Hello Australia: The working holiday visa

Meet Pippa. Former STA Travel Customer Service Manager, European travel addict, and the manager of our new Working Holiday Heroes in Australia. (Essentially, the nice people in our Backpacker by STA Travel stores who help you find your feet, hug you if you’re homesick, and help explain what-the-hell-a-tax-file-number is). Having just migrated permanently Down Under from the UK, we figured who better to talk us through the whole Australia working holiday thing.

The whole visa thing. Is it as complicated as it sounds and when should people be applying?

Unlike the scramble for Canadian work visas each year, Australian working holiday visas aren’t limited to a certain number, so you can apply at any point. But really, the sooner the better to avoid a last-minute meltdown! From the date you get your visa accepted (and remember, you have to be outside of Australia at this point, so you can’t go into Oz on a tourist visa and then change your mind), you have 12 months to enter the country.

The process can be as quick as one week, but can take up to a few months if you need to provide more information to the embassy. The guys at STA Travel in the UK can help you get everything set up.

What’s the oldest you can be to get a working holiday visa?

Currently, it’s 18 to 30 years old. As in, you have to get your visa accepted before your 31st birthday.

And what’s the deal with the second working holiday visa?

So, this one kind of takes a bit of crystal ball planning! As in, if you THINK you might want to stay and do a second year, or go back over and do a second year before you’re 31, you have to complete three months (88 days) worth of government specified work in regional Australia on your FIRST visa.

The most popular work backpackers seem to go for is fruit picking or farm work. So if you’re already thinking one year won’t be enough, head to rural parts of Australia like Mildura in Victoria, Darwin in Northern Territory or Tully in Queensland. Get ready to get your hands dirty, plus a great tan 😉

What’s the average hourly rate for farm or casual work in Oz?

The minimum wage in Australia for 18-21-year-olds is $18.60 an hour. However, some farm work can pay up to $25 an hour and can have accommodation and food included, so it’s a great way to get your head down and save for a couple of months.
Remember, you can only work in one job for a maximum of 6 months.

What’s the strangest job you’ve heard of backpackers doing?

Weird and wonderful is always the way forward. We currently have a woman wanting to recruit people to dress up ‘old-world-like’ and play characters in a historic gold mine! Personally, I would really excel in this role…

Any advice for making friends? And more importantly, how’s the tea situation over there?

I’ve already started to make heaps of friends. Coming from London, a day can pass when you hardly make eye contact with people you see every day. But in Melbourne, everyone seems to have time for a good old chinwag. Plus, everywhere you go there’s always a Brit ordering an English breakfast tea, or wondering where the nearest chippy is – there are British expats everywhere! But *sniffling into a tissue* I won’t lie, you will always miss your friends and family.

But remember, everyone is in the same boat. The best thing you can do is book a starter pack that will include hostel accommodation and some local trips. That way you’ll get to see the city’s best bits AND make friends, win-win. Communal dorm living and hostel happy hours? I challenge anyone not to make friends! We can also organise group flights as well, where everyone travels over together.

Tell us about the Hello Australia starter packs!

We get that upping sticks and moving to the other side of the world without somewhere to live or a job can be daunting, so we’ve created these starter packs in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns and Perth. Basically, we deal with all the boring adult bits, so that you can find your feet and start having fun from the moment you land. We include an airport transfer, accommodation in Australia’s best backpacker hostels (such as Wake Up in Sydney, or Greenhouse in Melbourne) and a day trip or two somewhere awesome to give you chance to make friends. STA also have starter packs in Melbourne and Sydney called The Big One, which is a weeks’ worth of trips and group activities, including amazing overnight stays in places like Philip Island (see the cute little penguins!), to really get you stuck into Aussie life. And for anyone who wants to have their job (and their first pay check) organised before they go, there are also programmes to help secure work in top tourist destinations before you even hop on the plane.

And what about finding work?

We include 12 months membership to Work Australia and an appointment with one of our Working Holiday Heroes instore to get you set up and settled. We’ll help you with all the ‘yawn’ stuff – like tax file numbers, bank accounts, job searches, superannuation, Medicare cards etc; plus tell you where the best pubs are and what you should be getting out and about to see in the city.
We’re basically your Aussie mums!

Any final advice?

Yes! Remember, it’s a working HOLIDAY visa. The clue’s in the name. Which means it’s also about having fun. This is an amazing opportunity to live in a new country for a year and really experience life like an Aussie!

What else?

I’d always advise keeping your plans super flexible. Our FLEXI range of hop-on-hop-off bus passes and hostel passes mean that you’re not tied to dates, so you can stop and work somewhere for a month or two, save up some dollar, and then move on to the next place. And remember, you have the services of our Working Holiday Heroes and online jobs board for the full 12 months.

Find out more about working holiday visas and our Hello Australia starter packs here. And if you’ve already done the whole Oz thing, say ‘Hello New Zealand’ and disappear down there instead.