Australian Work and Holiday Visa: The Do It Yourself Guide

People have been asking me how I was able to work in Australia – Well here it is. This is how. And low and behold it’s not just an opportunity for me – but you my friend can do it too. (Certain countries may not be eligible. Read the links to find your country)

1. GET THE VISA Subclass 462 – This visa is for young people who want to holiday and work in Australia for up to a year. It’s specifically for Americans and anyone with a passport from the following countries: Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay.

If I didn’t list your country, you may be eligible for the 417 Working Holiday Visa. And if you are, I’m extremely jealous, because you get one year to work in Australia with an optional second year on the completion of three months of farm work. (DO THE FARM WORK) This is for countries like England and Canada. Here’s the link that will take you on the best adventure of your life.

SUBCLASS 462: Work and Holiday Visa (US residents can apply online) THIS VISA ALLOWS YOU TO

•stay in Australia for up to 12 months

•work in Australia for up to six months with each employer

• study for up to four months

• leave and re-enter Australia any number of times while the visa is valid.

COST: AU $420 (This is the current price. It has gone up since my visa)

GETTING APPROVED – Really, the only requirements are that you need to have a valid passport from one of the countries stated above, be between the ages of 18 and 30 and not have a child with you. That’s it. Pretty simple huh. If you had been in a third world country for more than six months like I had been, they require you to get a chest x-ray to check for tuberculosis. I was in Thailand at the time, so I went to the hospital in Phuket, paid $30 USD with no health insurance and the hospital sent my records to Australian immigration. A week later I heard back via email that I was approved.

LAST REQUIREMENT – Australia requires that you have a minimum of $5000 AU in your home bank account. This is to make sure that you can return home or sustain yourself in their country if anything happens to you or you can’t find work. They don’t actually ask for proof of your bank details when you apply for the visa BUT there is a chance they will ask you at airport immigration. They may, they may not. So be prepared. (They did not ask me.) I know of some people whose relatives opened bank accounts with $5000 in their name just in case. I also know people who risked it and didn’t have that much money and went anyway. You could be deported if caught with insufficient funds. The choice is yours.

2. BOOK YOUR FLIGHT From the time your visa is approved you have one year to get to Australia. Once you get there, your one year working visa starts. I like to use SKYSCANNER.COM to start my flight search. NOW ALL YOU NEED IS A STARTING POINT. I recommend choosing a city, buying a one-way ticket, booking a hostel and letting the rest fall into place. Don’t try to plan too much. You’re going to a place you’ve never been to. You don’t know what you’ll be drawn to and who’ll you’ll meet.

Just get there.

It’s okay to not have it mapped out. When you travel like this nothing ever goes according to plan anyway, so you’re saving yourself time by not planning anything – promise!

3. FIRST 2 DAYS Now you’ve arrived and you’re on a mission to find work. First straighten out three main things.

A) Get an Aussie phone number – Do this right away. You literally can’t get a job without a way for an employer to contact you. Go to the nearest shopping center and ask for a plan. Make sure to unlock your iPhone or whatever phone you have before you arrive in the country. You can insert an Australian sim into your phone from home. It could be less than $40 a month for a basic plan.  I didn’t use my iPhone because Verizon wouldn’t unlock it. (I hate Verizon, but that’s another story.) So, I used a shitty flip phone that I purchased in Australia instead. It got the job done.

Vodafone is a popular phone service. I started with Vodafone until I found about about Lebara…

**Lebara is an Australian phone provider  that I used because I was able to call the U.S for free with my monthly pre-paid plan. They range for $30 – $50 a month.

B) Apply for a TAX FILE NUMBER (TFN) You also want to do this right away because they send you your information in the mail and it could take up to 28 days. You are legally allowed to work in Australia, which means you will eventually need to file taxes. Don’t worry though – YOU WILL GET ALL OF YOUR TAXES BACK (most likely). They have a higher standard of living in Australia. So, if you don’t make more than 45,000 a year or something like that, you get all your taxes back. (I believe the US is 25,000 a year – Someone correct me if I’m wrong.) And it’s very simply to file. I used TAXBACK.COM. I went in person to the office in Sydney.

