Easy to travel. Good wages. Great weather. The possibility of a year stay or more. Australia is an attractive destination for a multitude of reasons. Luckily for all of you thinking about it, the Working Holiday Visa makes your dream fairly easy to reach. From someone who has done it, here is all the information you’ll need to get yourself on the road to Bondi.
From The Comfort Of Home
The most important decision you need to make when it comes to Australia is what type of visa you want or need. This is essentially answering the question of how long do you want to stay in the country:
- 3 Months
- Tourist Visa (check here to see which visa you are eligible for)
- 3 Months – 2 years
- More than 2 years
- Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189)
- Sponsorship and\or Residency
There are additional visas available that are designed for business, diplomatic and other such scenarios which we won’t cover but you can find out more about here.
Australian visas do cost money in most circumstances and the price will vary depending on where you are from and how long you are staying.
Do It Yourself!
Be aware that there are tons of websites out there that allow you to apply for your visa through them and some will charge you a fee to do so. This is absolutely not necessary, you can apply yourself via the Australian Government website and pay only the required fees directly to them. I heavily advise you to always use this practice, regardless of which country you are planning on entering, as problems are far easier to solve when there is not a ‘middleman’ who wants your money involved.
Once you have had your visa accepted, you will see that you have a ‘last entry date’ on the documentation which means that you must enter the country prior to this date otherwise it is no longer valid and you will be refused.
Customs & Immigration
Australian Immigration has specific entry requirements which can include money, flights out of the country, visa documentation, proof of financial stability and more. Ensure you tick all the boxes before arriving to the country as they are famously strict on immigration!
HOT TIP: Customs can be strict here, and they love big fines, so be very vigilant about what is in your bags and whether it breaks the rules stipulated on the immigration card to avoid any fines. This includes easy to overlook objects like fruit or vegetables from the plane!
There’s this thing out there called travel insurance. It’s like car insurance but it’s for when you are travelling. Similar to when you insure your house to cover all of your belongings but when your house is a bag and your belongings include your body and life. It’s kind of like gadget insurance except your phone is your actual life and health. You should get travel insurance. We recommend you get travel insurance. A Hot Minute wants you to have travel insurance. You should check out this stuff below..
Always read reviews and shop around the market before purchasing insurance, cheaper doesn’t always mean covered and more expensive doesn’t always mean better! Read what you are covered for and, more importantly, what you are not covered for.
Getting To The Biggest Island On The Planet
If you have a fear of flying or struggle with particularly long flights then i’m afraid you’re going to have to meditate your way through at least one to get to Australia. If you really do struggle then you can fly from Bali to Cairns in around 5 hours but more than likely you will be looking upwards of 8 hours and if you’re heading over from the UK you are looking at 24hr+ total travel time. Flights will come in via the Middle East and Eastern Asia but if you search hard enough and are flexible with dates then you can get a one way journey without a hefty stopover for a fairly reasonable price. Depending on the time of year, you might need to search very hard to find a good deal but they are out there!
There is, of course, the option of living your life by the credit card and earning yourself huge points bonuses to put towards flights, upgrades and lounges. If you are savvy in this already then congratulations, we’re jealous. If you’re not then we have an article coming soon that will teach you everything you need to know!
Getting Settled In
As with almost anywhere around the world, your best bet is to start in a hostel that fits the vibe that you are looking for. You’ve already chosen the city you want to fly into so why not settle down there for a little while whilst you get all of your foundations laid. Hostels can vary massively in price, quality of location, quality of accomodation, size, average length of stay and so on. Your best bet when finding a place to settle for a while is reviews or, even better, word of mouth recommendations. A good place to start is Hostelworld.
Dorm rooms are the most common first choice and we would recommend you aim for a 4 or 6 bed dorm, with an ensuite if you can, at the most. If you are travelling very cheap then of course more beds per room will bring the price down but for the sake of your sleep or your ability to get up for work at 6am, a few dollars a week can be really worth it. There are ‘long stay’ hostels around the cities and ones that are aimed more towards people who are working rather than partying, so shop around.
