Thanks to our year-round sun, secluded tropical beaches, and irresistible collection of marsupials, Australia seems to be one of the most popular working holiday destinations, both for recent graduates looking to enjoy a gap year before diving into a “serious adult career” back home or for those hoping to fund long-term travel around Australia with some casual employment. Regardless of your motivations, this really is an incredibly easy way to experience life Down Under on a temporary basis (just be forewarned that you won’t want to leave when the 12 months are up). In this post, I’ll walk you through choosing a visa, your visa entitlements and conditions, and how to apply online.
Just note that all of this information is based on my own experience of applying for the Subclass 417 in 2016 and my own understanding of the visa process— I am not a migration agent or an employee of Home Affairs, so always do your own research.
Choosing the right Working Holiday Visa
Australia offers two different Working Holiday Visa, the Subclass 417 and Subclass 462 (technically called the Work and Holiday Visa, but same thing). Essentially the only difference between these two visas, other than the very subtle difference in name, is which countries are eligible to apply.
Citizens of the following countries should apply for a Subclass 417:
- Republic of Cyprus
- Hong Kong
- Republic of Ireland
- Republic of Korea
- United Kingdom
Citizens of the following countries should apply for a Subclass 462:
- China, People’s Republic of
- Czech Republic
- San Marino
- Slovak Republic
- United States of America
You’ll notice, unfortunately, that there are quite a few countries with whom Australia does not have working holiday agreements. If you are from one of these countries, you’ll need to get an entirely different kind of working visa and be sponsored by an employer if you want to come work in Australia. I won’t talk about any of those options here, but have a look at the Home Affairs site for more information.
Other eligibility requirements for a Working Holiday Visa
Aside from having a passport from one of the eligible countries above, you will need to fulfil a few other criteria in order to apply for either the Subclass 417 or Subclass 462 visa.
- You must be between 18-30 years old
- You may not bring any dependent family members with you
- You must apply from outside Australia
- You must have enough money to support yourself over the course of the year (the government usually wants to see about $5000AUD in a bank account that you have access to, but this is not one of the more strict requirements, as it’s understood you’ll be earning money while you’re here)
- You have obtained a letter of support from your government (not applicable to Subclass 417 or citizens of Argentina, Israel, China, Singapore & USA)
- You must have proficient English and supply evidence of this (not applicable to Subclass 417 or citizens of the USA)
- You must meet education requirements specific to your country, which could be a high school diploma or a tertiary degree (only applicable to Subclass 462)
Working Holiday Visa entitlements and conditions
Both the Subclass 417 and 462 Working Holiday Visas have identical entitlements and conditions. Once granted, either will allow you to:
- Stay in Australia for up to 12 months
- Study for up to 4 months
- Re-enter Australia as many times as you want while the visa is valid
The most important condition to note, however, is that you are only able to work for one employer for up to 6 months. This means that, after job hunting for ages and finally finding something you like and settling into your new work, you’ll have to quit after 6 months and do it all over again. It’s possible to apply to have this requirement waived, but I’ve never done it and don’t know anyone who has, so I can’t personally comment on how often this happens. More likely than not, this is just one of those annoying things you’ll have to plan for!
Second Working Holiday Visa
Another thing to consider is that the only way to get a second Working Holiday Visa is to work for at least 3 months during your first visa in northern Australia, either in tourism, hospitality, agriculture, forestry or fishing. Note that this includes northern bits of the NT, as well as QLD and WA. To find out what postcodes meet the requirement and get a better idea of what you’ll need to supply as proof, have a look at this form (you’ll actually lodge online, but there’s a bit of useful info on here!).
This “88 day” requirement applies to both the Subclass 417 and 462, and you’ll want to apply for the second visa from within Australia before your first visa expires. Sadly, there is no option to get a third Working Holiday Visa, so hopefully you’ll have found a sponsor by then if you’re hoping to continue working here.
Applying for a Working Holiday Visa
After you’ve determined which subclass to apply for and made sure you meet all the requirements, the application process is quite simple. Most countries will apply online through an ImmiAccount, but this paper version of the application should give you an idea of what will be asked. Essentially, you need to provide personal information and details on any previous visas, your health (relevant medical history, health insurance, etc), and your character (criminal convictions, etc).
After completing your application and paying the fee (varies, but was $440AUD for US citizens in 2016), all that’s left to do is wait for a decision from Home Affairs, which could arrive anywhere from a few days to about 6 weeks after submission via email. I received my Working Holiday Visa within 2 days, so for simpler applications (ones that don’t need to be translated into English and ones the require less evidence), the processing time seems to be quite quick. Still, you need to be outside the country when you apply and when the visa is granted, so allow enough time before booking flights. And then enjoy your time in Oz!