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Everything you need to know about the Work and Holiday Visa for Australia

Australia's minimum wage of $23 per hour, combined with its stunning landscapes, and laidback culture makes the opportunity to live and work in the country for a full year seem almost too good to be true! Yet, it's entirely achievable and is among the best experiences I've ever had. Here's a comprehensive guide to planning your Work and Holiday year in Australia.


Riding a motorcycle around Uluru!

1. $$$ave up!

The Australian government requires that all Work and Holiday visa holders have a certain amount of funds upon entering the country. While this requirement may not always be enforced at immigration, it was indeed checked in my case. Before my trip, I worked for a year in the U.S. and managed to save USD 10,000, meeting the required amount at that time. However, this requirement has since been reduced to AUD5,000, equivalent to around USD 3,250. Despite higher wages in Australia compared to the US, the cost of living is also higher. Therefore, it's essential to have a financial cushion upon arrival, as it may take time to find a job. Additionally, you may need to pay a deposit for longer-term accommodation and cover the cost of your return flight or onward travel, so it's best to save as much as possible beforehand.


2. Apply for your visa

Everything you need to know about the Work and Holiday visa can be found on the Australian immigration website. The first step is making an ImmiAccount, this account on the immigration website helps manage the visa application and all correspondence from the government. Be aware that there is a Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 417) and a Work and Holiday visa (Subclass 462). The difference is that they are for different nationalities, if you're from the US, subclass 462 is the visa you need to apply for and for this post, I will be referring to the visa conditions of that subclass. Be sure to read all the terms of the visa conditions carefully, i.e. duration of stay, possible extension options, amount of funds needed to enter Australia, and what is allowed during your stay (i.e. how many hours of work per week and how many months of study you are allowed to complete.) It currently costs AUD 635.00 which is USD 415. I got approved overnight but it can take 2-3 months so apply in advance! Based on your nationality and what countries you have previously visited and for how long you may need to submit a health check from an approved Panel Physician. If this is the case they will notify you after you have submitted the initial application. Once granted the visa, it must be activated within one year.


Some of the main requirements of the Subclass 462 are:

  • Be age 18-30

  • Meet the education requirement (High school diploma/GED for U.S. citizens)

  • Have enough money

  • Meet the health requirement

  • Meet the character requirement

  • Have no outstanding debts to the Australian government (including family members’ debts)

  • Have a functional level of English, usually defined in a test (if not a native speaker)

  • Sign an agreement to adhere to Australia’s Code of Conduct

  • Have not previously held a Work & Holiday visa with Australia (there is a 2nd visa & 3rd you can apply for afterward)

  • Pay the application fee

Read all requirements and apply here.


3. Book your flight

Once you have your visa, then it's time to book your flight. 3-11 months out from when you want to depart is the best time to find great deals on flights as it’s within what's called the Goldilocks Window (not too far in advance, not too late). Booking your flight is a great way to have that accountability so you end up going through with what you want and not backing out! I use Going.com which frequently has deals on flights to Australia and New Zealand and gets sent to your inbox!



4. TFN Tax-File number

You need a TFN (Tax File Number) to start working in Australia. You need to be physically in the country to apply so do it as soon as you arrive. It can take several weeks for it to be mailed to you in the post but if you call the Tax Office they can also give you your TFN over the phone.


5. Australian Bank Account

You'll need an Australian bank account to start working so your employer can pay you. Commonwealth is the most popular bank but I ended up using Westpac which is also very good. You will need to have an Australian mailing address to set up an account so if you want to do this before you arrive in Australia you can give the bank the hostel's address that you will be staying at and just let them know you're expecting the mail. In the meantime, I recommend getting a Wise card so you can transfer currencies with $0 fees.


6. Superannuation

Superannuation in Australia is the country's retirement savings program. For backpackers working in Australia, superannuation still applies. If you're on a working holiday visa and earn over a certain threshold (currently $450 per month), your employer is required to contribute to your superannuation fund. You can either choose your superannuation fund (usually your bank will offer one when you set up your accounts) or your employer can choose one for you. Even though you may not stay in Australia long-term, these contributions can be accessed once you leave the country. It's important to keep track of your superannuation account and ensure you receive the contributions you're entitled to while working in Australia.


7. Finding a job & certifications

Up in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, about an hour away from Sydney

Australia boasts a high minimum wage ($23/hr!) and up to 4 weeks of paid time off (not including the 10 public holidays) it's no wonder so many people are flocking to do their work and holiday down under! I started my year in Australia with a 3 month Au Pair gig. It was a good introduction to the country and after it ended I moved in with friends I had met through an Au Pair Facebook group meet-up! If you like kids this may be a good option to consider.

