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Working Holiday Visa

The Greatest Working Holiday Visa Australia Guide: Plan Your 2023 Trip

The Australian Working Holiday Visa has been a firm backpacker favourite since forever, and it’s easy to see why.  Whether you are looking for picturesque beaches, colourful wildlife, insane party hotspots or lush rainforests, Australia does have it all. From the majestic Uluru to the white sandy beaches of Whitsundays to the famous Bondi Beach, there are lots of iconic hotspots that are a must-see experience. 

Woman standing on a beach in Australia

It is no wonder so many backpackers want to stay here longer than a few weeks, but Australia is not cheap. Sure, you can budget, but the funds you have saved up will quickly dwindle. It would be difficult to save for a year-long trip to Australia, let alone a second and third year. This is where the Australia Working Holiday Visa comes in. 

An Australia Working Holiday Visa is an incredible opportunity to live in, work and explore a new country for up to 12 months. The prospect of being able to work is a huge bonus that will fund your time in Australia and hopefully extend it into a second (and now even third) year. Trust me, you’re going to want all the time you can get to explore every inch of this truly breathtaking continent. 

To help make the process as stress-free as possible, We have put together the ultimate  Working Holiday Visa Australia Guide with everything you need to know about a working holiday Down Under; from applying for an Australia Working Holiday Visa to setting up an Australian tax file number (TFN), to finding a suitable job and even how to claim your tax back when your big adventure is over.

What is a Working Holiday Australia Visa? 

An Australian Working Holiday Visa is a visa that permits you to travel and work in Australia for up to one year. It’s the perfect balance between exploring a country and working so you can fund all the exciting things you want to do and see in Australia.   

If you decide you love Australia, you can complete 88 days of regional work and apply for a second visa. You can now even apply for a third working holiday visa however, this requires you to complete a further 6 months of regional work. You must complete your regional work and submit evidence of this to obtain a second and third Working Holiday Visa. (At the time of writing this post, there is news that UK citizens no longer need to complete regional work to extend their visa to a second and third year!)

There is a range of benefits to doing a Working Holiday Visa in Australia.  On a personal level, it is an incredible opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth. There is something so refreshing (especially if you have never travelled or lived in the same town your entire life) about learning about a new culture and developing new skills.  

From a more professional angle, if you are thinking that you would like to make Australia a permanent home one day, it’s a good way to make a base of friends, plant roots, find possible employment opportunities and see if moving to Australia is a viable option. 

Working Holiday Visa Australia Guide: Part I – Getting Your Visa

How Do I Apply for an Australian Working Holiday Visa?

To apply for an Australian Working Holiday Visa you first have to meet the basic requirements: 

  • hold a passport from an eligible country or jurisdiction**
  • be 18 to 30 years old (inclusive) – except for Canadian, French and Irish citizens who can be 18 to 35 (inclusive).
  • hold a valid passport with at least 6 months until renewal. 
  • have sufficient funds to support yourself. 
  • apply online from outside Australia 
  • not be accompanied by dependent children 
  • not have any substantial criminal convictions 
  • not have any substantial medical issues 
  • not have previously entered Australia on a subclass 417 or 462 visa.  

**Please check on the Department of Home Affairs for a list of eligible countries. 

When planning your Australian Working Holiday Visa it is important to be mindful that the Working Holiday Maker programme has two types of visas: Working Holiday visa (Subclass 417) and Work and Holiday visa (Subclass 462). Which visa you need depends upon your county of residence. British Citizens are eligible to apply for the subclass 417 visa. Citizens of the USA will be eligible to apply for the subclass 462 visa.  

Whilst the 417 can tend to be instantly approved, it has been known for the subclass 462 to take months to get approved, so make sure you allow plenty of time before you travel.  

You MUST apply for your visa before arriving in Australia.  The processing times can vary from month to month so it is best to check the Department of Home Affairs Website for accurate processing times.  

Both these visas will allow you to stay and work in Australia for 12 months. You can choose to work full-time, part-time, casual or voluntary work. The work has to be short term, meaning that in almost all cases you cannot work for the same employer for more than 6 months.  

