate the visa.

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What kind of jobs are available?

Officially, Working Holiday Visa holders can do any sort of work and with the Australian minimum wage being AUD$17.29 per hour (approx US$13 or £9) you could save some decent cash to fund future travels.

Unless you have a specialist skill or profession, especially in areas like nursing, construction or mining, where you will probably be in high demand and may even get sponsored for a more long-term visa or permanent migration to Australia, then it’s probably best to focus your efforts on “backpacker jobs” especially in a field that you already have experience in back home.

Common jobs that Working Holiday Visa holders take on include:

Bar, Hospitality and Tourism jobs
Sales jobs and Office Temping work
Farm work and Fruit Picking
Childcare and Au Pair work

working visa for australia
Working in a pub / bar-tending is a great way to earn money in Australia!

Which cities are the best to find work in OZ?

The major cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane offer lots of opportunities for job hunters in hospitality, office temping and sales jobs, and these cities are where most backpackers start looking for work. Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is booming due to wealth from mining in the state so there are also many opportunities to be found here, although the high paying jobs in mining aren’t easy for backpackers to obtain.

There are several websites that specialise in jobs for backpackers, you could start your job search by trying the following websites:

Backpacker Job Board
The Job Shop

These sites are specifically for working holiday makers and are really useful but they do charge a fee to join:

Travellers at Work
Jobs 4 Travellers

Also, don’t be afraid to ask around, just call up or take in your resume.

how to get a working visa in australia
Sydney is a popular city to find work.

How much money can you expect to save?

AUD$17.29 is the standard minimum wage in Australia (approx US$13 or £9) and most backpacker type jobs should pay around AUD$20, which is great, but the cost of living is high in Australia.

But if you want to get a job, not just to make ends meet, but so you can save money for further travels then you probably want to get out of the city or a huge chunk of your wages will go on rent and food, leaving little money to save towards adventures in Australia and beyond.

There are many opportunities for backpackers in more rural areas where there are staff shortages.

The best way to save money is to work in a remote area in a ‘live in’ job, one that includes your accommodation and food plus wages, commonly these are in hospitality or childcare.
This is what I did, I worked and lived in a Queensland country pub and I managed to save  AUD$15,000 working for 6 months which was enough to fund more epic adventures and buy a campervan to travel the rest of Australia (which was amazing and also saved me loads of money!)

Plus, as I found myself in the heart of this tight-knit community it was easy to make friends with the locals. Living and working in a remote area immersed me in a very different Australian lifestyle than what you might find in Sydney or in the backpacker hostels on the east coast.

I made a much better connection with this place than I would have done if I was simply passing through as a tourist. Although, I did feel a little claustrophobic at times and I guess it would not be for everyone.

It was easy to save because it was so remote and there was nowhere to go and nothing to spend my money on. Instead, I worked all the hours I could and even though it was only a minimum wage job, after paying a weekly contribution of $120 for my room and board, I was soon saving hundreds of dollars every week.

working in australia
Beautiful Port Douglas Beach.

The downsides to working in Australia

Whilst the Working Holiday Visa scheme is a great opportunity for young people to enjoy exploring Australia and earn money to fund their travels there are downsides to be aware of.

Some employers may be reluctant to recruit working holiday visa holders because of bad experiences in the past or because they want a longer commitment. Some employers can try to take advantage of backpackers by trying to get away with paying less than minimum wage, often by bundling up your wages into a weekly salary, (sometimes also with accommodation and food) check how much this equates to by dividing the hours you will be working.

Unfortunately, because employers know how badly you want that 2nd year in Oz, if you are trying to get a 2nd year visa by doing the 3 months / 88 days regional work, some employers take advantage of this. The majority of 2nd year visa qualifying jobs are now done on a voluntary basis where the only payment is food and accommodation making it hard to find a decent, paid job.

Also, unfortunately, only subclass 417 visa holders are eligible for the 2nd year which means Americans (and other 462 visa holders) cannot extend their visa in this way.

There are also job offers that are just scams. While Gumtree is a great resource, there can often be shady job offers on there. Be careful, don’t get taken advantage of or fall for a scam, if the job sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

But that said, I would definitely recommend for young people to take a Working Holiday in Australia if they can. It’s a beautiful country with a lot to offer! Travel is easy, and there are many people here doing the same thing so it is easy to make friends. If you use your common sense and are open-minded and flexible, there are many opportunities to find work, have the year of a lifetime and save money for further travels.

For more tips on working holidays in Australia download the free ebook here.

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Written by

Anna Phipps

Anna Phipps left her job in the UK in Dec 2012 to pursue her dreams of a life of travel and adventure. Her only regret is that she didn’t do it sooner! Since then she has travelled extensively across India, South East Asia, Australia and Europe – traveling slow, independently and on a budget. Anna often immerses herself in the destinations she visits by working, volunteering or living abroad and her blog Global Gallivanting aims to show and inspire others to make travel their lifestyle choice too.

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