If the Au Pair life isn't for you many people start by staying in a hostel and job hunting. This is a great way to meet friends and potentially find new flatmates! As for finding a job, competition is fierce right now. You're going to have much better luck printing off and handing out your CV in person than applying for jobs on sites like Indeed. I ended up working at a cafe in the Melbourne CBD that I applied to in person. I had a few short-term hospitality positions before landing this one so you might have to settle before finding the job that suits you best. A lot of the jobs I applied to online didn't even get back to me so I'd say it's best to get out there and make an impression in person! Popular jobs for backpackers include waitstaff, bartending, barista, trades/construction, call centers, customer service, hostel reception, and more.


Pro-tip: If you can plan your arrival around the end of November/start of December this is ideal as many seasonal positions open up for the holidays so you may be able to start a temporary position and they might just keep you on!


8. Certifications

Be aware that most jobs in hospitality in Australia require an RSA certification (Responsible Service of Alcohol) that's mandatory in all states. With this certificate, you are allowed to work in all places where alcohol is served or sold (restaurants, bars, pubs, hotels, bottle shops). It usually only takes 1-2 hours, can be done online or in person, and costs from $20-AUD 50 depending on which state you get it in. If you are looking at construction work you will need to get your White Card in your respective state.


9. Your Working Rights in Australia

Something to note about hospitality jobs that are unique to Australia is that instead of the traditional interview process they will have you come in for what is called a "Trial Shift," where you work a few hours and they can see how you do. Any unpaid labor in Australia is illegal and they are required to pay you but since many backpackers aren't used to this process some places will take advantage and not pay for trial shifts so make sure to double-check that it is a paid shift before you start and that you do get paid at the end of the shift. Australia is great about helping you know your rights as a worker visit fwc.gov.au and check your ImmiAccount to understand your rights while working in Australia.


10. Doing your "88 Days"

At the Devil's Marbles in the Australian Outback

If you want to extend your work and holiday visa for a second year the Australian Government requires you to complete 3 months of specificed subclass 462 work, backpackers refer to this as, "Doing your 88 days." Usually, this type of work will be in farming, hospitality, or tourism positions in a remote part of Australia. The details about which type of work is accepted are quite specific and subject to change, so make sure to research and keep up to date on the changing visa rules on the immigration website. If you want to do a third WHV you will need to do a total of 6 months of this type of work. If it seems overwhelming, don't fret, many companies help backpackers navigate these visa rules like Global Work and Travel.


11. Finding a place to live

Finding somewhere to live long-term is probably the trickiest part of the WHV experience. It can be competitive in major cities like Melbourne and Sydney so don't be surprised when there's a line of people waiting to view the same flat as you. If you can, it's better to look outside the city center and join Facebook groups for rooms in your desired location. Fairy Floss Melbourne is a good FB group and check out the rentals section of Facebook Marketplace. Websites like Flatmate.com.au and FlatmateFinder are also great resources. Also, check out Gumroad, It's like the Aussie version of Craigslist but you can find some gems there. If you plan on staying in hostels long term be aware that they are significantly more expensive than places like South East Asia or Central America and can run around $30-$50 per night. If you're looking for a free place to live, read all about how to travel and live rent-free here.


12. Weather and Location

Most media paints Australia as a surfers paradise or one big desert but Australia is a huge continent with multiple climate types. There are 6 states in Australia: Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. Plus, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory contain Canberra, the capital city. Each of these regions has its climate. The center of Australia is the Outback, famous for its deserts and the Uluru mountain. If you're looking for something tropical head up the Queensland which is home to the Daintree Rainforest. The two most popular cities in Australia are Sydney and Melbourne. Melbourne is described as the "Europe of Australia," and is known for its artsy vibe, great restaurants, live music, and a climate akin to Seattle where it rains a lot during the winter months but has beautiful summers. Sydney is similar to somewhere like Los Angeles and is mostly sunny year-round and boasts beautiful beaches and a laid-back atmosphere. Another backpacker hotspot is Byron Bay which has a hippy atmosphere, lots of surfing and outdoor activities, and plenty of parties. Remember, Australia's seasons are at opposite times to those in the northern hemisphere. December to February is summer; March to May is autumn; June to August is winter; and September to November is spring.


Ready for Your Working Holiday Visa in Australia? Let me know in the comments if this post helped you!


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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

Hi! I’m Rachel, a Florida native, who left home in search of big adventures. I've traveled to 24 countries in 4 years and I'm here to share my best tips and travel hacks with you!

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