Hundreds of thousands of young travellers head to Australia on a work and travel visa each year. On an Australian working holiday visa, you are allowed a year’s worth of travel, with the bonus of being able to work to fund yourself along the way. The Oz economy is well equipped to provide for travellers taking this route, with thousands of temporary working holiday jobs waiting for the broke backpacker.
If you’re heading to Australia, and are under the upper age limit of 31, I’d seriously recommend you consider this route. This guide will explain what a working holiday (or work and holiday) visa is, who is eligible for one, how to apply for and get your visa.
There is also talk of the upper age limit rising to 35 – so now is a good time to start thinking about it!
What is a Working Holiday (or Work and Holiday) Visa?
There are two different types of Australian work visa that allow young backpackers to try their hand at working and travelling in Australia. Depending on your home country, you will need to apply for either a visa subclass 417 or subclass 462. According to the Australian border website, both of these are defined as
However, there are a few potential pitfalls that the unwary traveller might encounter. But fear not! Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to manage your Australian working holiday with ease.
1. How to apply for your Australian working holiday visa
Applying for and receiving an Australian visa is actually one of the easiest visa processes I’ve come across. The Australian government are quick to respond and very efficient. With this in mind, do not bother going through an agency to sort your visa out. You’ll just be wasting your money. It’s very, very easy to do yourself.
Unfortunately for visa subclass 462, only US passport holders can apply online, so other passport holders will have to download the PDF form and send their application to the relevant immigration office.
Once you have determined which type of visa you need, click through to the page, fill in the form and voila – ten minutes and you’re all sorted.
Then you just need to pay, and wait for a response.
In my case, the confirmation email came instantly, and the visa acceptance within an hour of that. It was so fast that I actually thought I must have done it wrong, or it must be some sort of scam (it wasn’t).
So far, so easy!
2. How to set up your bank account
Time taken: Five minutes
So you’ve got your working holiday visa sorted. The next thing you might want to do is set up an Australian bank account. This is optional, because you can also do this after you arrive in Australia.
However, in my experience, having this done in advance made the process incredibly straightforward on arrival. Another advantage is that if you want to, you can transfer money across to your Australian account in advance. This way you can avoid ATM fees during your travels, and instead just incur a one-time fee from the money transfer company.
I ended up wishing I had taken this option. In general, if your home currency is looking weak, one big transfer might be a good idea – plus it means that you’ll already have money accessible when you arrive, in the local currency. You can find out how your currency compares to the Australian dollar by checking out www.xe.com and having a look at the graphs for the past month. Use a company such as TransferWise or Currencies Direct.
Setting up an Australian bank account online took me about five minutes. There are four main Australian banks: ANZ, NAB, Westpac and Commonwealth. I chose Commonwealth, but any of the others will have a similarly simple process.
Australian banks tend to charge for using ATMs that are not under their name. Therefore, choosing the bank with the most ATMs is a sensible bet. This is why I chose to go with Commonwealth (they have over 4000 ATMs in Australia, compared to ANZ’s roughly 3200 and Westpac’s 3000). However, it is worth noting that ANZ allows you to withdraw money in New Zealand banks as well without charging. It’s totally your choice!
I’ll explain the process using Commonwealth’s website, but it will be very similar with either of the other main banks.
Getting an Australian phone contract
There are two main mobile providers in Australia: Optus and Telstra. Telstra is always quoted as the one with best coverage, but the actual percentage difference in coverage is only 0.7%. However, in remote areas Telstra wins for signal hands down – whatever the figures might say – so bear that in mind if you’re planning on road tripping!
Telstra and Optus shops are common in most cities, so one way to get your phone contract sorted would be just to visit one of these. Telstra’s cheapest deal is $30/month for 2.5GB data and unlimited calls and texts. Optus has $30/month for 3GB data plus unlimited talk and texts.
However, there are a couple of tricks to getting a cheaper deal if you aren’t after a contract with loads of data (which costs quite a lot per month).
Before that, though, you need to make sure your phone is unlocked – or else you won’t be able to use an Australian SIM card! There is a great article from Too Many Adapters on getting your phone ready to travel: if you don’t think your phone is unlocked, take a look at the ‘Unlocking’ section.
Hopefully all that will be swiftly sorted, and you’ll be ready to hunt for a good deal.
A good way to skimp on the cost of your contract is to get a SIM with a secondary provider. That is, a company which utilises one of the popular mobile networks, but sells the data, calls and minutes at a cheaper price, under a different name.