This post is part i of my (very lengthy) series on Moving to Australia. Use that link to read the overview post or use this link to see all of the posts in this series.

So you know you are interested in living Down Under, but first you’ll have to make a simple decision (or difficult, maybe, who knows..): do you want to work or study? In theory, there is an option C (travel), but even travelling will require a visa if you want to be here more than 90 days. I don’t want to even broach option D (actual Working Visas) here because they are incredibly hard to get approved, require massive amounts of work, and hinge on sponsorship from a company, which is even harder to secure than it sounds. Unless your company is relocating you and handling it, I wouldn’t hang your hopes on getting this visa.

Option 1: Student Visa

Maybe you are interested in more education! (For me, I was interested in different education, moving here after only 10 weeks of university in Seattle.)

Whether you are looking to do your first (or second) Bachelor, or try your hands at postgraduate study, it’s really not hard! Not the studying, the studying is definitely hard, the process of getting a visa, I mean.

Back in 2012, I got my visa emailed to me in a matter of days. No longer is the case! My 2016 application had me waiting 3 weeks. Thankfully, I was still on a valid Working Holiday Visa and got to wait impatiently from within the country.

The revamp of the Student Visa system does mean that the process is a lot more straightforward, though. Now, there is only one visa, the subclass 500. The visa is much longer to complete than it used to be, but it is still fairly simple. To be able to apply for this visa, you must have applied to an Australian university, been extended an “offer” to study, accepted this offer, and received a “Confirmation of Enrolment” or CoE. You may have to pay for the first session of your course and the mandatory Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) first, but read more about this in part ii.

Once you have your CoE, all you will need is a scan of your passport’s photo page, your resume (don’t stress too much about this being perfect), and a heap of very tiresome personal details (i.e. I was asked during my 2016 application to list every country I had ever visited and the exact dates…). Another new requirement with the updated visas is the “Genuine Temporary Entrant” section. This is meant to identify people who are attempting to sneakily enter Australia on a study visa and never leave. Hey, isn’t that all of us? Jk. I really worked myself up into a frenzy over this, but in the end I just typed a very (very) short letter explaining why I wanted to study here. And I was approved, so do not stress, my friends. Just write something up quickly and slap it in there.

To address some of the other “requirements” that are listed on the government site (linked above), I have never been asked to submit to a health screening, I have never had to provide evidence of my financial solvency, and I did not submit a certified copy of my birth certification (…wtf). It is also automatically assumed that anyone from an English-speaking country will be proficient in English and therefore we are not required to do any language testing. They are far less strict than they pretend to be, the Australians.

Before you submit your application, you’ll have to pay the hefty $550AUD (current price as of 01/2017). That’s about $400USD, for all my yankee doodles. Yes, it’s not fun, but it will be so worth it! Read on to part ii for more about selecting a university (which you actually need to do before this step, oopsy), choosing a course, and navigating uni life!

Option 2: Working Holiday Visa

I bet you forgot there was an option 2 after all that rambling! Well, the second option for your move is to take a working holiday. After graduating in 2015 and my visa expiring in early 2016, I took a 2 week trip out of the country to apply for a Working Holiday Visa.

There are two different versions of this visa, subclass 462 and subclass 417, and it will just depend on your citizenship as to which you will apply for (bloody favouritism for Commonwealth countries). For Americans, we apply for 462 and it allows us to work in Australia, in any industry, for 12 months. I specify “any industry” because some visas are conditional upon working 3 months in the agricultural sector (i.e. fruit picking) or rural hospitality (but keep in mind, rural is being defined as northern WA, NT, and QLD, so it is more rural than you are imagining). The agriculture/rural work condition will only apply if you wish to apply for a second 462—without that fruit picking, you are limited to one
Working Holiday per lifetime!

The only pesky condition of the visa that will apply to one-year users is that you are only allowed to work for one employer for 6 months (i.e. after you go through all the pain of finding a good job, you have to quit and find a new one half way into your visa). There is an option to apply for an exemption, which will require some involvement from your employer as well, and you can find the form here. I have no idea if these are frequently granted, as I went back to study on a new visa before my 6 months were up and never had to use it (even though I diligently bookmarked it at the start of the year, you’re welcome).

Some other relevant information about the visa: you can exit and enter as many times as you want, so travel far and wide! After paying the $440AUD for the visa, you can submit your application and expect a response within a few days via email.