One of the best ways to be able to fund your travel abroad is to go on a working holiday. Getting a Working Holiday Visa will grant to entry to a country for a specific period of time and also give you the rights to work legally. That means that you can earn the money you need to fund your travels.
Countries that will grant you a Working Holiday Visa vary depending on your nationality and sometimes your age. They say write about what you know so it seems natural that the first country we’re going to look at is Australia. If you missed the memo I’m currently 4 months into my Working Holiday Visa here and I’ve already met a lot of people doing the same thing from all different parts of the world (although it does seem particularly popular with us Brits!)
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
AM I ELIGIBLE?
To be eligible you need to be between 18 and 30 years old when you enter the country, have no dependents and hold a valid passport from an eligible country. The government also states that you need to have 2000 GBP in funds when entering Australia OR a return flight booked. You need to bring proof of these funds with you when you enter the country (although they don’t check everyone I think it would be better to make sure you have either of the above just in case!)
HOW DO I APPLY?
You fill out a very simple form online and send this with a copy of your passport. You can also apply by post and there is a downloadable form on the website.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
In most cases not long at all! I know people who lodged an application and had their visa granted in the same day. The website gives estimated times as 1 working day for low risk applications and 1 month for higher risk. High risk is defined as applicants from countries that do not have ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) eligible passports. If you have an ETA passport (which you most likely do – it has that little chip on the front which allows you to skip the queues at passport control and use those blasted facial recognition machines, which always ends up taking longer than the queue!) then your visa is tagged electronically to your passport so you won’t need a piece of paper in there to show you have the right to enter the country. Instead when they scan your passport at the airport it will show up on the screen that you have permission to enter and stay for the duration of your visa.
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO GET?
Easy! I don’t know anyone who’s applied for a WHV in Australia and been denied. I think as long as you don’t have any criminal history or serious medical conditions you’ll find it a breeze. There’s no lottery system or time deadlines or anything as stressful as trying to get a visa for Canada.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
At the moment from around $440 (£220).
WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS?
The main one is that you can’t work for the same employer for more than 6 months. This is because by applying for a WHV you are stating that the primary reason for your visit to Australia is to travel, and that any work must only be undertaken to supplement that travel. It’s pretty well documented that wages here are above UK average and in line with the cost of living (unlike the UK) so the government understandably want to discourage people from coming here purely to work and save money to take back with them.
THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU GO
TELL YOUR BANK THAT YOU’RE GOING
If you only take one piece of advice then let it be this. I actually did mention to my bank that I was going abroad but to someone in person at the branch who obviously failed to note it down. It’s probably best to put it in writing. The fact that my bank seemed to be unaware that I was in Australia made it a nightmare to transfer funds from my UK bank account to my Australian bank account and eventually I had to transfer the money to my mum and then get her to make an international transfer to me from back home! In the meantime I used my UK bank cards and paid for the privilege of doing so (more about that below).
TAKE OUT TRAVEL INSURANCE
Yes for a whole year. It’ll be expensive but there are some companies that cater specifically for people on gap years and working holidays. I could tell you who I went with but seeing as I haven’t had to use it or contact them I wouldn’t want to recommend anything. If you do want to know I’m happy to divulge, just leave a comment.
TAKE A PRINT OUT OF YOUR BANK STATEMENTS
They probably won’t check. I don’t actually know anyone who’s been checked but don’t risk it. The Australian government website says that you have to either have a return flight booked and paid for or prove that you have the funds available to pay for that flight and to support yourself when you initially enter the country. They don’t state a precise amount but most sites recommend around $3000-4000 (£1500-2000).
PRINT A COPY OF YOUR VISA
Even though you don’t need it to get into the country because it’s electronically tagged to your passport you will need it for things like setting up your bank account, which you’ll want to do as soon as you get here. You might not be able to access a printer for a while so you’ll save yourself the unnecessary stress of trying to find one whilst jetlagged in a busy city if you just pre-plan this.
THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU ARRIVE
SET UP YOUR BANK ACCOUNT
Setting up your bank account is one of the first things you’ll want to do. Okay maybe not want to do, but get it out of the way first and you’ll be glad in the long run. It doesn’t take long and involves minimal effort. Just take your passport and a copy of your visa to a bank. Go with one that has lots of branches in lots of places around the country and doesn’t have any hidden charges etc. I’m with National Australian Bank (NAB) and I don’t have any complaints so far – other than that they seem to be one of the only banks closed on a Saturday, which is slightly annoying. I didn’t choose my bank because this was set up for me but if I’d had the choice I would’ve gone with Commonwealth. There are Commonwealth banks everywhere you go and I know a few people who are with them and again have no complaints – they also open Saturdays!
Once you have set up your bank account in Australia it will take about a week for you to get your bank card. I’d recommend taking enough AUD to get you through a week or a pre-paid travel card (which I feel like nobody ever actually does) to use just until you get set up. If you use your UK bank card there’s a charge every time you use it.
On top of this when you go to a cash machine of a bank other than your own in Australia they charge you for withdrawing money. It’s something silly like a couple of dollars but still this gets annoying pretty quickly and is why you want to choose a bank that has loads of cash points, because you’ll always be seeking them out. (Personally I’ve stopped carrying cash most of the time because contactless payment is so widespread here and convenient). If you use your UK bank card you’re getting charged the fee for using an international card AND the fee using the wrong bank card machine.
APPLY FOR A TAX FILE NUMBER
If you’re going to work in Australia you need a TFN so that you don’t get emergency taxed at a very high rate. You apply for this online and should receive your number within 28 days. You could actually apply for your TFN before you arrive in Australia in order to receive it sooner. It says on the website that you need to give your Australian address for them to send it to which could be an obstacle to this as you’d have to anticipate where you’ll be in the 28 day period but I actually received mine by email so that wouldn’t have made any difference to me. Unless you’re planning on working within 28 days of arrival (and I don’t know anyone who’s done that) it’s probably best to just do the application once you get here and have a better idea of your plans.
GET AN AUSTRALIAN PHONE NUMBER
So many people I know resisted getting an Australian number for ages because it seems unnecessarily complicated, but trust me eventually you will cave and get one so just do it at the start to save yourself the stress later. If you’re going to look for work you’ll need an Australian mobile number on your resume or it’ll put employers off contacting you. When you make bookings or do anything really everyone wants to take your Australian mobile. It’s also not that hard to set up! You’ll probably find that in the initial period you use your phone less for calls and texts and more for the internet. It’s super annoying when you have to live from wifi spot to wifi spot because you have no data. So here’s what you do…
Find a shop that sells mobiles. They sometimes have sections in supermarkets or other large stores or you can go directly into a provider’s phone shop. I recommend Telstra, which are one of the biggest ones here and they have pretty good deals for “pay as you go” equivalents. Topping up (or “recharging” as they call it here) $30 a month will get you everything you probably need. You can buy a sim card for $2 which comes with a link to a website where you go to activate your phone number. You’ll be asked to choose a plan when you do this, go with “Freedom Plus”. Then you just pop the sim card in your phone.
REGISTER WITH MEDICARE
Medicare is Australia’s health service funded by the state and the great thing is that you can register for it even as an international long-term visitor to the country. The Aussie government stress that it is not a replacement for health insurance but it will give you free access to emergency treatment or anything deemed “medically necessary” (which surely is most things if you’re at a surgery/hospital!)
Print and fill out a form to register and then take it to your nearest Medicare Registration Office with a copy of your passport and visa. The actual registration process won’t take the time it’s more fact that where you have to go is usually in a big government hub where there’s a huge amount of civil servants doing paperwork for every government-related scheme you can think of and so naturally there’s normally a huge queue. Do it. It will be worth it. Medical bills are expensive, which I think we forget in the UK sometimes.
SET UP A SUPER ACCOUNT
Your super is your pension and in Australia employer’s are legally obligated to pay into a super fund for you from the moment you start working for them. If you don’t have a super fund they will usually have a company one that they will put you into, however if you then move on to another job they will put you in their company fund and so you’ll end up with little pots of money all over the place which will be a pain in the proverbial backside when it comes to claiming it back at the end of your trip (yes you read that right – you can claim it back! Free money! Well not really because you worked for it, but it’s like you never had it in the first place really.) It’s easier for you to set up a super account and then give these details to every employer you work for so they can put all of your money in one place.
