Taking a working holiday in Australia is one of the most exciting, challenging and life-changing experiences you can have. Perhaps you are taking a gap year before university, maybe you have just graduated and are in search of a break before you get stuck into your career, or you may simply have been working hard for years and feel in need of a well-earned sabbatical to recharge your batteries and give you a chance to experience something different before settling down and starting a family.
Whatever your reasons for planning a working holiday to Australia there is no doubt that you are in for the experience of your life. And the better you plan your trip, the smoother your experience is likely to be.
Organising your visa
Other than an Australian native or resident, it is important to remember that no-one has an automatic right of entry to Australia. There are, however, a number of visa options that provide individuals with the right to visit or work in the country for a specified amount of time. Organising your visa should be your first step in the planning process, as without this your trip will not even get off the ground.
There are two types of working holiday visa for Australia – subclass 417 and subclass 462. Subclass 417 is open to individuals who hold valid passports from a specified list of countries including the UK, many (but not all) countries in Western Europe and Taiwan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong and Japan. This visa type allows for a 12-month stay in Australia, beginning any time within the 12 months following the visa’s issue (effectively allowing you up to 12 months to plan your trip once you have the visa in your hand). It permits multiple entry and exit during the 12-month period and allows for four months of study and up to six months’ employment with a single employer. The visa can be extended for a further 12-month period subject to working for a minimum of three months in a role specified for eligibility such as fruit picking, and if the extension is granted, you are permitted to return to work for an employer for whom you worked during your initial 12-month period for up to a further six months.
There are certain restrictions to the visa, including the requirement that you must be outside the country when your visa is applied for and granted, you must not have held a working holiday visa before, you will not have accompanying dependant children and you must be between 18 and 30 when you apply.
Subclass 462 visas are available to passport holders from the US, Chile, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey who have been through or are nearing the end of higher education and is valid for up to 12 months. It allows for entry within three months of issue and permits multiple entry and exit during the following 12-month period. Four months of study is permitted, as is temporary employment, but 12-month visa extensions are not.
Use an “arrival package” or go it alone?
Whether you book an arrival package or go it alone largely depends on your sense of adventure, your budget and your personal preference.
There are a number of organisations specialising in assisting people with planning their working holidays in Australia. A simple internet search will return dozens of such companies, though it is always a good idea to seek references or personal recommendations before entrusting your time – and finances – to a third party.
If you have not travelled extensively abroad, you may find it advantageous to book an arrival package however, in order to get you into the swing of things and help you settle and find work more quickly. Arrival packages can provide assistance literally from the moment you arrive at the airport, pre-booking hostel accommodation for you and assisting with your transfer.
They will help you to find jobs through their networks, often advertising them to their members before they go out onto the “open market”. Many will offer consultations to help you tailor your CV to the local market and give you some valuable interview tips. Assistance with accommodation is another bonus, with listings of furnished flat shares available for members, saving you the trouble of finding out where the best classified lists are in the local area and setting you up with other groups of like-minded travellers seeking accommodation and flat-share partners.
Other benefits include organising your visa, opening an Australian Bank Account before you even arrive, organising money transfers so your funds are waiting for you and forwarding mail.
Be aware however, that all these services are available to individuals who wish to organise them themselves, and if you choose to do so it will save valuable funds that could be put to better use discovering Australia during your stay. If you are a seasoned traveller, are confident or simply have a sense of adventure, it is perfectly possible to fend for yourself and learn many valuable lessons about “real” Australian life in the process.
Don’t forget to get insured
Travel insurance is an area that is overlooked at your peril. The chances of something getting lost or broken as it is carted around in your backpack are higher than you might think, and despite Australia’s relatively low crime rates, there is no doubt that tourists are more of a target anywhere in the world than seasoned locals. Make sure you have adequate cover for accidents and loss, and decent health insurance too.
Research your employment options thoroughly
Depending on what area you intend to work in, you may be required under Australian Health and Safety legislation to undertake some specialist training before you can be employed. This is the case in the hospitality and construction sectors amongst others. Remember to plan your time and budget accordingly, and do your homework before you arrive.
Check out what job options are available in what areas and make sure you plan accordingly. There is no point in heading for Sydney if you want to be picking fruit in the outback, and there is no point in heading for a quiet rural centre if you will be looking for work in the construction industry.
Do your maths
Australia offers a good quality of life at affordable prices by US and European standards but it is far from a budget destination. Be sure to budget carefully and leave plenty for contingencies. Travelling can be an expensive business even when you have an income.