There is a room you may have heard of before you get to Sydney which is known as ‘The Church’. It is part of West End Backpackers Hostel on Pitt Street and is a 32 bed dorm room, costing $15 per night, full of people pretending they’re still at uni or trying desperately hard to live the uni lifestyle. The hostel gave out free goon every night and in my time staying there (in a comfy enough 4 bed with 3 friends) I heard about people being pissed on, finding their bags full of sick and coming home from work to their beds being occupied by an unconscious human. By all means, if you want cheap accomodation and a big party then maybe The Church is where your destiny lies.
HOT TIP: When looking at hostels, avoid the big cities of Australia like the plague around New Years Eve. The prices per bed become astronomical and downright ridiculous. If you are heading over around that time then try to get there earlier in the month and book early or make friends with someone on the plane and crash on their couch?
A Place Beyond The Dorms
Once you are settled in and you’ve got your foundations laid you can start thinking about where you want to work and live. When you’ve made that choice then check out our No More Dorms (coming soon) article for advice on finding somewhere you can call home for a while.
Your Own Personal Vault (aka. a bank)
You’ve got somewhere to sleep and make food, even though you’re definitely spending all of your hard earned savings in Guzman y Gomez or Grill’d, so now you need to make some cash before it all dries up. Opening a bank account is vital once you get into the country. You do not want to be paying a fee every time you buy something with your home bank card or paying a fee to constantly transfer cash to someone else’s account so they can withdraw it for you.
We recommend Commonwealth Bank. The app works well, transferring money is easy, payments come through fast, there are ATMs everywhere and opening the account is easy; it can be done before you even fly out here! On my first day in Sydney I found the bank branch (Town Hall is very central and easy to find), opened the accounts, transferred my savings over for free, started my Superannuation and picked up my bank card. The ordering of the bank card was an additional option during the application process, make sure you do it! Open it in advance. Open it in advance. Open it in advance. It couldn’t have been easier and that meant more time drinking Sydney’s poor attempts at cider (soon to be replaced by goon) and less time doing admin.
‘What is a Superannuation?’ – It’s essentially a compulsory pension that employers are required to pay into on your behalf. Depending on which visa you are on, you should receive a lump of this back when you leave the country for good.
Are there other banks?
Some of the banks here do charge small monthly fees of around $5 which are waived if you deposit more than $2000 a month (amount may vary between banks). In other words, get your income paid into this account from all of your jobs and it’s all good.
Other banks that offer similar services are:
Westpac – these guys are prominent in New Zealand too so may be worth considering if that is in your plans
ANZ – Australia & NZ banking
When you move countries for a period of time it is normally a good idea to try your best not to die. Not only does it mean your trip comes to an end but there’s also the small inconvenience to your family of trying to repatriate your body at a cost of thousands of dollars (oh yeah, did I mention you should get travel insurance by the way..).
The healthcare system in Australia is called Medicare and is the same system used by Australian citizens. Depending on your home country, you may be eligible for Reciprocal Medicare whereby you can see medical professionals, if you require, and you are eligible to use services that ‘bulk bill’. Bulk billing means the medicare system covers the costs for you or you get a refund for part of the costs. This is good. It’s around $70 per session to see a GP here and you should get some of that refunded. The application process for Medicare can be a little tedious but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s free to get signed up.
Never Trust A Man With Two Phones
As much as your mobile phone number back home seemingly has your entire life attached to it, I’d hazard a guess that 90% of the contacts in your phone book are useless or old. You’re saying bye to a lot of things back home for a little while, make your home phone number one of them.
Grab a SIM card, and a new phone if you’re one of those baller travellers, from one of the big names over here: Vodafone, Optus or Telstra. The available plans will change all the time so your best bet is to contact them directly, or go into a shop and get your bartering skills on to get the best plan for you. Plans vary from 12 month contracts to month by month ‘recharge’ plans. If you’re not one for sticking things through to the bitter end then don’t take a 12 months contract. You will end up with debt collectors chasing you and your friends down, endlessly. Trust me, i’m someone’s friend.