You may leave and re-enter Australia as many times as you want within your visa period.  

If you choose, you can also study for up to 4 months. I would be mindful of doing this, Australia is amazing and the Australian Working Holiday Visa is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Plus, if you do fancy studying you can always return to Australia on a Study Visa and do a whole university course down under!  

If you are ready to apply for your Australian Working Holiday Visa you can go to the Department of Home Affairs Website where you will be prompted to create an ImmiAccount. Follow the instructions and upload as much evidence as you can. This will ensure your application gets processed as smoothly and as quickly as possible. 

Check your Passport Validity 

Before you apply for your Australian Working Holiday Visa, you should check your passport is valid for the entire length of your stay in Australia. Your Working Holiday Visa is linked to your passport number, so if you renew your passport during the process or after the visa is granted, you will need to let immigration know the details of your new passport. This is an unnecessary hassle that you ideally will want to avoid.  

You should also check the passport validity requirements for any countries you plan on visiting, as many countries require your passport to have at least 6 months or they will deny you entry to the country.  

If you’re meet the eligibility criteria and your passport is valid, you can apply for your working holiday visa on the Department of Home Affairs – Australian Government website. 

What is the Australian Working Holiday Visa age limit? 

To be eligible for the Australian Working Holiday Visa you must be aged between 18 and 30. Citizens of Canada, France and Ireland have until they turn 35 years old.   At the time of writing this post, it has been proposed that citizens of the United Kingdom will also have until they turn 35 years old.  Whilst this hasn’t been made official yet, it certainly is on the cards!

The idea of this visa is to adopt strong links between young people from Australia and around the world. 

Whilst the age limit may be disappointing to some, the Australian government is considering whether to increase the upper age limit to 35. This would be amazing for so many people, starting out travelling at 30-35 years old is not uncommon at all.  

If you are over the age limit, Australia has many visa options such as the Australia Skilled Migration Visa which you could qualify for.  

How long Does it take to apply for a Working Holiday Visa Australia? 

If you prepare all the necessary documentation beforehand, it doesn’t take much time to complete the application. I had my application done and submitted in one evening. Give yourself a few hours so you can double-check that your application is 100% accurate. Any mistakes will delay your visa from being granted. 

How Long Does It Take To Receive a Response? 

The processing times of the Working Holiday Visa can vary from a few minutes to months. There is a timeframe specified on the website which changes regularly.  

How Much Does the Working Holiday Visa Australia cost? 

There are two sides to this question; direct and indirect costs. The indirect costs associated with the Working Holiday visa are most likely going to be higher than the cost of the actual visa itself. The indirect costs you’ll need to think about are the money you need to enter the county (proof of funds), travel insurance and what you need to live on before you start to earn money from work.  

The initial cost of the visa is currently $485 (AUD). However, the price can vary year on year so it’s best to check the Department of Home Affairs website.   

Do you require proof of Funds For Your Time In Australia when Applying For A Working Holiday Visa?

You are required to have $5,000 (AUD) as proof of funds before entering Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. If you are struggling to get this you would need to have a booked departure flight back out of the country or enough additional funds to ensure you won’t get stranded.  

You can provide this evidence in your visa application in the form of bank statements. Just make sure these statements have your name clearly on them and they are as recent as possible.  

A common question I get asked is “Will I get stopped at the airport and asked to provide proof of funds when travelling to Australia?” Personally, I have not heard about a person getting stopped by immigration and asked to provide proof of funds at the airport. I am sure it does happen though. 

How Much Money Should I Take on a Working Holiday Visa in Australia?

You need to be financially prepared for your trip to Australia, it is far more expensive than you think it is.  If you are struggling to get 5,000AUD  together as proof of funds, I would personally save a bit more before heading out. Australia is an expensive country compared to most, especially if you want to live in Melbourne or Sydney. Whilst employers do pay enough to reflect the cost of living, it can be tough when you’re just starting in Australia with no employment and trying to find suitable accommodation. 

As a general rule, plan for 3 months of unemployment to be on the safe side. The advice is to save as much as possible – it will make for a more comfortable, stress-free trip.  

