Have you been thinking of getting an Australian Working Holiday visa?
If not, maybe this guide to the Australian Working Holiday visa will change your mind!
Here’s everything I wanted to know about this visa when I was researching, how to get it, everything I learned from getting it, and what drama is happening around this visa.
It can be intimidating to jet off to a far away country (where crazy animals roam the streets and probably can kill you…. jk!) and not have a clue on where to start before you even get there.
I hope this guide here will help put those nerves at ease and answer some questions. If it doesn’t, you can call me out in the comments and I’ll immediately get back to you! I’m only human! Be nice…
Alright, let’s get serious. Let’s get this guide rolling, but before we do, let me be the first to tell you some of this stuff isn’t the most exciting, but I put everything I thought would be essential information right here.
So… Here we go!
Basic Requirements for Obtaining an Australian Working Holiday Visa
(This country list was taken from www.border.gov.au)
You’ll need to be from one of these countries…
Apply for the Work and Holiday visa (Subclass 462) if you are from:
- China, People’s Republic of
- Czech Republic
- San Marino
- Slovak Republic
- United States of America
Apply for the Working Holiday visa (Subclass 417) if you are from:
- Republic of Cyprus
- Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (including British National Overseas passport holders)
- Republic of Ireland
- Republic of Korea
- Taiwan (other than an official or diplomatic passport)
- The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Other countries can click here for info.
Things You’ll Need to Apply
- $5000 AUD in the bank. Side note: Most don’t get asked to show this, I didn’t. If they did ask you, it would likely be after your visa was approved and you’re at the airport (as opposed to when you’re applying) according to other travelers and research. So if you don’t have it yet, just apply anyway and make it a goal to have that amount saved before you jet off.
- The ability to speak functional English.
- Money for the application fee.
- Passport photos x2 (45 mm x 35 mm)
- Be under the age of 30. (You can still apply and get accepted at 30, if you turn 31 before you are officially accepted there’s a chance they will still grant you the visa, just apply before 31!)
Fees, age, and requirements will differ and further, documentation might be needed as it depends where you are from.
If you’re not from a native English speaking country, you’ll likely need to take a test proving your English abilities.
If needed, you might need to provide documentation of having a high education beyond high school.
If you’ve been traveling and living abroad, like me, you might run into a few other requirements.
Considering I lived in Thailand for a while, they required an x-ray to prove I didn’t have tuberculosis. They will let you know if you need anything further before approving your visa.
Don’t meet some of the requirements? There are other visas to check out. These are just the two standard working holiday visa opportunities. Here’s more info on other visas you can obtain.
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Important Points to Remember When Applying for the Australian Working Holiday Visa
- Make sure to complete everything in full. This visa costs money, so you don’t want to mess anything up. They won’t refund you.
- Apply OUTSIDE of Australia.
- Don’t visit Australia if your application is pending as it can cause issues with your approval process.
- Don’t apply, visit, then decide to leave. You don’t “get those days back.” Once you enter, your one year starts even if you leave the next day. Once you arrive, stay as long as you can to use it to its full potential.
- Do I need an agency to help me do this? Nah, dude. Not unless you want to throw them money for something you can easily figure out yourself. I can’t speak for all, but as an American, the process was incredibly easy. Save your money, you’ll need it when you get here.
What Jobs Can I Get on a Working Holiday Visa in Australia?
Of course, everyone wants to know how much they will make. But that will vary… Here’s a bit of an idea to get your wheels turning.
(Amount is per hour and in AUD)
- Call centers can pay around $15-20 and hour, but you’ll likely get a commission on top of that.
- Trade and labor work can be anywhere from $20-$30+
- Au pairs/ nannies get $15-$30.
- Office jobs will earn you anywhere from $18-35+ depending on what you’re doing.
- Hospitality can get you $20-$25 and even a bit more with tips. (Don’t’ expect tips like the US, it’s not customary to tip that much or at all, but it does happen). You could also get paid less if it’s cash in hand, like $15-$18.
- Farming is where you might see the biggest variance. If you drive a tractor, you’ll earn more. If you’re willing to work crazy hours and do backbreaking work all day, you’ll earn more. If you happen to be unfortunate enough to cross paths with a sheisty farmer, you could get screwed, I’ve read countless stories. Be careful who you work with and demand a livable wage or walk out. Sometimes you get paid by the bucket (like literally, how many buckets you fill with crops), and sometimes by the hour. You could earn anything from $400-$1000 per week depending on experience, season, and hours worked. Accommodation is often provided or offered at a discount.
