Thanks to working at STA Travel, I have a lot of experience dealing with working holiday visas; from advising customers, to liaising with visa companies, to ensuring that a customer fits within the specific requirements for the visa. When I first started at STA, I was just as confused as my customers as I tried to get my head around what was needed. Therefore, I thought it could be useful to have a brief summary of what you need to do if you are considering applying for an Australia working holiday visa!
PS. This post is made from the viewpoint of British citizens. For other nationalities, please check the Aussie government website to familiarise yourself with the requirements.
First of all, you need to decide whether this is definitely something you want to do! Australia is a long way away and the visas aren’t exactly cheap. Add to that the price of a return flight and the money you’ll need in the bank to sustain yourself, and you are looking at a pretty big decision! You also only get ONE working visa in your lifetime, so use it wisely. I’ve had 18 year old customers at STA purchase an Australia working holiday visa… to work for just two or three months! I personally think that is a massive waste! What if you want to go back later on in life?!
Don’t be put off by a lack of travelling experience – thousands of Brits (and people from all over) pour into Australia each year, many who have never done anything like that before. From experience, Gary’s brother had never travelled anywhere before and was coaxed in to their trip to Australia. Over two years later and he’s still not returned home and he’s having the time of his life! He’s now completing a working holiday visa on his own in New Zealand.
Once you have your sights set on making your working holiday a reality, you will need to make sure you are familiar with the rules of the visa. Australia can be tough on immigration and if something isn’t quite right, there’s a good chance you’ll be sent straight back on the first flight home!
There are some simple rules to follow when applying for an Australian working holiday visa. These are worth considering before you spend any money, to ensure that you are eligible to apply.
- You must be aged 18-30 (you can apply and enter aged 30).
- You must not be accompanied by, or have, any dependent children.
- You have to be outside of Australia when you apply for the visa, and cannot enter until your visa has been granted.
- Only one visa per person allowed – you can’t have applied for / had a working visa before.
- You must meet Australia’s heath requirements. The application form asks whether you have ever had TB or whether you have stayed in a country that isn’t your home for three months or more. If you answer yes to either of these, it doesn’t mean you’ll be rejected, it just means you’ll probably be asked to send over an x-ray or other medical document to prove you are fit to enter the country.
- You must meet the character requirements. This usually just means you can’t have any serious offences on record. Read the character requirements here.
MONEY – this one is important as this can be the one to catch people out at Immigration. You must have a sufficient amount of money to fund your stay whilst you look for work. Australia is NOT cheap!! Everything is pretty much double the price of things in the UK, which is fine for those earning double the amount in Aus dollars, but not so fine when you are taking over your well-earned GBP! ‘Sufficient funds’ is €5000. People have got through Immigration fine with less than that (especially if you have proof of a return ticket), but you’d probably want to be safe rather than sorry. Also, €5000 will disappear very quickly if you don’t get a job pronto! The problem with return tickets is that flights only come out 11 months in advance. If you are planning to stay the whole 12 months, that makes it impossible to have your flight pre-booked ahead of entering Australia. Most people will head in on a single ticket and see how they go, booking a flight when they know their job prospects. Other options include booking a return flight with an STA Multiflex pass, which means booking an earlier return date, to push back at a later time (whilst in Aus). These work well for some people but can get complicated – date changing flights is not as easy as it may seem! Something else to consider – some people try to beat the system by having mum or dad transfer them the €5000 they need to enter, then they just transfer it back once they are in Australia. BEWARE – Australian Immigration is on to you! They are not stupid – if they see a large chunk of money has entered your account soon before you arrived, they are going to know it’s probably not yours. People have been sent home because of this! If you have to use this method, transfer the money across in smaller chunks, a few months ahead of you leaving.
WHERE TO GET YOUR VISA?
There are lots of companies that can sell you an Australia working holiday visa. You can also purchase your visa straight through the Aus government website – there are pros and cons to each. If you are to purchase your visa through a company such as STA, you get a slight bit of extra protection in the fact that your application is reviewed before being sent to the Australian Immigration department. This means any silly mistakes that could jeopardise your chances of having the visa granted, are picked up and can be amended before being sent on. HOWEVER, if you apply for the visa directly through the government website, you avoid the ‘admin fees’ associated with companies and you will get the visa for a cheaper price. Just be extra careful when applying and make sure you read everything through twice, and you’ll be fine! You can see a copy of the application form here.
It takes a maximum of eight weeks for your visa to be granted/ denied, but it’s often much quicker than that – between a couple of days and a couple of weeks. Be wary of booking your flights until you have got your visa granted as many are non refundable. I would definitely advise waiting if you have answered ‘yes’ to living abroad or to having an illness or criminal history (no matter how small). These things usually require a follow up of some kind, which can delay the application process.
Once you have been granted your visa, you get 12 months to enter the country. Once you enter, that’s when your 12 month visa begins. If you leave at any point, your visa isn’t paused, it will keep ticking over until 12 months has past – so make the most of it!
THE SECOND YEAR VISA
When you apply for the Australia working holiday visa, you are granted 12 months. In these 12 months, you are free to travel and work as you please, as long as you don’t work for one employer for longer than six months. Once you are in Australia, you can then apply for a second year visa to work and travel for a further 12 months. In order to get the second year visa, you have to work a minimum of 88 days in a specific field of work. This includes farming, mining and construction (more info on page 2 here). Most people end up doing some kind of farming, which can be hard work; bending up and down and lifting all day in the burning sun! Some people get lucky – I’ve heard stories of people working in air conditioned factories which are part of the farm. Gary ticked off his 88 days driving a tractor up and down the field, listening to music, whilst others destroyed their backs picking zucchinis around him! Many people say that it’s best to get the farming done first if you are considering a second year visa. That way, it’s only going to get better afterwards and you don’t have it hanging over you whilst you travel!
Hopefully this helps you apply for you Australia working holiday visa 🙂