I am with AAA Super Plus who have a specific Super for Visa Holders. I’m sure there are others as well if you look around. Personally I can’t speak to the pros and cons of different providers, I just went with who I was advised to go with and having no knowledge of these things I trusted the recommendation. I can let you know in 9 months how it panned out!
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT WHILE YOU’RE THERE
CAN I EXTEND MY VISA?
You can apply for a 2nd year Working Holiday Visa provided that you have completed 88 days of eligible regional work. Since 31st August 2015 when applying for your 2nd year visa you have to supply payslips that cover all of those days worked. Prior to this they were trusting about it but this lead to an abuse of the system where people would apply without fulfilling the conditions. The changes also mean that only paid work can count towards your 2nd year visa, whereas previously you could gain it through volunteering (i.e. WWOOFing). Regional work does not just mean farm work though. Some jobs in more remote areas of the country will sign off on 2nd year visas, for example I know someone who worked at a bar in the outback to get hers.
To extend your visa you have to either be in Australia when you apply and when the visa is granted or be outside Australia when the visa is granted. You 2nd year visa then starts when you re-enter the country. The great thing about the 2nd year visa is that if you leave the country while your application is being reviewed and then it is granted you do not have to return immediately. You can hold on to this visa and return for another year any time up until your 31st birthday.
THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU LEAVE
FILE YOUR TAX RETURN
Not something I’ve done yet but everyone I’ve spoken to has told me to use a company to claim your tax (and your super) back on your behalf. There are companies that specialise in lodging these applications for those of us on Working Holidays. My working holiday company recommend Tax Back because they will also do super refunds and I guess it just makes it easier to have one company dealing with everything on your behalf. However, I will most likely shop around and check out some other service providers before I commit as they charge a percentage fee and I’ve heard it’s better to look for one that charge a flat fee – especially if you think you might have a fair amount of tax coming back to you.
The tax year in Australia runs from 1 July – 30 June. The conditions to getting your tax back are that you have to have be in Australia for at least 6 months of the tax year and worked for one employer for at least 4 months or 2 employers consistently for 5 months. You also need to KEEP ALL YOUR PAY SLIPS given to you by your employer as this will make the process of claiming your tax back much quicker. It usually takes 3-4 weeks.
You can apply at the end of the tax year for your refund for the previous year’s tax (even if you haven’t been in the country for 6 months yet, so long as you intend to stay for that duration it’s fine). If you are leaving Australia during a tax year you can apply for your refund before the end of the tax year so long as you are permanently departing. As you might end up working for periods during two tax years you may have to file two tax returns.
You can also apply to get your tax back when you get home to the UK. However if you have closed your Australian bank account you’ll have to pay the transfer fee to get the money sent to your UK account.
CLOSE YOUR BANK ACCOUNT
Remember before you leave Australia that you need to transfer any remaining funds you have in your Australian bank account back to your account back home and then close your account. You need to visit a branch in person to close your account so you may not be able to do this once you’ve left.
ONCE YOU’RE HOME
CLAIM BACK YOUR SUPER
You can claim back the money paid into your super (pension) account when you leave Australia because of course if you’re going to retire in the country you won’t need it kept there. This has to be done once you’ve left Australia and your visa has expired. Like with your tax refund it is advisable to use a backpacker tax/super company.
Anything vital you think I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments. I’d also love to hear from you if you have any advice for anyone about Working Holiday Visas in Australia. If you have any recommendations for backpacker tax companies I’d be grateful to hear about them.
As part of this series I will be featuring interviews with some of my fellow travellers who also used the Working Holiday Visa to go abroad – many of them also to Australia. While this post is (hopefully) informative they will share their personal experiences of what it’s really like to be travelling on a WHV and hopefully together we can provide some inspiration to anyone who might be thinking of following in our footsteps.