All the basic information needed to apply for a Working Holiday Visa in Australia, including some helpful tips for living over here.
Australia, the “Land Down Under”, the land of picturesque beaches, lush rainforests and vast deserts. Home to intriguing accents, famous landmarks, exotic animals, lazy surf towns and ancient aboriginal mysteries.
It’s no surprise that so many travelers venture to Australia, this giant isolated island with endless different geographies and cultures spread out over its wide surface.
Luckily, Australia realizes the benefits of travelers visiting Australia and contributing to the economy, so it offers a beautiful thing called a Working Holiday Visa. This visa allows foreigners to live, work, and travel in Australia for up to one year, and if you still can’t get enough you can apply for a second year working holiday visa. (Rumor has it there is now a third year working holiday visa for certain visa holders, but I’ve only had personal experience with the first and second years so I’ll be focusing on those).
I’ll be outlining the basics of obtaining a Working Holiday Visa (WHV), as well giving some helpful tips for living in Australia on the visa. I’ll also explain the process of applying for a Second Year WHV and explain the work that needs to be done for this.
Most of this information can be found on the Australian Immigration website, but sometimes it’s more helpful to read about it from a person who has been the process themselves.
First Year Working Holiday Visa
Two Types Of Working Holiday Visas
It’s important to figure out which WHV you need based on your nationality. Here is a quick summary of the two visas.
This visa includes people from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Canada, the United Kingdom, and many other European countries. You can find the full list of eligible countries on this page, by clicking on the category, “Hold This Passport”.
This visa includes people from the USA, like myself, China, Singapore, as well as some other countries in South America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Here is the full list of eligible countries, also under the category “Hold This Passport”. This visa is also technically called “Work And Holiday”, rather than “Working Holiday”, but it’s the number of the visa rather than the name that matters the most.
The two visas are essentially the same, the main difference being the type of regional work that counts for your 88 days, should you desire a second year visa. I’ll discuss more of this later.
Some 462 visas also have a few extra requirements that 417 do not, all depending on which country you come from. Some of these requirements include proof of education and proof of English language skills. Just be sure to read the pages I linked to above, very carefully, as they sometimes list extra requirements just for one specific country.
Basic requirements that apply to both 417 and 462 visas are:
- You must be between the ages of 18 and 30.
- You must have at least $5,000 AUD saved and be able to provide a bank statement with proof of funds. This proves you can support yourself while in Australia, and be able to buy a plane ticket home if necessary.
- You must not have had a previous Australian visa cancelled or denied, and you must meet the character and health requirements, which are explained in detail on the Immigration website (here are the links again for 417 and 462).
- You must have a valid passport from one of the eligible counties, which does not expire during the time you plan to be in Australia.
- You must not have any dependent children coming with you to Australia.
If you meet these requirements, you can begin your application online by creating an ImmiAccount. The whole application process is done online, and you don’t even need to mail in your passport for a physical visa, as the visa is recorded electronically with your passport number.
On the day your application is granted, you have exactly one year to enter the country and begin your WHV.
The cost of the visa is $450 Australian Dollars.
While On The Visa
Once your visa is granted, you can buy your airfare to Australia. Check skyscanner.com for affordable flights, and consider flying during the winter months (June – August) for cheaper flights. Keep in mind that it may be harder to find a job during the off-season, but this would be a good time to do some traveling around the country or maybe live in the north where it’s warmer.
Rules and Restrictions
There are a few rules that affect your time in Australia on a WHV.
- You can only work the same job for a maximum of 6 months.
- You can only study for up to 4 months.
- You can travel in and out of Australia as often as you want, but your year doesn’t pause when you leave the country.
- You must uphold good character while living in Australia, and not become involved in any violence that threatens the Australian community.
- You cannot get access to Medicare as it’s for residents and citizens of Australia only and doesn’t apply to backpackers. Consider buying overseas health insurance.
- If you are working a paid job you must also pay taxes, which you can claim back at the end of the year. Here is a helpful website for figuring out how your tax return works.
Useful Tips For Living In Australia
Once you arrive in Australia, there are a few things you should tick off your to-do list. These steps will help you get settled and ready to work, live, and travel in Australia.
1. Get an Australian bank account.
If you plan on working in Australia, you should set up a basic bank account. Travelers often use Commonwealth, ANZ or Nab as they are pretty straightforward and easily accessible around the country. All you need to sign up for an account is your passport and an Australian address.
2. Set Up A Superannuation Account.
You may also need to set up a Superannuation account if you plan on working, which your employer will discuss with you before starting a new job. This is essentially a retirement fund, and a small amount of each pay slip from work will go towards your Super Account.
As a backpacker, you can claim this money back at the end of your year, since you won’t be retiring in Australia. You must claim your Super within 6 months of your visa expiring, otherwise it will be claimed by the Australian Taxation Office and you’ll never see it again. This website has more information about how to claim your Super money after your time in Australia has ended.
3. Apply for a Tax File Number (TFN).
Everyone working on the books in Australia is required to have a TFN, and you can easily apply for one online once you arrive in Australia. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes. This website includes the link for the TFN Application, as well as more official information about your TFN.
4. Apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN)
You’ll only need an ABN if you plan on doing contract work rather than casual or full-time employment. You can easily apply for an ABN through this website.
5. Find A Job
To find work in Australia, which you’ll most likely need to do if you want to afford living here, the best way is to hand out resumes in person. A face to face conversation is always a more effective way to sell yourself to employers, and you’ll find Aussies to be very friendly and open to chatting.