Should I Use a Third-party Company to Purchase a Working Holiday Visa? 

If your application is going to be straightforward, i.e. you meet all the requirements perfectly and there is no doubt in your mind you will have your application refused, then do it yourself.  

I completed my application by myself and it was honestly such an easy process. I completed the whole thing in an evening and got the visa granted to my email within minutes. I don’t see the need to pay a third-party company to do it for you, that is my honest opinion. It can be super expensive doing it this way and it is money that is better spent enjoying your travels.  

It is personal preference though if you feel more comfortable going through an agent then by all means do. If you are unsure whether immigration could have grounds to refuse your application then I would speak to an agent for advice.  

Some third-party companies offer additional benefits such as setting up a Tax File Number (TFN), packs to help you find a job and your first few nights’ accommodations on arrival.  Again, these are all super easy to do yourself and I didn’t need a third-party company for any of these tasks. 

What Happens When Your Visa is Granted? 

Once your Australian Working Holiday Visa has been granted it will be emailed to you electronically. It doesn’t require to be stuck in your passport. I do, however, recommend printing a copy as this comes in handy when you need to apply for things such as Medicare (access to healthcare).  

You have 365 days to ‘activate’ your visa. So if you received your grant on the 1st of January you have until the 1st of January the following year to activate it.  

You are now entitled to travel to Australia and work for up to six months with one employer at a time.  

Beyond the work restrictions, the rest is pretty straightforward. Travel, work and explore Australia for up to 12 months.  You are free to leave and re-enter as much as you would like within the 12 months.

If you hit subscribe below, I’ll send you a checklist of everything you need to do before departing on your Working Holiday Visa Australia.  

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What do you need to show when you arrive at the airport in Australia? 

Australia’s border controls have a reputation for being strict, there are policies and procedures in place to make sure you are coming to Australia on the correct visa and you are not bringing in anything illegal, banned or restricted. Largely, this is to do with protecting Australia’s fragile ecosystem.  

You should check out this list of what you can’t bring to Australia before packing your bags. If you are caught with anything you should have you will be in serious trouble. Border Control is becoming stricter with the penalties for not declaring items.  

If you are sticking to the rules, you won’t need to show anything other than your passport and your landing card. Make sure you fill in the passenger arrival card as accurately as possible. There is a list of items you will need to declare if you have any of the items listed with you. Even if it’s something small, declare it. I had a small amount of prescription medication that I declared –  the immigration officer asked to see my prescription and that was it – I was on my way.  

Your visa is linked to your passport number, so when they scan your passport all your details will already be there.   

Occasionally they will do randomised bag checks when you are passing through border control but otherwise, the process was fairly fast and efficient. Some people like to have proof of funds printed out; however, this is not routinely checked.   

Working Holiday Visa Australia Guide: Part 2 – Setting Up Your New Life in Australia

Getting an Australian Phone Number

This is probably the first thing you will want to do when you arrive in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. You will need an Australian phone number for job applications, rental applications and to apply for your TFN. 

Prospective employers are more likely to call you with a local number that won’t cost them anything. 

The main networks are Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. These are normally quite expensive. 

There are numerous other small networks available that feed off the signals from the three biggest providers. The advantage of this is that you get good quality coverage for a fraction of the price.  

You will want to go with a network that suits your plans in Australia. What I mean by this is if you are going to be spending time in the outback, not all network providers cover this area. I visited a network and told them my plans to do regional work at some point and he told me to go with their rival network because they were the only network provider at the time who had coverage in these areas. 

When buying an Australian SIM you will also have different options to choose from such as taking on a 12-month contract however if you are bringing your mobile phone you will probably want to opt for either a month-to-month plan or prepaid plan.

Month-to-month plans mean that you won’t run out of credit. You are given a monthly allowance and if you are over these, you’ll be charged but won’t be cut off. Pre-paid plans work by paying for your text, calls and data upfront. Once you go through this allowance you will have to “recharge” before you can use the SIM again. Prepaid credit tends to expire after 28 days however some plans offer longer recharge periods. This is a great option as you don’t have to worry about being tied into a contract.

