How to Get a Working Holiday Visa for Australia

Living and working in Australia is a dream come true for many, and you can make it reality with a working holiday visa. If you’re under the age of 31 you may qualify to live and work in Australia for up to two years. Here's how you can obtain a working holiday visa in Australia. 

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Your Guide to a Working Holiday Visa in Australia

Did you know that if you’re under 31 year you could spend up to a year or more traveling and working around Australia? Imagine all the adventures you could have with so much time!

What is a Working Holiday Visa?

An Australian Working Holiday Visa is a visa that allows individuals from certain countries to live and work in Australia for up to one year. Individuals must be between 18 and 31 to apply for the visa. Once you receive your visa, you have up to a year to enter Australia.

Who Qualifies for a Working Holiday Visa for Australia?

Unfortunately, not all nationalities qualify for a Working Holiday Visa. You must be an eligible passport holder from a specific list of countries. Australia has two different Working Holiday Visas: Subclass 462 and Subclass 417. The visa subclass that you qualify for depends on your nationality. 

Those who qualify for a Subclass 417 visa must hold a passport from the following countries:

  • Canada
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

Those who qualify for a Subclass 462 visa must hold a passport from the following qualifying countries:

  • Argentina
  • Bangladesh
  • Chile
  • China
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • USA
  • Uruguay

In addition, all individuals need to meet the following qualifying criteria:

  • Be of good character with no criminal record (a speeding ticket is okay).
  • Have never been rejected, deported or detained in any countries.
  • Meet the good health requirements (you may need a chest x-ray and a HIV, Hep B, or Hep C test if you have resided in a country considered high risk for more than three months).
  • Will not be accompanied by dependent children at any time during your stay.
  • Have enough money to support yourself during your stay and to purchase a return ticket home (about AU $5,000).
  • Have not previously entered Australia on any Working Holiday Visa.
  • Meet the minimum education requirement (varies per country and only for Subclass 462).
  • Have functional English.
  • Some nationalities may need a letter of support from their government.

How Do I Apply for a Working Holiday Visa for Australia?

Applying for your Working Holiday Visa depends on your nationality. Many nationalities can apply online through the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.

However, not all countries can apply online and must instead file a paper application. Check the Department of Immigration website to see if you can apply for your visa online. For those who qualify for a Subclass 462 visa, only USA citizens can apply online. Some nationalities must lodge their visa applications at the Australian Immigration office within their own country or a nearby country. The paper application can be found here. Both Working Holiday Visas cost AU $450. If you apply through a paper application, it costs an additional AU $80.

Not every applicant will be accepted for a Working Holiday Visa. Some countries have a limited number of visas available per year. It is best to apply early for your best chances. 

Once an application is officially filed with the Australian Immigration office, it takes between 14 to 21 days to process. Those individuals who are able to apply online may hear back as soon as the next day. If additional documentation is required, like an official health check, the office will contact you for documentation.

Once you have received your visa approval, you have up to one year from your visa approval date to enter Australia. The visa is an electronic visa so don’t expect to have a visa sticker placed in your passport. You are allowed to enter and leave Australia has many times as you like, but your visa expiration date does not change. If you do leave the country and plan to come back, have a printed copy of your visa, as many airlines will ask for proof that you are allowed to return to Australia after your holiday.

Can I Get a Second Working Holiday Visa?

Once only available to Subclass 417 Working Holiday Visa holders, Subclass 462 holders may qualify for a second-year visa if they complete specified work in regional Australia. Each visa has different requirements, so it’s critical to understand the requirements and find a qualified job in the right region of Australia. 

To successfully apply for a second Working Holiday Visa, Subclass 417 visa holders must have already completed 88 days of specified work in regional Australia defined by the Department of Immigration. Specified work is defined as work in a specified field or industry in a designated regional area.

Currently approved industries for specified work include:

  • Plant and animal cultivation, including harvesting, packing of crops, and/or pruning and trimming.
  • Fishing and pearling.
  • Tree farming and felling.
  • Mining.
  • Construction.