Curious about the type of work in Australia and how to find the best gigs? These posts will help:
- How to Live and Work in Australia as an American Expat
- How to Get a Job in Australia & Save a Sh*t Ton of Money
- How to Work Abroad in Australia (Without Experience)
This is essentially the same as Social Security in the USA. This is retirement money. If you’re on the books (as you probably should be) you’re entitled to super (as they call it). This is money (in addition to your hourly pay) that gets transferred into another account the company has for you.
When you permanently leave the country, you can request this money back. It’s a mini saving account for those who are saving inept or a welcomed surprise cash topping to those who have been saving. More info here.
OMG. I know. This is sooooo boring, but I’m trying to make this the ultimate guide to the Australian Working Holiday visa, so bear with me because it wouldn’t be that ultimate if I left this important, yet utterly mind-numbing boring shit out of it. Sooo.. Yay! Get excited about taxes!
When filling out your paperwork, tick the box that says “resident.”
If you don’t, you essentially get taxed more.
Now if you’re a bit more nomadic and just want to work here and there, it might be a stretch to check this off. I felt confident in checking this off because I was staying in one place with the same job for a longer period of time (6 months). Your employer can’t tell you which to choose.
“All backpackers get their tax back.” OK, so this is apparently a rumor. Uhm, no, not true. You may or may not get a portion of your taxes back, it’s rare that you will get all of it. It depends on your work, so I, of course, can’t tell you an exact answer. Here is more info on that, and more
boring tax talk to come… Get pumped, guys!
Food for Thought About When to Move to Australia
- Depending on what industry you want to get into, you should be careful about the timing of your arrival. I wanted to get into the hospitality industry, and coming in December proved to be a bad move. I thought there would surely be some procrastinators who needed holiday staff, but in a happening city like Melbourne, everyone was full. I tried very hard, but only got a job after five weeks and after the New Year. If you’re wanting to get into farming, check out when harvest season is. There are many sectors, so there’s no exact answer to this, you’ll have to see what your particular industry needs. Don’t forget to keep the weather in mind.
- On the other hand, I’m finding it was actually good in a way to come when I did. The tax season was ending during my halfway point. At this current time, people on working holiday visas start to get taxed until they hit the $18,200 threshold. I’m going to come just under this by the time tax season ends and then I get to “start again” which will likely result in coming in just under the threshold again, which works out to very little to no tax being taken!
Proposed Backpacker Tax and the Drama
No guide to the Australian Working Holiday visa would be complete without this information now. This is the latest drama happening with this visa and the tax rules…
OK, so kind of continuing the tax talk from above (and please bare with me, I know this is boring, but it’s very important. I don’t like writing about it, but I know it will help some of you.) let talk about the new proposed “backpacker tax.” As you can see, it’s not too difficult to “get away” with not paying much in tax. This isn’t really a choice, this is the rule, I have no say, and I have no problem with paying tax in a country I’m living.
This new backpacker tax is proposed to take 32.5% of every single dollar earned while working here on a working holiday visa. Are you serious? That’s an insane amount of money, and as an American, I don’t get ANY health benefits ( many others do, mostly European countries, which does make this blow slightly less painful). A lower number would be a more reasonable tax for us.
This proposed tax is a huge chunk, like MASSIVE. Almost to the point of making this visa not worth it for many (looking at those in the agricultural industry)…
Many are making a big deal of this because it could severely impact the amount of people coming here, the prices of fruits and vegetables, the amount farmers might have to pay out to actually get people to work, and more. There’s a lot of heated talk about this topic right now, but the decision has been pushed back a bit and the chatter has died down, for now.
In my humble opinion, I would venture to say I would still do it for the experience and because I WOULD still be making money, but Australia will lose a large chunk of their foreign workforce which does a large number of their agricultural work and other jobs locals don’t regularly go for.
UPDATE 2016: They kinda do but kinda don’t know what they are doing, There’s talk about different taxes for certain people, if you’re resident or not, this that and the other. I don’t know if anyone knows what’s officially going on with this backpacker tax! It’s happening, but how will it affect you, depending who you are, is still kinda gray.
UPDATE 2019 taxes
This is what’s currently happening and what is posted on the official ATO website:
“If you work in Australia, tax will be withheld from your pay and you may need to lodge a tax return each year. The requirement to lodge a tax return will depend on how much income you have earned during the year.