The cheapest option is to go with a smaller network provider. I would highly recommend Amaysim. They offer large GB’s of data for a very reasonable price. When you are relying on google maps to get off at the correct bus stops -data is everything!

Working Holiday Visa Australia Guide To Opening an Australian Bank Account

When you are on a Working Holiday Visa in Australia You will need to open an Australian bank account if you intend to work, as an employer will not pay wages into an international bank account. You can open an Australian bank account before you arrive in Australia. I filled out the application online approximately 2 weeks before I was due to fly out. You can have your bank card delivered to a branch, in the city you are going to land in. When I arrived in Sydney I simply went into the branch with my ID and was handed my bank card. 

There are a few big banks to choose from such as ANZ, Westpack, NAB and Commonwealth. I have had really good experiences with ANZ. They have brilliant customer service (I got locked out from my account when I returned to the UK and within a couple of minutes they resolved my issue). 

But which one should you choose? Each bank will have its particularities that will help you make the right decision for your circumstances. The most important criteria you should look out for is:

  • The bank coverage is Australia-wide.
  • Fees – some banks charge you a small fee each month, this fee is often waived if you pay a certain amount of money into it each month. Top Tip: If you transfer money back and forth from a savings account to a current account this counts towards your money coming in. So, if the fee is waivered after $1000 transfer $500 to your savings and back twice. Obviously, if you are getting paid the required amount by an employer there is no need to do this.
  • Interest rates

When it comes to transferring money from your home account to your Australian bank account, there are two money transfer platforms: Currencyfair or Wise (formally TransferWise).  This is the most popular method amongst backpackers as transferring via other methods such as from your home bank account can be very costly.

Personally, I always use Wise. It’s really straightforward to use and the money has always been in my bank account promptly.

How to get your Tax File Number (TFN) on a Working Holiday Visa Australia? 

To work in Australia you will need a Tax File Number (TFN), which is equivalent to a National Insurance number if you are from the UK or Social Security Number if you are from America. 

It doesn’t cost anything and identifies you for tax and superannuation purposes. You keep the same TFN if you change jobs, change your name or move overseas. 

The processing time for TFN applications is 28 days, however, it can be quicker as I received mine in about 14 days. You will need a valid address as your TFN gets sent to you via mail. You can use your hostel address if necessary. 

You should keep your TFN private, only using it when appropriate.  You can apply for your TFN here.

I speak from experience as an au pair when I say, this is not the easy route. There is nothing easy about being a “taught mum” when you have no experience of looking after children.  

Getting a Medicare Card On A Working Holiday Visa Australia Guide

Medicare is the name of Australia’s healthcare system. It is a system that is usually limited to Permanent Residents or Australian Citizens, however; certain countries have a “reciprocal healthcare agreement” in place which allows nationals of these countries to benefit from Medicare whilst on a Working Holiday Visa. These countries are; 

  • United Kingdom 
  • Republic of Ireland 
  • Belgium 
  • Norway 
  • Finland 
  • Italy 
  • Malta 
  • Netherlands 
  • New Zealand 
  • Slovenia 
  • Sweden 

If you are from a county with a reciprocal healthcare agreement, you will want to enrol in Medicare as soon as you land in Australia. To enrol, you will need to visit a service centre. You need to complete a Medicare enrolment form and bring along certain documents with you, normally your passport and a paper copy of your visa. (More information regarding these documents and service centres can be found using the government website here). 

It is a common misconception that Medicare is free, but it’s not. It is, however, fairly subsidised for common procedures.  

If your country is not listed, you must get travel insurance for the duration of your trip because you will not be entitled to any subsidy if you need medical care.  

Even if your country is listed above, I would still recommend getting travel insurance as some medical procedures will still require partial payment.  

Some services are not included in Medicare such as dental expenses, alternative medication, physiotherapy, ambulance services, or glasses/ contact lenses.  

Regardless if you have Medicare or not, in the event you need an ambulance this will cost in the region $1,100AUD. This is why travel insurance is so important, as your policy may help you pay for these unexpected costs.  

Some doctor’s practices are “bulk billing”. This means you won’t get charged when you present your Medicare card.  