HOT TIP: Vodafone offers a 12 month contract that gives you 600+ minutes to call back home, per month, for free. I mean, we all love our families but nobody needs more than 600 minutes a month to call home..
Earning That Sweet Weird Plastic Paper
A relatively easy way to get yourself sorted and reduce your weekly spending is to work for accomodation in a hostel. This basically means that you’ll have chores or jobs, such as cleaning up after all the 18 year olds who don’t know where their parents have gone, for a set amount of hours a week; 16-20 hours or so. You won’t be paid but you won’t have to pay for your bed either so it can be great. Use this as a stopgap whilst you’re finding paid work to prevent your savings dwindling fast, especially in Sydney.
A ‘Proper’ Job
Aside from that, getting a job in Australia is the same as any other country! Google is your best friend, gumtree ads, facebook, friends of friends or word of mouth and your hostels notice boards can always be helpful. The good old fashioned method of handing out your CV to every single shop, bar and cafe in the local area often proves fruitful and signing yourself up to temping agencies in the city is a good idea too.
It goes without saying, if you are experienced in more a specific field then of course do what you can to continue working within that, bettering yourself and your career if that’s what you’re after! This will increase your chance of finding a company who are willing to sponsor you too which is valuable if you’re looking to stay for longer than 2 years.
Construction & Traffic Control
Construction can be a very lucrative industry here in Australia and, depending on where you are in the country, fairly easy to get into with little to no experience. There is a huge variety of work in the industry and if you have any experience or qualifications from home then you can earn yourself good money very quickly as a tradesman. There are agencies that service this industry so they are your best bet to get started.
Traffic Control positions are often filled by working holidays makers, predominantly females from what I understand, but can also qualify as your regional work depending on your visa and location. I know a few people who do this and the money is good, even more so if you are happy to work overnight shifts and weekends. Here are some links to more information in different states: NSW/Sydney, Western Australia, Northern Territories, Queensland, Victoria.
Staying Longer (Working Holiday Visa 462 & 417)
For all us normal peasants who don’t have a job that makes it easy to get sponsored, or makes it almost impossible (me!), then you’re going to have to earn your second year visa, and I mean earn it. Currently the Australian Government requires all 417 and 462 Working Holiday visa holders to complete 88 days of ‘regional work’ in order to qualify for a second year. Welcome to the world of grey areas, rumours, ‘my friend did this and was ok’ and nervous waiting.
For more information on doing your regional work then head over to our designated article: Earning Your Second Year Visa
Your best chance of staying in Australia, and one of the most sought after visa options amongst travellers is the infamous sponsorship (457 visa). In essence, this is a company agreeing to employ you for 2 years or more, allowing you to stay in the country and work towards applying for your Permanent Residency (PR). The questions associated with this are vast and the information resources huge so visit the Home Affairs websites for more on staying here. You can use SkillSelect to show employers you are interested or find a Migration Agent to assist you in the process. As always, we recommend that you get all of your information from government sources. Information changes all the time and you should pay any fees and costs directly to them.
UPDATE: On April 18th 2017 the 457 Visa was terminated and replaced with a Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (subclass 482) known as a TSS. You can no longer apply for a 457 Visa. The purpose of this visa is to fill temporary shortages of staff in skilled vocations whilst still giving Australia citizens priority. With multiple ‘streams’ of visa types and varying degrees of qualifying statistics to adhere to we won’t be breaking this down bit by bit here. There is no doubt that it will change regularly in the early stages of its life so head to the Temporary Skill Shortage visa page for all of the necessary information.
From personal experience we can say that moving to Australia and staying for 2 years is an amazing experience and it’s a great country to explore. Hopefully with all of this information you feel ready to begin planning your move. If you still have any questions then feel free to contact Nathan by the Contact Us page or by commenting on this article.
Big love and positive vibes,
N & G x