The Australian income year starts on 1 July and ends on 30 June the following year.
As a working holiday maker the first $37,000 of your income is taxed at 15% and the balance is taxed at ordinary rates.”
Regarding applying for your tax return:
“The Australian income year ends on 30 June each year.
You do not need to lodge an income tax return or non-lodgment advice if both of the following apply:
- all of your income was earned while you were a working holiday maker
- the total of your taxable income for the income year was less than $37,001.
You are required to lodge an income tax return if your taxable income for the year was more than $37,000.
If you leave Australia permanently before 30 June, you can lodge your tax return early.
When you lodge a tax return, we work out how much tax you should have paid based on your actual income for the year. If too much was withheld from your pay, we will refund the difference to you. If you have not paid enough, we will send you a bill.”
You can refer to the ATO website for more official info regarding taxes.
So When Would Be the Best Time to Come to Australia With All of This Taken Into Account?
Right fucking now, mate!
The proposed tax has been set back until the end of the year, giving you a half a year to get to work. Some even say it might not go into full effect until the next tax year, which would be about one year from now (July 2017). Enough time for you to get your Australian working holiday visa approved and get your butt over here to work for a year on the current tax rule.
Again, it’s still money at the end of the day, and while you might not be able to save as much, you’ll surely get some money out of it and get to enjoy living in beautiful Australia.
UPDATE 2019 – Literally come anytime, if you take my tips that I have in my other posts (linked throughout this post and at the bottom) then you’ll STILL be able to save!
Ways to Use Your Australian Working Holiday to Its Full Potential
These are some personal goals and tactics I’m using. It may be helpful to you…
- I can easily get a tourist visa for Australia, so I’m working while I can legally work, THEN coming back and playing tourist. I’m using my visa a bit more wisely this way by saving while I can. The name of the game is, “work now, play later.”
- Try getting a job as soon as you can. You never know how difficult it might be if you wait until the last minute.
- Consider the seasons for the city you plan on living in. If a spot is “in season” you might want to get there early and be first on the scene.
- Another personal idea I have that might be helpful to Americans- We don’t get a second-year visa and therefore have no reason to do farm work. So unless you really want to, don’t think that it’s necessary to pick mangos in 100-degree heat for pennies!
- Stay off the east coast / popular tourist and backpacker hangouts. Yeah, I know it’s where you probably want to be, but think about it. How many backpackers are going to be applying to those jobs that you so desperately want? Like, a million. Melbourne was a great choice for my boyfriend and I and we’re going up to Darwin next. Garrett already has a job lined up paying him $27/hour! Our theory is proving to be worth it. The east is inundated with backpackers trying to get work, we’re going against the grain and we will enjoy the east coast without the burden of trying to find a job soon.
UPDATE 2019: 2nd Year Eligibility = Awesome New Opportunities!
Those under the 417 Working Holiday Visa for Australia have been lucky. They have had the opportunity to get a second-year visa which grants them exactly that, another full year with the ability to work in Australia.
Those under the 462 visa (AKA the visa for Americans) have only recently been able to take advantage of this opportunity. I’m SO jealous as the opportunity came about a bit after my visa expired and I will never have the opportunity to get a Working Holiday Visa for Australia again!
SO, those seeking to go now, take advantage of that second year for me, please!
How to Quality For A Second Year Visa
It’s not that hard but it will take some work. In short, you have to do very specific work in Australia during your first year, usually something in the agriculture industry, for about three months to quality. Without this, you don’t qualify.
To get a bit more specific, this is from the official immigration website:
“If you have completed three months of specified subclass 462 work in eligible areas of northern and regional Australia, you can apply for a second Work and Holiday visa. This work must have been completed while on your first Work and Holiday visa and only work undertaken after 18 November 2016 can count towards your three months’ specified subclass 462 work total.”
More information can be found here.
A few notes regarding the second-year visa:
- You have to do some kind of agricultural work which is usually not that fun, a bit competitive because there are a lot of people who want their second year visa, and unfortunately, these are some of the sketchiest jobs as some employers know the “desperation” of getting those three months in and don’t always pay fairly.
- You’ll likely be in the middle of nowhere. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out! Farm work = being in rural locations. You’ll have to deal with it to get that second-year visa.
