The Lowdown on Australian Working Holiday Visas
Hard to believe that exactly 18 months ago, I was packing my bags to move to Australia. Ready for a change from Spain but not yet ready to end my travels, I decided to give the country a try, figuring that, worst case scenario, I’d have one last epic adventure before returning home. Instead, I found a job, got sponsored for a work visa, and am sticking around for who knows how long.
But what made all this possible was the Australian working holiday program, which granted me a visa and paved the way for me to make a life for myself in Sydney. Whether you’re curious about what I’m doing here or are looking for your own international adventure (I highly recommend the program!), here’s the lowdown on what the visa is and how you can totally be an expat in Australia too.
So, um, what’s a working holiday visa anyway?
The Australian working holiday visa (subclass 417 or 462) is a visa that allows young people from around the globe to spend up to a year living and working down under. Considering how difficult it can be to obtain visas that allow you to work abroad, it’s a pretty fantastic opportunity for anyone looking to spend time in another country.
Who can apply for this visa?
If you’re between the ages of 18 and 30 and have a passport from one of 31 countries, you’re likely eligible for an Australian working holiday – woohoo! Citizens of the U.S., Canada, the UK, Ireland, Spain, and many other countries are included. See here for the full list. Beyond that, requirements vary a bit based on what country you’re from, but you basically just need to have about $5000 Australian to support yourself while here, speak functional English, have no dependent children accompanying you, and not have previously entered Australia on a working holiday visa. Too easy.
How long can I stay in Australia on the visa?
The visa is valid for a year. However, you can only work for each employer for up to six months, so if you do want to stay for a full year, you’ll have to find at least two jobs. Also, for those on a 417 visa (see What Are the Differences between 417 Working Holiday Visas & 462 Work and Holiday Visas?), you can extend your visa for a second year if you complete three months of specified regional work, the most common type being farm work. Americans, unfortunately, are not eligible for this second year extension.
What kind of work can I do in Australia?
Anything, really! A lot of working holiday makers focus on the holiday side more than the working side and look for something part-time and laid-back as a way to earn money before traveling the country. Working in hospitality, restaurants, or retail on a “casual” basis (casual in Australia means you aren’t employed for a fixed time and can quit or be fired without notice) is common for working holiday makers.
However, you may choose to work in your professional field, as I’ve done, finding a job as a digital marketing specialist. Some companies prefer to hire Australian citizens or permanent residents, but others are more than happy to employ you for short-term roles, especially if you already have solid experience in your field. Because of the six month limitation, focus on applying for temporary or contract roles, ranging from one day to six months. (And the agency I work for, people2people, may be able to help!)
Sweet as, sounds heaps good! (You might say after a few months surrounded by Aussie lingo.) How do I apply?
No wukkas, mate! (You might also say…if you’re that cool.) It’s actually a super easy process, especially compared to the Spanish visa process I underwent a few years ago. It’s all done online here, and the application can be completed in less than twenty minutes. It currently costs $420 to apply, which may sound a bit steep to travelers, but, honestly, it’s nothing compared to most visas, and you’d earn it back in a few working days in Australia anyway. My visa was granted within three working days of sending my application – speed demons!
Where can I get more information?
The official government page for 417 visas can be found here and the 462 page here. I’d also recommend checking out AussieWorkingHoliday.com (shameless plug! I built this site!) or joining the working holiday Facebook group I created. Between my own experience on a working holiday visa and learning loads more about it while working at a recruitment agency, I may be able to answer your questions myself, so feel free to contact me!
If you decide to do a working holiday in Australia, let me know – I’d love to hear! Good luck, and enjoy Australia!