As I have said before, travel insurance is so important. You never know what will happen during your time in Australia…you might get bitten by a nasty insect or your flight might get cancelled due to stormy weather in Sydney. Travel insurance is fairly inexpensive compared to the costs you may incur if you are not covered.   

Buying a Car on Your Working Holiday in Australia

To have ultimate freedom on road trips, some backpackers opt to buy a cheap car or campervan on their working holiday in Australia. Having your own transportation means you can travel when you like, where you like for as long as you like. It also means that you can stay at campsites and therefore save a lot of money that would be otherwise spent on accommodation.

The cheapest way to buy a car or campervan in Australia is by searching backpacker Facebook groups. As other backpackers come to the end of their working holiday, they will often be looking for a quick sale of their vehicle as they prepare to leave the country. You do, however, need to be careful when buying cars or campervans from fellow backpackers for several reasons. Firstly, these vehicles often have high mileage, and often they are very old (hence the cheap price tag). Secondly, backpackers don’t always look after their vehicle as well as they should because they don’t have the money to spend on upkeep.  

It is worthwhile to pay a mechanic to take a look over any potential cars on your behalf if you don’t have much experience buying cars. It’s better to pay a few hundred dollars extra to guarantee a road-worthy car than lose thousands on a rubbish car. 

Working Holiday Visa Australia Guide: Part III Finding Accomodation In Australia

Which Australian City to Live In?  

Where should you travel on a Work and Holiday Visa to Australia, is a decision only you can make! Take time to think about which state you might like to live in, what things you would like to see and do and what weather you are looking for.  

You should try and see as much of Australia as possible, especially if you don’t think you’ll return. The cultures and lifestyles vary from state to state and region to region. If beaches and surfing is your thing, then Sydney is a good shout. However, if you’re looking for a true Aussie experience you may want to head out of any big cities and into the outback. There is a great community spirit in more isolated towns; I was invited to a Rodeo during my time in the outback and it was great fun! The locals will feel more like family members – they do look after you.  

Resources that may help you make a decision: 

  • Reading blogs and online articles. 
  • Reading books such as The Lonely Planet Guide to Australia. 
  • Talking to people – there are loads of great Facebook groups filled with people who all share their experiences of different towns and cities. They are also just great in general to answer any questions during your time in Australia. You might even find some travel buddies to go on road trips with! 

Most people opt to stay in the city initially so they can build a friendship base and find a job more easily.  

  • Sydney: Home to a dazzling harbour, sparkling surf beaches and high-end entertainment venues. Whilst this city is edgy and creative, there is some history to be found; the 100-year-old Bondi Icebergs is a must-see and The Royal Botanic Gardens are a perfect escape from this busy city. Not forgetting the world-famous Sydney Opera House, which is located next to the gardens. It is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world and was designed by Danish Architect Jorn Utzon. There is a tour available at the Sydney Opera House where you can learn more about its history. 
  • Melbourne: Less “showy” than Sydney and more of a metropolitan marvel. There are lots of hipster bars and gourmet food on offer, as well as a thriving art scene. If sport is your thing, the Australian Football League Grand Final, Australian Open Tennis Championships, and Formula 1 Grand Prix are all held here. And then, of course, there’s the spiritual home of Aussie cricket – the Melbourne Cricket Ground!
  • Brisbane: A smaller city with a warmer temperature climate; it is generally hot all year round.  It is dubbed one of Australia’s most up-and-coming cities. Much of Brisbane is focused around the Brisbane River where you can take part in various activities such as rollerblading over the floating walkways or climbing the iconic Story Bridge.  Away from the river, it has a “Brisvegas” vibe; glossy hotels, swanky shops and fantastic music venues that rival those in South Australia. 
  • Perth: Possibly the most isolated city on earth however, this hasn’t stopped Perth from stepping ahead of its competitors. This chic city boasts trendy wine bars and restaurants, sweeping parkland, cool festivals, bustling markets, luscious beaches and a skyline to rival Manhattan! The state government has invested a lot in rejuvenation projects to change the face of the city and the results are pretty spectacular. A 30-minute ferry ride from the city will take you to Rottnest Island – home of 12,000 curious Quokkas! 
  • Hobart: Situated on the Island of Tasmania, Hobart has become a hotspot in recent years. It is home to picturesque walkways, rugged mountains, word-class festivals and a whole lot of wilderness! 

