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How to Take a Working Holiday in Australia

"No Problem Mate"

Would you like to work near the Sydney Bridge and Opera House?
Would you like to work near the Sydney Bridge and Opera House?

Do you daydream of a carefree life where you meet interesting people, see new sights, and take each day as it comes? The idea may provoke excitement and uncertainty, but such an experience is now easier than you think. With the work and holiday agreement between America and Australia, you too could be experiencing life on the other side of the world.

What is the Work and Holiday Visa Scheme in Australia?

The reciprocal work and holiday scheme is a remarkable opportunity to travel to Australia, become immersed in the culture, and experience the work ethic. Have you always dreamt of volunteering abroad, drinking pints in an Outback pub, or working in an office overlooking the Sydney Opera House? If so, you'll be glad to hear the program permits U.S. citizens to legally work in Australia for up to 12 months in any occupation (as long as your time with any one company does not exceed six months).

While you are on your work and holiday visa, you are also free to undertake a course of study lasting up to four months. However, a trip would be more complete with the time to travel at your own pace or pursue your interests. Visa permits offer unlimited travel throughout the year for visiting Australia's major cities, surfing on Bondi Beach, or discovering the Great Barrier Reef.

Palm Cove in Australia.
Palm Cove: A gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

Koala park in Australia.
Koala park.

Conditions of the Work and Holiday Visa

No need to feel daunted by Australian Immigration paperwork. In fact, the application process is surprisingly straightforward. Whether applying online or by mail, your application will only take a couple of hours to complete. Once submitted, you should receive a response within a few days. If your application is successful, you have up to three months to enter Australia.

However, there are special requirements that need to be fulfilled before you tell your boss that you are off to travel the world. First, you need to be aged between 18 and 30. Secondly, you must have graduated from a high school. Thirdly, you must provide proof of funds for your stay (approximately US$3,200).

The Application Process

So, you are ready and willing to swap the Super Bowl and fast-food supersizing for kangaroos and koalas — what do you do next? First, suppose you don't go with an experienced agency such as BUNAC, as described below. In that case, you need to submit your application. Once in the Working Holiday section of Australia's immigration and citizenship website, you will need to fill out the application for the Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462) and create a log in. Once registered, you can save and complete your application as you wish. Alternatively, suppose you prefer to submit a paper application. This can be downloaded from the immigration website and sent to your nearest Australian Government office.

The first section of the work and holiday application requires general information such as passport details, current occupation, and qualifications. The form continues by asking for information regarding your health. You may be asked to have a medical examination or chest X-ray if you have any health issues. Unfortunately, Australia and the United States do not have a reciprocal health agreement. You must purchase adequate medical insurance for your time overseas, with World Nomads and other insurance plans as options.

The application proceeds to questions about your character. Any criminal charges, convictions, or deportations held must be noted. Once the form is complete, it is submitted with the appropriate fee (US$400). Unless you have been asked to provide additional documentation or medical certificates, you should receive a response within a few days. If successful, your visa will arrive electronically through your email, ready for you to print and take Down Under.

Once you Arrive in Australia

To set up a bank account in Australia, you must have photo identification and a temporary address (hostels/hotels are used at the bank's discretion). You must also apply for a tax file number (TFN) for your time in Australia. Similar to your social security number, these are essential if you plan to work. To apply for your tax file number, visit the Australian Taxation Office. You will need to have a current Australian address, although once again, hostels are usually accepted. You will be given one month's grace period between starting work and informing your employer of your tax file number.

Helpful Agencies such as BUNAC

Assume you wish to have paperwork handled for you. In that case, the BUNAC Work in Australia Package offers a variety of services, for a fee, to help you settle, find work in Australia, and get your visa to enable you to work for up to a year.

Finding Accommodations

The choice of accommodations will significantly depend on how much travel you wish to undertake. Will you be constantly on the road, visiting Australia's most remote locations, or settling in Melbourne for the year? Hostels will probably be your preferred choice if you continually travel around the country. Due to the sheer amount of travelers, Australia has plenty of budget accommodations with prices starting from US$25-$40 per night. Hostels provide a safe and friendly atmosphere where you are almost guaranteed to meet some like-minded people. It is not uncommon for visitors to spend a month staying in a single hostel if they find work in the area. To search or book hostels in any region of Australia, visit Hostelling International or Hostel World.

You could also hire a campervan for an exciting and liberating adventure if you are constantly moving. Such a free-spirited way to see the country is ideal if you do not want to make plans or book accommodations in advance. Travellers Autobarn is a popular outfit, for example, with prices around US$100-$150 per day, depending upon the duration of your rental.

If you decide to stay in one area your entire time in Australia, real estate companies offer 6- or 12-month lease agreements. Agents will often be happy to show you properties in the area, giving you an idea of what is available. If you plan to take on a lease, be prepared to pay an upfront bond of six weeks' rent, provide references, and allow a few days for your offer to be processed. To get an idea of prices before you leave, visit For a casual stay in a rented apartment with no contract, try searching notice boards and newspapers once you arrive in Australia.

Work Opportunities

There are plenty of opportunities to gain valuable work experience during your time in Australia, with even the minimum wage among the highest in the world as a base. You may want a new challenge, work outdoors, or gain your first office experience. A website such as SEEK advertises various options ranging from promotional work to volunteer programs, bar jobs, and executive positions. You can apply for jobs online, and such websites often act as an excellent guide for what you can expect to earn.

Recruitment agencies specialize in temporary assignments and are particularly helpful for travelers. Once you have registered, recruitment agencies will contact you with suitable jobs depending on your previous experience. Jobs can last anywhere from one day to six months. Due to high turnover, you won't have to wait too long until a position becomes available. Alternatively, you may even hear of local job opportunities through word of mouth or notice boards.

The fantastic opportunity to work has given United States citizens a never-before chance to spend a year living and traveling in Australia. With a simple application process and lenient requirements, it is easier than ever to experience independent travel. You can even apply for jobs and search for accommodations before leaving America. Now that you know what you are missing, take advantage of this life-changing experience.

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef.
Preparations for diving in the Great Barrier Reef.

Lydia Horrex graduated from Cardiff University with a year of exchange at UCLA. After spending six months working and traveling around Egypt, followed by a year in New Zealand, she lives and works in Sydney, Australia.

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