Many individuals complete their 88 days by picking fruit, working on a cattle or horse farm, or working in construction. Individuals may complete all their days with one employer or with multiple. WOOFING and volunteer jobs are no longer accepted as part of your 88 days. In order to qualify for your second visa, you need to complete 88 paid full days of work, which is generally between seven and eight hours. When you send in your application you will need to provide evidence that you satisfied the requirements. Acceptable evidence includes copies of your pay slips, payment summaries, tax returns, or an original Australian bank statement.

Before you accept any specified work make sure you check that the job is located in an approved regional work area. The Department of Immigration website breaks the regions down by postcode, but essentially anywhere outside of an urban metro like Sydney or Melbourne is acceptable.

Similar to the 417 visa requirements, 462 visa holders must complete similar work for a minimum of 88 days in northern Australia. Northern Australia is defined as Queensland and Western Australia north of the Tropic of Capricorn, and all of the Northern Territory. Unlike the 417 visa, 462 visa holders may work in tourism and hospitality in addition to farm work. The application process is the same as 417 visa holders outlined above.

What Kind of Work Can I Do While in Australia?

You can do essentially any kind of work in Australia as long as it is lawful. As of March 2017, you are allowed to work for the same employer for up to 12 months, but only in one location for up to six months. You can work for as many or as few employers or jobs as you like. Many choose to work in the tourism, hospitality or agricultural industry, as the jobs are plentiful and geared towards causal workers. 

In order to officially work in Australia, you need a tax file number (TFN). Unfortunately, you can’t apply for a tax number unless you have a physical mailing address in Australia, but a hostel address works. You can apply for your TFN online through the Australia Taxation Office. If you intend to work as a contractor or start a business in Australia, you’ll need an Australian Business Number (ABN). Register online and you’ll have your ABN the same day.

Once you hit Australian soil you can start to look for a job, even without your TFN. You have a month to provide your employer with your TFN. It’s tough to get a job in Australia while you are in your home country or traveling. There are many ways to find a job in Australia from online job boards like Gumtree or Backpacker Job Boards, to the old fashion way of hitting the pavement handing out your CV to potential employers. Many backpackers find jobs through hostels or asking around town.

If you choose to work in the hospitality or food industry, you’ll need a Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certificate to serve alcohol. The RSA certification is a one-day course that is state-specific. Courses are easy to find and happen multiple times throughout the month. Ask around your hostel to find out when and where the next course may be. If you want to work in construction, you’ll need a White Card (CIC).

The minimum wage in Australia is currently AU $18.93 per hour, but many Working Holiday Visa holders make much more depending on where they work. Jobs in the city often pay more because the cost of living is higher than rural areas. However, rural jobs often provide free room and board.

Do I Need Health Insurance?

Health insurance is important. The Australian government actively encourages visitors to have adequate health insurance coverage to meet their particular health needs while staying in Australia. With certain temporary visa subclasses, for example, a Temporary Work (skilled) subclass 457 or a Student visa, you will be asked to provide evidence of adequate health insurance for the duration of your stay in Australia.

For those on a working holiday visa, some nationalities including those from the UK, Ireland, Italy and New Zealand may qualify for Australia’s Medicare system under the reciprocal healthcare agreement. It means expensive health items such as ambulance, most dental work, and a range of non-subsidized medicines, are covered, but private patient hospital might not be covered by the arrangements. However, most nationalities are not eligible for this scheme.

Great news for World Nomads travel insurance policyholders: emergency medical coverage may help ease the pain if you’re in an accident or are hit with a sudden illness. But be aware there are limits to the cover, particularly for routine medicals, dental check-ups or chronic conditions, so read your policy documents carefully.

And remember, unlike health insurance, travel insurance also helps get you home if your condition is so severe that you can’t continue your working holiday.

Do I Need an Australian Bank Account?

You will need an Australian bank account to live and work in Australia. It’s best to open an account within 28 days of arriving in Australia. Just visit any bank with your passport and relevant documentation. Most employers will pay your wages by electronic funds transfer right into your bank account.