There are lots more cities to be explored such as the capital Canberra, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, Cairns and Darwin. There is a unique experience in each to be had. 

What to do when you arrive in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa?

It can be quite daunting as a new backpacker arriving in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. I remember sitting on my top bunk in a hostel crying and feeling homesick – but in hindsight, it was probably jet lag! You may want to spend the first few days settling in and of course, getting over the jet lag! Here are a few top tips to make the first few days in Australia easier:

Meeting other people is the best way to overcome feelings of homesickness. If you are staying in a hostel (highly recommended), you will meet lots of different people from all walks of life. Some may have stayed in that hostel for months and will have valuable tips and tricks to help you get on your way. The best way to make friends is to share experiences and support one another.

Making friends in hostels is also a great way to get a job at the local bar or restaurant they may work at. Don’t be afraid to make connections and ask around for work opportunities. Sometimes the best opportunities arise from word-of-mouth. 

Hostels have an abundance of resources to get your Working Holiday Visa off to a flying start so use these to your advantage. I stayed in a hostel in Sydney that offered a Bondi to Coogee coastal tour, which I took part in.  This allowed me to find my bearings in Sydney and also was a chance to meet others staying at the same hostel, who I later went for drinks within the hostel bar. 

Hostels usually have a backpacker job board with vacancies advertised for jobs such as working in hospitality and trade jobs such as carpentry. 

Some hostels that I have stayed in also offer to help you set up your TFN and apply for your Medicare.

Tips for Finding A Rental on a Working Holiday Visa Australia?

Finding a rental in Australia will largely be guided by how long you are planning to spend in one place. If you are only planning to stay short term in any one place, hostels or Airbnb are good options. 

Hostels can typically cost around $25-$40 per night (however can be more expensive in cities such as Sydney). Hostels are a great place to make friends and get tips from other backpackers.  If you are a solo traveller staying in a hostel is a no-brainer. It is the best way to make friends and build your confidence.

If however, you plan on staying longer than a few weeks, there are lots of legitimate rental companies in Australia who can help you. It might be hard to find a place to rent outright as most contracts require you to sign for a minimum of 12 months.  

Gumtree can be great to find rooms to rent in Australia, which usually means you are not responsible for the whole lease of the property. I rented a room in Sydney from Gumtree and it worked out well. When it was time to leave I told the main leaseholder with 4 weeks’ notice and he returned my deposit, no problems.  The cost of a houseshare in Australia can differ from city to city however, the prices of rooms to rent average around $150-$300 per week. When I lived in Sydney I paid $280 per week for a large room in the suburbs, the house was a 10-minute walk to the beach and had a pool in the back garden. 

I would air on the side of caution though, numerous scams pop up on Gumtree and it can be a slow and messy way to find somewhere to live this way. Never pay a deposit for a room you have never seen when using Gumtree.  

It worked well for me, if you take sensible precautions it may work well for you too.  

Lastly, Facebook groups can be a great place to find other backpackers who are trying to find someone to take over the lease on their room. This is great because you can get a feel of what your other flatmates may be like. Normally, they will post whether they are a social house or have a chilled out vibe. This was so important for me because, even though I love being social and meeting new people, the thought of parties every night disturbing my sleep and a lack of privacy was an absolute no-go for me.  

When searching for a room/ apartment to rent, be mindful that prices are almost always listed per week as opposed to per month. So it’s not as cheap as it would initially seem. 

House Sitting In Australia on a Working Holiday Visa

Another option for accommodation is something not many backpackers think of: house sitting. House sitting in Australia could be a great alternative to the more traditional routes of finding accommodation. 

House sitting is when you live in someone’s property whilst they are on holiday for free, in return for looking after their home and often pets too.

I stayed in some beautiful houses during my time in Sydney, I would have never been able to afford to stay in such beautiful houses otherwise. 

If you want to get started with house sitting in Australia I would recommend joining a website such as Aussie House Sitters. 

