Obtaining a Working Holiday Visa in Australia

CURRENT OCCUPATION – Previous career-driven marketing professional now satiating my wanderlust by hopping around foreign cities and uncovering secrets of off-the-beaten-path destinations.

CAREER OBJECTIVE  – Eager to utilize years of time-tested experience on the international backpacker trail where I’ve picked up such talents as personal chef, island laborer, English teacher and singer of nursery rhymes.


EKKA Marketing and Sales Associate: Indulged the sweet tooth of annual EKKA-goers and provided spontaneous conversation for various patrons.

Golf Course Employee of the Month/Clean up Crew: Ensured that quality standards were met and coordinated the transfer of golf balls from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill.

Curry Connoisseur: Coordinated team efforts for sales of butter chicken. Efficient at balancing plates of rice and polishing heaps of cutlery.

How YOU can work in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa: While some of these temporary jobs are not the most, shall we say fulfilling, working in Australia is a must-do on many backpacker’s and wanderlust-smitten traveler’s lists. It certainly seems that spending a year – or two – in Australia is an essential part of life for gap-year students from the U.K. and other parts of Europe. Two of my roommates were from England and the other was from Germany. And the Irish? They are just everywhere!

Many Americans are not fully aware of the availability of the Working Holiday visa that allows those between the age of 18 – 30 to work, live and travel in certain countries. I took advantage of Working Holiday visas in both Australia and New Zealand, and I know that there are opportunities to do the same in Canada and many European countries. I don’t know why this opportunity isn’t beaten into the minds of all college students – probably because we are trained to graduate high school, go to college, do an internship, find a job…and live happily ever after…sure.

Well, I dare you to get off the beaten “life” path and try living a few years outside the norms of society.The process of applying for a Working Holiday visa in Australia is much easier – and cheaper – than one would think and the life experiences are immeasurable. What are you waiting for?

Working Holiday Visa: Step 1 – Apply for the relevant work visa.
The Australian Working Holiday visa is only available to people from certain countries who are between the ages of 18 and 30. It is designed to allow you to travel, supplement your income with work and/or study for up to 12 months. Individuals of certain nationalities may qualify for a second year after meeting certain qualifications such as three months of farm work. However, Americans are strictly regulated to one year. After meeting the age requirement, you also have to prove that you have sufficient finances in order to travel – thus, immigration doesn’t want you getting “stuck” in Australia with no money to buy a ticket out of the country. This financial requirement is usually about USD 4500.

  • People from a specific list of countries, including the UK and many European countries, should apply for a subclass 415 visa to gain short term employment in Australia. With this visa, you can stay and work for up to 12 months, study for up to 4 months and work during this period. Visit http://www.immi.gov.au/visitors/working-holiday/417/how-to-apply.htm to get applications and get tips on how to complete them.
  • People from various Asian and South American countries and the United States can apply for a subclass 462 visa. The restrictions on this visa are similar to the subclass 415 visa. Visit http://www.immi.gov.au/visitors/working-holiday/462/usa/how-to-apply.htm to download applications and learn how to apply.

It may seem daunting, but Australian Immigration actually makes the application process quite easy. Whether applying online or by mail, your application usually only takes a short time to complete. Just have your passport and credit card details in front of you. Once submitted, you should receive a response within a few days. YAY!

So you are approved to work in Australia! Now what?


Working Holiday Visa: Step 3 – Decide where to settle in Australia.
Before I enjoyed my year on a Working Holiday visa in Australia in 2010, I had already traveled to Oz half a dozen times, and I had a marvelous network of friends waiting for me in Brisbane. So, I already knew where I wanted to live. Many backpackers arrive in Sydney and/or Melbourne and either stay in the cities looking for work or head to the beach towns like Airlie Beach or Cairns. I didn’t really love Sydney and many travelers I spoke with over the years have said that the job market was especially tough in Australia’s biggest city.

Plan to arrive in any transit city and see how you like the vibe of the area before finding work. Perhaps spend a month or two traveling to a few destinations. Do you like city life or country life? Do you want to be close to the beach or close to the bush? Chat with other travelers in the hostels and ask them what they have seen and heard along the “trail.”

Working Holiday Visa: Step 2 – Finding work in Australia.
Legal work in Australia: Websites such as Seek.com.au, Careerone.com.au, Jobs4travelers, and Gumtree advertise jobs such as promotional work, bar jobs, service positions, as well as more qualified positions such as marketing, executive positions and accounting. Call centers are also a big draw for short term work. Registering with a recruitment agency or a temp agency, such as Julia Ross, is a fantastic idea. Once you are interviewed, recruitment agencies will contact you with suitable jobs depending on your previous experience. Jobs can last anywhere from one day to six months.

Keep watch for notice boards, chat with job desks in hostels and don’t be hesitant to pass our resumes.Word of mouth can sometimes be the best opportunity to get a job.

Cash in hand work in Australia: Though not as prolific as they once were, finding a job that pays cash in hand is also possible. Nannies, cleaning hostels, serving at smaller cafes, handing out flyers, door to door sales and more can be possible.

Working Holiday Visa: Step 3 – Setting up a bank account.
Setting up a proper bank account in Australia and tax ID number is next on your list. You will need to have photo identification – -passports of course – and a temporary address. Hostels can sometimes be used for the temporary address.

Applying for a tax file number (TFN) is simple and necessary for most jobs. A TFN functions in Australia similar to a Social Security number does in America. Visit www.ato.gov.au to apply for the TFN number and be sure to take it with you to fill out all necessary work forms. Usually, employee’s are given a one month’s grace period between starting work and informing your employer of your tax file number.

I assure you that you will have no regrets, and along the way, you will meet some lifelong best friends.