- Look into working in the Northern Territory and parts of Western Australia. I worked in Darwin and if this second-year visa was a thing when I was there, I would have been able to get it WITHOUT WORKING ON A FARM! Some territories have a special “deal” where you can work in hospitality or tourism and still have it qualify for a second-year visa. I’d heavily look into working in these areas and sectors if the thought of doing agricultural work doesn’t sound appealing to you. More info on the exact areas and type of work can be found here.
- This place is EXPENSIVE!!!!! If you come with $300 in the bank, expect to find a job the next day and “be alright” you’ll have a terrible surprise waiting for you. It’s not that that situation couldn’t happen, but it’s not the norm. Things take time. Bring back up money everywhere you travel, especially one of the priciest places on earth.
- On a similar note, don’t forget about deposits. If you don’t have enough money to put a deposit down on your flat, you’re not getting the flat.
- As mentioned above, if you aren’t coming with much and want to travel, save money while you have the Australian Working Holiday Visa. You can play tourist later.
- Eating out is a crazy stupid expensive. Find your local grocery and buy food to cook!
Tips for Hospitality Workers
(particularly in Melbourne):
- DON’T go in December! OK, well, I can’t speak for the whole country, but take it from me, arriving in Melbourne on December 7th trying to look for a job was a foolish mistake. It was very unnerving to hear, “we’re maybe hiring next year” at 80% of the places I went. I essentially wasted a month coming during the holiday season. For the record, my thought was maybe they will still be looking for holiday staff, but no. Come in early November or in January if you need to come around that time.
- Be prepared for a competitive job market. It depends on what you do, but definitely, keep this in mind. For me, waitress and bartending jobs in Melbourne can get pretty competitive. I had to “battle it out” with several other people for positions and only after about five trials did I finally land a job. (I have 10 years experience by the way!)
- Trials are a thing. It’s expected for you to do a free unpaid trial before starting a hospitality job. It shouldn’t last any longer than two hours. If it does, immediately ask if you will start getting paid. Your trial will consist of them essentially throwing you into the mix and seeing if you fly or fail. So… fly. Definitely, fly. Research the spot and show them you’re interested in working there by knowing a bit of the menu already or SOMETHING to show you’ve at least researched the place a bit.
How to Get Started and Actually Get a Job in Australia
- Go old school, mate! Go around to places (during the nonbusy hours) with your CV in hand a smile plastered on your face. Follow up, especially in areas where competition may be high (i.e. Melbourne). Places receive CV’s all the time, what makes you different? Call, come in, follow-up, and show them you’re serious. The bar I work at now, I applied to THREE times. The third time I called and spoke to the right person, a manager, and I was hired the next day.
- Facebook. Facebook groups are invaluable. Join groups that are for the city you’re in. Example: Melbourne Bar Exchange. Job opportunities are often posted in them.
- Ring places. Sometimes it’s exhausting to go around with a CV just to hear ten times in a row that people aren’t hiring. Sometimes it’s OK to just ring up and ask first. I found my cafe job this way and it was more efficient. Make sure to call at the nonbusy hours.
- There are many jobs where you can’t just walk in and they want you to apply online. Websites like Seek.com and Gumtree.com are good sources for jobs too.
While Looking for a Job…
Get some of the admin stuff out of the way like opening a bank account and getting your tax number filed.
It’s super easy, apply for your tax number here. For a bank account, choose a bank and walk in with your passport and your address and that’s about it. I went with ANZ. Most employers will direct deposit.
Looking for a flat or house share is also easy. Most people look on gumtree.com and Facebook groups are another good source.
Reasons Why Working in Australia Is an Amazing Opportunity
- You get to live AND work in another country.
- Australian wages are pretty darn good!
- A new experience in life.
- You’ll get to meet new friends.
- A way to visit and explore the country while working for a whole year.
- The people are genuine and fun to be around.
- It will open your eyes to a different continent, people, and atmosphere.
- Australia is fucking beautiful.
So…There’s essentially no negatives. Working overseas, especially in Australia, can be quite lucrative! There are actually plenty of more options for finding ways to work abroad so you can travel more!
How’s my working holiday visa experience going? Swimmingly! I’ve been saving thousands… Find out more on that here.
UPDATE: I saved over $17k USD! (Garrett saved over $30k USD!)
Are you looking into working in Australia or what? Should I add anything else to make this the ultimate guide to the Australian Working Holiday visa?
NOTE: I’ll try to keep this as updated as possible, especially regarding the new tax laws. If you have any information you think should be here, please comment! 🙂
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!