Working Holiday Visa Australia Guide: Part IIII – Finding A Job

There is a wide variety of jobs that are filled by backpackers on Working Holiday Visa’s every year. The most popular jobs are; fruit picking, bartending, barista, farm work and construction.  

Whilst office jobs may be more appealing for some, they are quite difficult (although not impossible) to come by on a Working Holiday Visa. The reason for this is that an employer can only employ you legally for 6 months. This is not appealing to companies who want to train and grow their staff. You will often find job adverts specifically stating that WHV’s will not be considered. 

You can apply to extend your working permission past 6 months with one employer, but generally speaking, you will have to find another job. This is part of the experience though! 

But fear not, there are lots of places (specifical hospitality) that are willing to hire backpackers as it fits in with their peak seasons better. 

I found work as a Barista in a beachside cafe in Sydney, but after six months I was more than ready to see more of Australia so this worked well for me. It was also a great way of meeting friends and other backpackers! 

Finding Work in a Bar/ Restaurant In Australia

The best way to get a job in hospitality on a Working Holiday Visa in Australia is to print off copies of your CV and hand them to the manager face-to-face. In hospitality, a large part of getting hired is about your personality; are you friendly? Do you have a team vibe? Will you bring a positive attitude to the environment? It’s all about looking like you’re having the best time at work, even if you aren’t – fake-it-till-you-make-it. 

Another great way to get casual bar/ hospitality work is to sign up with an agency that hires staff for specific events. For example, when I lived in Sydney I signed up with Sidekicker and within a few days was working bar shifts at the Sydney Night Noodle Market. I even got the opportunity to work at a staff Christmas party for a high profile company, which was honestly the most fun I have ever had at work if you could call partying with clients work! 

If you are intending to work somewhere that serves alcohol you will need a valid RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol Licence). This is mandatory in all states of Australia. Depending on which state you are in, you can obtain this by either doing an online course or completing a one-day class. You will learn how to serve alcohol responsibly, this is important because Australia has strict alcohol laws that come with heavy (sometimes personal) fines if broken. 

I recommend having your RSA before applying for jobs as you can add it to your CV. It is also normally the first thing a manager would ask because it is a legal requirement. 

It is worth noting that laws surrounding the sale of alcohol vary from state to state and therefore your RSA will only cover the state you are in and not Australia-wide. Similarly, in New South Wales the RSA course is different to the courses provided in other states and territories, so if you want to work in hospitality in NSW, you will need to obtain the NSW RSA certificate which is only valid in New South Wales. 

How to get an Office Job on a Working Holiday Visa Australia

As previously mentioned, it can be more challenging to obtain an office-based job compared to getting work in hospitality.  Most office-based companies invest heavily in training their staff and want longer-term employees who can commit to 12-18 months as a minimum. This is not possible on a Working Holiday Visa due to legal work limitations of 6 months maximum with any one employer.

You will probably want to be applying for basic admin and clerical roles. Anything above these basic roles will really be out of reach if you can only stay in the company for 6 months. 

Contract roles, such as offices looking for people to cover a project for a specified amount of time is ideal for backpackers. It’s not easy, and you will most likely apply for many roles and never hear back. Admin roles can be highly competitive in Australia, so you’ll want to have the experience listed on your CV otherwise, I would consider a job in hospitality. 

From my own experience, I have found the best way to get an office-based role is to sign up to agencies. Agencies are often looking to hire a person for a specific job role for a specified amount of time; be that 2 months or six months. Don’t just sign up to one agency, you will want to sign up with as many as possible to have the best chance of getting hired.  

Specified Regional Work

If you wish to stay for two or even three years on a Working Holiday Visa Australia, you will need to undertake a period of specified regional work. This means work undertaken in a ‘specified’ industry in a regional area of Australia. 

This work must adhere to the relevant Australian legislation and awards. For example, an employer cannot pay you under the minimum legal wage; this is illegal and will not count towards the days needed to obtain a second or third visa. 

Voluntary work can only be included where it is related to bushfire recovery work in declared bushfire affected areas. You should check the government website for the exact details of this. 

