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How to get a Working Holiday Visa for Australia

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Want to work and travel in Australia for a year (or maybe 2) on a Working Holiday (or Work & Holiday) visa? For most of us, Australia is a dream location. Before I moved to Australia, I spent years living in Bogota, Colombia. From Bogota, I made my way to the Caribbean coast where I scored a job as a tour guide hopping back and forth from Colombia to Panama via the San Blas Islands. Fun fact, this is actually where I met Kat, the founder of A Way Abroad.

While I loved Colombia, I had a strong sense of adventure and wanted to see somewhere new, preferably somewhere really far away. This is when I stumbled onto the world of working holiday visas and set my sights on Australia, although the working holiday visa in New Zealand was a close second.

Read on to see step by step how you can do it too.

What are the visa requirements?

  • Hold an eligible passport (31 eligible countries)
  • Be aged 18-30
  • Have no previous Work & Holiday visa with Australia (there is a 2nd visa you can apply for afterwards)
  • Meet the education requirement for your country (for US citizens: a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent)
  • Meet the Character Requirement (certain countries will need a letter of support from their government)
  • Have no outstanding debts to the Australian government (this can include family members’ debts)
  • Must have a functional level of English, usually defined in a test (if not a native speaker)
  • Sign an agreement to adhere to Australia’s Code of Conduct
  • $450 AUD Application Fee

What types of visas are available?

There are a number of ways to get an entrance visa into Australia and, lucky thing for us at A Way Abroad, a whopping thirty-eight of them are for working while in the country. Two of the most commonly granted visas are the subclass 417 and subclass 462, also known as the “Working Holiday Visa  and the “Work & Holiday Visa,” respectively.

  • Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 417)
  • Work & Holiday Visa (Subclass 462)

The two visas are very similar; both offer a twelve-month entrance for both travel and work (with an opportunity to apply for a second, year-long visa) to travelers aged 18-30. They also allow for 4 months of study.

The main differences are the eligible countries that can apply for each visa, and that the “Work & Holiday Visa” (subclass 462) has specific education requirements for certain countries. Some applicants may be asked to submit an official Letter of Support from their home country’s government.

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As a U.S. citizen, I was eligible for the “Work & Holiday Visa,” or subclass 462. I had wondered if it would be any problem that I was out of my home country at the time of application (not to mention a boat, bus, and plane ride away from any consulate or embassy), but Australia has an efficient online application system. 

How to apply & land a visa

1. The first step was making an ImmiAccount.

This account is a requisite to the online application process. It helps manage the visa application, correspondence with the correct government department, and all visas awarded. It’s simple interface is easily navigable and gives notification of any activity with the application or visa status. It also sends an e-mail alert anytime your account is accessed.

2. Fill everything out carefully & read the fine print

This is going to be your account/file for any immigration affairs in Australia forever and ever. As easy as it is to set up, it can be quite difficult to make additions or changes to certain information you will enter.

If you are traveling abroad, I suggest to only use email for correspondence. You will not be mailed a visa sticker or any documents you couldn’t simply print for yourself. 

However, if you enter a physical address and are sent any notifications they will require return service for confirmation of receipt and this will be time-sensitive. Where ever your address may be, the post to and from Australia could eat up a considerable amount of that precious time.

3. Be prepared to submit additional information

Most applicants are sent a request for more information, which is usually a request for a medical examination with a Panel Physician (a doctor approved to do Australia’s required examinations). You can send in results of a recent physical with your visa application, but you may still be sent this specific request.

I’ll suggest again to set up email correspondence and add that you should expect to receive this request. 

Should you, you’ll be given a HAP ID. This is a unique identifier for your medical information. You will need to provide your HAP ID to even make the appointment with a panel physician. My requests were for a chest x-ray and a physical. And it may just be that I was in a Latin American country, but I was not allowed to attend my appointment while I was menstruating. When I did complete the exam, results were sent directly from the medical office to the Australian Government.

Once granted the visa, it must be activated within one year.

It took me roughly a month to get my visa awarded, mainly due to the request for a medical examination. In some cases the visa can be awarded within 48 hours if you have everything necessary ready to go when you apply. If you're a little less organized, the application can take as long as you need.

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What are my visa rights once I'm in Australia?

Once in Australia, visa recipients are allowed to apply for a second year visa after a minimum of three months work in rural or agricultural sectors.

Jobs include, but are certainly not limited to, work like picking fruit or shoveling stables.

For example, as long as you are in a particular region—one that is considered rural or agricultural, or that has been deemed worthy of certain industrial stimulation—you could be slinging beers at a pub or tutoring in an after-school program, and it would still qualify. If you’re considering two years, double check before and after arriving, the laws are under constant revision.

Australia is a big country with a lot to offer. Between Melbourne, the Gold Coast, Sydney and Adelaide, there's so much to see and do. If you plan to base yourself in Sydney, don't pass up on these amazing weekend getaways to explore more than just the city. Western Australia is far from the rest of the country but is said to have lots of work opportunities!

How do you get a job?

I had dreamed of going to Australia for years. This visa made it possible. There is no shortage of jobs in Australia, and you may notice there are many foreigners amongst the local employees. However, there can still be some fierce competition.

Use your network of friends and neighbors, have an up to date CV with a photo, and make finding a job your job. Australia can be an expensive place for many, rent is paid weekly and going out with friends or colleagues is the social norm.

Pro Tip: In most places, “Cheap Tuesdays” is a thing.

Australia is great about helping you know your rights as a worker.

All the information is available directly from your ImmiAccount. Read up before you sign on anywhere and know what to look out for. Most places can only contract you for a maximum of six months with this visa, but after you’ve reached this max, you could be offered a sponsorship.

Another thing that seems to happen is employers will recommend workers within a network of employees, so you may have the same coworkers at another job.

If you're interested, why wait? Go on and get lost in Australia.

Ready for Your Working Holiday Visa in Australia?

There are many ways to work in Australia, registering for an ImmiAccount will help you find the right visa for you and manage your application process.

Using your email as a preferred correspondence method will expedite the process. You’ll most likely have to take a medical examination with an approved Panel Physician. Have your HAP ID (sent with the request for this exam) on hand to make your appointment. Approved applications are given one year to initiate the visa. Those awarded the subclass 462 visa can apply for a second year after three months of applicable work.

Check out my bio on the Girls page for ways to stay connected! If you have any additional questions, reach out to A Way Abroad and we'll be happy to get in touch. If you're in Australia doing the same thing, I'd love to chat about your experience.

All photos by depositphotos.com.

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