Australian banks charge a monthly account fee and pay little to no interest in your accounts. Unfortunately, there is no way around this. Your bank will provide you with an ATM or cash card for your use. Some banks charge an ATM fee, so try to stick to your banks’ ATM to save money. If you’re planning on going to New Zealand after Australia, consider banking with ANZ or Commonwealth, as they have branches in both countries.

Many Australian banks have mobile apps that make banking easy during your stay. Purchase a local SIM card and stay connected with your bank, and your family and friends back home. The internet is expensive and slow in Australia, and mobile data is the best way to stay connected.

Do I Need to Pay Australian Taxes?

The tax laws changed recently, and all working holiday makers will be taxed at 15% for the first AU $37,000 of their income. If you make over AU $37,001, you will be taxed at 32.5% for every dollar you make over that threshold. The good news is if you make under $37,000 during the tax year (July 1st – June 30th), you now do not have to file a tax return with the Australian Tax Office. 

Depending on your nationality you may also be required to file taxes in your home country. For example, US citizens who live outside the United States for at least 330 full days may earn up to about US $100,000 of foreign income without being taxed in the US for their worldwide income. Every country is different, so consult with a tax professional in your home country.

What is Superannuation?

Superannuation is like social security or a retirement fund for Australians. If your monthly wage/salary is more than AU $450 then your employer must contribute 9.5% of your wage to your superannuation account for you.

You can either set up your own superannuation account when you open your Australian bank account or your employer can set up an account for you. If you plan to work for multiple employers during your time in Australia, it makes more sense to open your own account because when you leave Australia you can take the money with you. The money is subject to a 65% income tax, but that money is yours to take.

For more information on how to claim your superannuation, visit the Australian Taxation Office.

Can I Stay in Australia When My Visa Expires?

No, you are not allowed to overstay your visa. If you overstay your Working Holiday Visa, then you may face heavy penalties. You may not be allowed to return to Australia for a specific period of time, generally between three to five years. You may also lose your second year visa opportunity.

If you do accidentally overstay your Working Holiday Visa, then you should contact the Immigration Office within 28 days of your visa expiration date. If you are honest with the Immigration Office, you may have more options then if you didn’t contact them.

I Want to Stay, Can I Get a Permanent Australian Visa?

It’s not uncommon for individuals who come to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa to want to stay after their visa expires. Thankfully Australia offers many other temporary or permanent visas options depending on your qualifications.

If you have an Australian spouse or de facto partner, you might qualify for the Provisional Partner visa (Subclass 309) and Partner (Migrant) visa (Subclass 100). Your relationship must be with an Australia citizen or permanent resident. You will need to prove that your relationship is genuine and ongoing. You can’t just pick a random person to be in a relationship with in order to qualify for a visa.

You may also qualify for a Temporary Work visa (Subclass 457) if an Australian business agrees to sponsor you and you have the required skills to fill the position. In order for you to apply for this visa, your employer must apply to be a sponsor and nominate a position. Obtaining a Temporary Work visa has become increasingly hard due to recent changes to the required skills list.

There are many other visa options that can give you temporary or permanent residency in Australia so check out the Australia Immigration website for more options.

5 Comments

  • Alexandra Stryder said

    I really wish somebody would write an article on how to get a working holiday visa in Australia if you are OVER 31. It's such age discrimination and there are many people like me who just missed that age bracket and want to live in Australia. Hope you'll publish an article on that too. THANKS!

  • Coconut Bites said

    Check out my simple step by step guide
    http://coconut-bites.com/2017/05/13/australian-working-holiday-visa-whv-how-to-guide/

  • Coconut Bites said

    Check out my simple step by step guide
    http://coconut-bites.com/2017/05/13/australian-working-holiday-visa-whv-how-to-guide/

  • Lila said

    Hey..:)
    I would like to know if I can leave the country and come back with the working holiday visa... can't find informations about that..
    Do you know that?

  • Luisa said

    Hi,
    I want to apply as soon a second possible because my 31th birthday is in 2 weeks! But they ask me to pay up front and I'm worried that if they don't accept me, they won't refund the money.

    My concerns al because of my age and also because I do hold a subclass 417 passport but also another passport that is not even in the list... does anyone have experience with something like this??

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