Also make sure your resume is updated to Australian standards. This means having detailed descriptions of relevant job experience, listing your skills and assets, and having good references. (I found this information incredibly useful, seeing as how resumes in the USA are supposed to be short and sweet. Australian’s prefer a bit more detail).
6. Obtain a Responsible Service of Alcohol Certificate (RSA)
If you plan on working in bar or restaurant as many backpackers do, you will most likely need an RSA. You can take a quick course online, which tests your knowledge of serving alcohol in a responsible manner through multiple choice questions and audio/video assessments.
The price of the course varies depending on which states you want the certificate to be valid in. An RSA can be as expensive as $150 for New South Wales, and as cheap as $24 for most other states. This website is a popular and reliable option for obtaining your RSA quickly and easily.
Other certifications may be required for a job in Australia, such as a White Card, First Aid, Working With Children, Police Check, teaching licenses, etc, so always do your research when job hunting.
7. Find Somewhere To Live
When backpackers first arrive in Australia, most tend to stay in hostels at the start. This is an easy way to live in a social environment and decide your next plan of action. Most decent hostels in Australia cost about $15 – $30 a night for a dorm room, so living in a hostel long term is not very affordable unless you can score a work for accommodation deal. HostelWorld is always a great resource for finding the right hostel with good peer reviews.
If you’re looking to rent an apartment, GumTree also has available room postings, and Flatmates is an awesome website for finding roommates to share a place with. You can also check this Real Estate website for nice places to rent, or browse university Facebook groups for the town or city you want to live in.
The cost of rent will depend on where you want to live and how many people you want to live with. It will obviously be more expensive to live in bigger cities, and more expensive to live on your own. I highly recommend living with Aussie flatmates, as it’s a great way to meet locals and immerse yourself into the Aussie lifestyle.
Second Year Working Holiday Visa
If you fall in love with Australia during your first year, which you most likely will, you can apply for a second year WHV. The basic requirements for this visa are exactly the same as the first year. You must not owe any public debt from your first year, and you must still be age 30 or under. The cost of the second year visa is even the same as the first, $450. Click here for Immigration’s official page about the second year visa for 417, and here for 462.
However, there is one major difference between your first and second year visa applications.
3 Months Of Regional Work
The most important part of applying for a second year WHV is that during your first year visa, you must complete 88 days or three months of specified work in rural Australia. The government wants to ensure that backpackers give back to the economy in some way if they want to continue enjoying this beautiful country.
This is where the two different types of visas is important.
If you hold this visa you must do farm work, or more specifically plant/animal cultivation, mining, construction, fishing and pearling, or tree farming and felling. You can do your work in any state, but the zip code must fall under the government’s list of post codes that count as “rural”.
Find more information about what type of work and what zip codes are required for you here.
If you hold this visa, you can also do plant/animal cultivation in a rural area of any state. You can do fishing and pearling, or tree farming and felling in Northern Australia only. You can also work in hospitality and tourism, in Northern Australia only. You cannot work in mining or construction.
Northern Australia refers to any area of the country above the Tropic of Capricorn. Always double check that the zip code is eligible. Use this website for checking zip codes and finding more details about eligible work.
How To Count Your 88 Days
For both 417 and 462 visas, your 88 days can be completed all at once or split up.
If you’re working part time, say a few days a week, you can only count your working days.
If you work full time hours, such as Monday to Friday for a total of 40 hours a week, every day counts, even rest days. So it can be shorter to just do all your regional work consecutively so every single day counts.
Ensure you can get pay slips, contracts, and any other sort of necessary paperwork for your second year visa when doing your farm work.
Any work for accommodation or volunteer jobs do not count, as you must have written proof that you got paid to apply.
When looking for farm work, you can also try the websites listed earlier for job searching. But before you take any job, double check that your employer will sign you off for your 88 days. Do plenty of research on a farm or a hospitality job before taking a position, and read reviews left by other travelers. Plenty of employers try to take advantage of backpackers and not pay them properly, so always be careful.
A great place to find advice from other backpackers is the various Facebook groups, like Australia Backpackers 2019, Australian Backpackers, and Backpacker Jobs In Australia. You can also sometimes find job postings here as well.
Backpacker Job Board is great for any sort of jobs all over Australia, and you can limit your search to “Second Year Visa Jobs” if you want. For farm work, harvest websites like Harvest Trail outline which crops need workers at which times of the year.
If you want to read about my experience with farm work, check out my article “Life As A Fruit Picker In Australia”
Why You Should Get A Working Holiday Visa
The Working Holiday Program is such an amazing opportunity, and I urge every adventerous person in their 20s to give it a try. All the information I just listed may seem overwhelming, but once you actually do all these steps you’ll find it’s incredibly easy and straightforward.
Living and working in Australia is the best. It is an expensive country, but if you have a bit of income and are smart with money it’s actually pretty affordable to live here. And working in Australia can be quite fun. I’ve mainly done hospitality jobs, which are great because you get to work alongside and socialize with lots of hilarious and personable Aussies. If you work manual labor jobs, you’ll be super impressed with the pay, especially if you work overtime or on night shifts.
If you choose to emphasize the “Holiday” aspect of a WHV rather than the “Working” aspect, you’ll get to explore a giant, diverse and stunning country. There is so much natural beauty here and endless opportunities for adventure, so the WHV is a great way to spend a full year (or two) exploring Australia.
If you’re interested in reading about my own amazing experiences in Australia, check out 10 Amazing Things To Do In Tropical North Queensland, 6 Beautiful Places In New South Wales, Australia, and 12 Things To Do Along The Grand Pacific Drive.