Areas of specified work: 

  • Plant and animal cultivation (Farm Work) 
  • Fishing/ Pearling 
  • Tree farming 
  • Mining 
  • Construction 
  • Bushfire recovery work in declared bushfire affected areas (after 31st July 2019) 
  • Critical COVID-19 work in the healthcare and medical sectors (as of 31st January 2020.) 

Specified work can only be in the primary role specified above. For example, you can’t be an administrative assistant on a Farm – this does not count. You must be physically doing the role of farming, construction etc.  

Even though Farm work can be incredibly hard work, you will most likely enjoy it more than you think. You will meet other backpackers who are in the same situation and you might even find a new travel buddy! Depending on the type of farming or crop you are harvesting, farm work can be lucrative! I know lots of backpackers who made amazing money doing farm work.

Farm work is incredibly seasonal and therefore if you are planning to do this for your regional work I would suggest researching the best times to go and what state to travel to. You don’t want to leave it until your first visa is expiring and finding out there is nowhere to do your farm work because it’s the low season for farming.  

Without putting a damper on your trip to Australia, I want to stress the importance of putting a bit of time into researching where you are going and who you are working for, especially if you are a woman.  This is often working in remote areas with very little transport. If you can, I suggest buddy-ing up with friends and undertaking the experience together. 

There have been well-publicised problems in Australia with backpackers being exploited by farm owners.  So many backpackers put up with being harassed and underpaid as they are desperate to get their 88days signed off so they can apply for a second working holiday visa. My best advice would be to undertake your 88 days of regional work as soon as possible. Starting your farm work early will mean you can leave and find another job if you run into any difficulties or feel uncomfortable. 

A great tip is to find Facebook groups that are for people looking for vacancies for their regional work or even general backpacking Australia Groups. These groups have people posting their recommendations and places to avoid when it comes to regional work. There are specific Facebook groups dedicated to a job listing for regional work, so make sure to check these out.

Au Pairing In Australia 

A slightly different option when it comes to employment is becoming an au pair. 

Being an au pair consists of living with a family, taking care of their children and occasionally doing household chores.

In return, you will normally get free accommodation within their home and some pocket money.  

This has the advantage of living with an Australian family which will give you an insight into their culture. It also means you don’t have to worry about accommodation, as it is normally the case that the au pair lives with the family.  

It is a great experience for those who do not speak English as a first language as this will enable you to pick up the language more quickly and in turn teach the children your native language – which is always highly appreciated by parents! 

The average salary for a full-time au pair can be anything from $190 to $350 per week, depending upon hours and how many children you are taking care of. 

There are lots of au pair agencies in Australia and I highly recommend you use one because if you have any issues the agency can help you resolve them. For instance, I met a fellow backpacker who felt unsafe in her placement and so was moved to another family.  

I speak from experience as an au pair when I say, this is not the easy route. There is nothing easy about being a “taught mum” when you have no experience of looking after children.  

However, I did meet lots of Au Pairs who loved it so much that they lived with host families for the duration of their Working Holiday Visa in Australia.  

There are so many Facebook groups for au pairs in Australia; some for finding work opportunities and others so you can find other au pairs to socialise with on your days off!  

Final Thoughts

An Australian Working Holiday Visa is an incredible opportunity to explore Australia, whilst working to fund your trip. The experiences on offer in Australia are so vast that your experience can be whatever you make of it!

Are you planning to go on a Working Holiday Visa in Australia? I hope this guide has provided you with lots of information to make sure your trip is a success! If you have stories or tips to share from your Working Holiday Visa in Australia be sure to drop a message in the comments below.

One Comment

  1. I would like to thank you for this excellent review/tips/experience of the WHV you have put together! This is one of the most informative ones I have come across so far with so much detail as ive been to and fro whether to actually commit to it but I think after reading this its made me think that I really want to go now and experience life in the land down under. I to would be travelling over there as a solo guy and I think the biggest fear for me was being alone and not being able to find work and missing home, but from reading this work seems easy enough to come by as long as you are committed to looking and searching in what you want to do and actually making an effort.

    Many thanks for this guide as it has certainly now give me more to think about and consider.

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