*As of 2015 Australian tax laws have changed. See website.*

C) Open an Australian bank account Commonwealth Bank is what most backpackers use in Australia. I recommend going there and opening an account. You will need your Australian phone number and passport. From there they will give you a debit card and information for direct deposit that you can give to your future employer. Opening an account is free but they will require you to put some money in your bank account or they will charge you a small fee of $4 a month until you have $1000 in your account. I told them I had just arrived in Australia and I came with hardly any money and I was just beginning to look for work… the kind man waived my fee for three months. (There’s aways a way!)


A) HAND OUT YOUR RESUME I came to Australia with printed out resumes ready to go. I knew I wanted to work in hospitality, so I tailored my resume appropriately. It’s common to add a picture to your resume in Australia. I recommend doing that. My strategy – Explore Sydney – Decide what part I wanted to work in and hand out resumes in that area. I’m not much of a researcher. When I saw Darling Harbour, I new I wanted to be there every day – So I went around to every restaurant, asked to speak to a manager and handed out my resume in person. That same day I received two potential job offers.

**TRIALS – If you get interest from a restaurant you will be required to come in and work a three hour trial (usually unpaid). This is your chance to prove yourself. They give you a uniform, fill you in on the run down of the place and usually have you run drinks, food and bus tables to see if you know what you’re doing. At the end of the trial they’ll let you know if you got the job or not.

CERTIFICATIONS – Depending on your job, you may be required to get certified in your field. If you choose to work in hospo, you’ll need a Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certificate. You can do it online or take a class in town. I did mine through TCP Training  and paid $120 AU to be certified in five states. There are cheaper options and you can choose to do as many states as you want. You can do the course before you enter the country or you can wait until you find work. I worked for about two weeks before I finished my RSA class. As long as the employer knows you are in the process of completing it, you should be fine.

NOTE: Minimum wage in Australia is $16.87/hr.  I would aim for something that is around $20/hr. Working in hospitality allowed me to make a little more than my salary every week because I would also bring home tips. Around $75 – $200 extra a week. Some of my friends made more than that in tips, some less. There are places that pay more for Saturday and Sunday too.  For example $25/hr on Saturday and $30/hr on Sunday. Don’t be afraid to ask about that. (BLOG POST HIGHLIGHTING MY FRIENDS JOBS/WAGES/CERTS TO COME)

B) ONLINE OPTION Browse GUMTREE.COM.AU. I have plenty of friends who found all kinds of jobs on there. Check out SEEK.COM.AU for more professional jobs. (NOTE: They deal with so many backpackers who have been flakey and not showed up for their first day, so employers are more likely to contact you if you are already in the country with an Australian phone number.

4. WHERE TO LIVE? Start out at a hostel. Even live in the hostel the whole time if you’re keen. I pretty much did. I recommend Hostel World to book hostels. GUMTREE.COM.AU is a great way to find shared accommodation in the city you are in. Decide what you are looking to spend a week on housing. I was looking for the cheapest place I could find and I ended up finding shared housing in Bondi Beach for $150 a week including utilities. The house was a small hippie house shared with 13 other backpackers and there were six people who lived in my room. Three bunk beds and dressers for our stuff. One bathroom was shared by all of us.

Before this I was living in an 18 bed dorm room in World Square Hostel. I lived there for about six months. I was paying $150 a week for about two months until I started working promotions at the hostel and then my rent was free. If you are looking for your own bedroom in a shared house, you are looking at a minimum of $200 plus a week plus utilities. It all depends on what you’re looking to spend and where you are willing to live. Most places require at least two weeks rent up front. AND REMEMBER liking an accommodation doesn’t mean you will get to live there. When you view a room, you are being scoped out as well. They are probably showing this room to a couple people in the same day you view it. The final decision is made by theis made by the people/landlord who already live there. Most people are looking for someone similar to themselves and people they think they’ll get along with. You will see a lot of ads saying “quite apartment and no guests allowed over,” or “fun party house,” or “young couple looking for another couple to move in.” Some people are even looking to rent a room for a week or a month. You can find pretty much anything. Just keep checking. Things update all the time.

I think I covered the basics to help you get started 🙂 I’ve met some people who have paid companies to do all the work for them. Don’t be tricked into paying for something you can do yourself. There are thousands of backpackers over there doing the same thing. Anything you need to know you can find out through word or mouth. I actually arrived in Australia without knowing any of this. I learned what I needed to do with each day I was there just by asking people. Just figured it out as I went. So now with this knowledge you’re already steps ahead of me!