Ever thought about quitting your job and moving abroad? Of course you have, that’s why you’re here. And you just happen to have hit the right blog!
We’re Matt and Ally, a British/Canadian couple who live for travelling and blog about it at Borderline Backpackers. In the early days, our first few trips were just short city breaks throughout Europe, progressively getting longer and more adventurous… until we decided to uproot our lives in the UK and try living in another country. We chose to move to Australia on the Working Holiday Visa for the warm weather, great pay and easy-going lifestyle.
After travelling all along the east coast and to the Outback, there’s still more of Australia for us to see. One year was not enough!
Packing up to move across the world can be rather intimidating at first, but it’s not as hard as you might think. You don’t necessarily have to put your career on hold, or even commit to a whole year away.
Why not start with a Working Holiday Visa? Or skip to what you need to know with the links below.
First thing’s first…
A Working Holiday Visa is the perfect opportunity to experience living in another country. It’s a great way for young people to travel long-term, as you can holiday longer than the typical tourist visa and stop to work when you need to top up the funds. This visa can last anywhere from 12-24 months, depending on the country you’d like to go to.
British citizens get 12 months on their initial Australian Working Holiday Visa. You have to be between the ages of 18-30 when you submit the application and must not be accompanied by dependent children. In addition to this, when you enter the country to activate your visa, you must have proof of available funds to support your trip, or a return ticket out of the country.
There is a catch, of course: Any Working Holiday Visa is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Once granted, the clock starts ticking and you have one year to enter, or you lose the visa. If you apply at the age of 30, you must enter before your 31st birthday, or you will also lose the visa.
Working in Australia
Australia has one of the highest basic pay rates in the world, making it an ideal place to earn a lot of money in a short time span.
If you’re already travelling full time, you could use this opportunity to top up your travel fund. Still living in the UK and in need of a change from the typical 9-5 crunch? Work casually in Australia and use the rest of your time to explore the local area, meet new people and relax. Great part-time jobs that pay well in Australia and are still very social, include bartending, waitressing and working in a hostel.
Alternatively, you could use this opportunity to further your career. Having experience abroad looks great on a CV or resume, and will help you to improve skills such as communication and networking.
It is important to note, that while you can work across many industries, you can only work with one company or employer for up to 6 months. This means, you might have to change jobs while in Australia, but on the bright side, this gives you a chance to try something new or expand another skill/service.
Throughout our time in Australia, we both chose casual jobs that we had previous experience in. Ally worked as a travel agent, using our trip up the East Coast to help fellow travellers and backpackers find the best excursions for them. Matt worked as the bar manager at our hostel, training new staff, monitoring stock and serving customers. We didn’t use this opportunity to advance our careers, instead, choosing jobs that we enjoyed, and worked part-time so we could save money for future travels while enjoying where we were. Through our work, we made new friends and new connections all over the world. Surprisingly, we left Australia with more money than when we arrived — the pay is really that good!
How much exactly will I earn in Australia?
If we told you the streets are paved with gold in Australia (compared to the UK), we wouldn’t be lying. With a minimum wage of $18.93 per hour, you’ll be laughing all the way to the ATM. Here’s an idea of what you’ll earn per hour for some of the most popular backpacker jobs…
- Barista: Melbourne and Sydney are famous for their amazing brunches and world-class coffee. Serving it will earn you a comfy $17-25 per hour.
- Bar work: You’ll earn another $17-25 per hour working behind the bar… plus the occasional tip! Some rural areas also offer you digs to stay in while you work in bottle shops and pubs which is a great way to save.
- Shop assistant: You’ll earn between $19-30 an hour with some cool staff discounts and more sociable hours.
- Hospitality: Bag $17-25 per hour plus tips, with corporate hospitality and big events such as the Melbourne Cup paying up to $50 an hour during public holidays!
- Office work: Office admin roles pay $20-35 an hour. Already experienced in a field like PR, recruitment, design or marketing? Expect a salary higher than what you’d earn in the UK.
- Travel agent: Land a job selling travel to other… well, travellers, and you could nab a minimum wage of up to to $26 an hour, plus incentives like free trips.
- Labour and farming: (This includes regional work which allows you to apply for your second year visa) If you have experience as a builder, laborer or tradesman, expect to earn over $30 an hour. Farm work can vary depending on where you are. Whereas bananas, cattle farming and root vegetables can pay upwards of $20 an hour, fruit picking wages are determined by how much you pick and weigh in each day.
You might find that one year in Australia is not enough, and you’d do anything to stay longer. The good news is you can! British citizens are eligible for a second year on their Working Holiday Visa, pending you complete 3 months of specified work.
Although it’s also commonly referred to as ‘farm work’ you don’t necessarily have to work on a farm. You do, however, have to complete a form of regional work, that usually takes you away from major cities. This can be done in one job over 3 months, or simply 88 days if you work part-time or change jobs part way through. The types of eligible work include plant and animal cultivation, fishing and pearling, tree farming, mining and construction.
You must complete your regional work within you first Working Holiday Visa, as any days accumulated afterwards will not count. If you don’t complete ‘sign off’ according to the rules and regulations of the Australian Government, you won’t be able to go back to Australia on another Working Holiday Visa. The best perk of having your second year visa, is that it doesn’t have to be used immediately, so long as you apply and enter before your 31st birthday.
Perhaps you have heard that tourism industry jobs, such as travel agent or hotel reception, can count for your regional work, but that is not true for British citizens. Be wary of companies or individuals who offer you tourism work for sign off, as it is not only illegal and invalid, but could ruin your chances of travelling to Australia as a tourist in the future.
Most importantly, make sure to keep a record of your employment details and payslips, as you will need these to apply for the second year visa.
How to get a third year working holiday visa
BIG news! From July 2019, you’ll be able to extend your stay Down Under for a third year. How? You complete six months of specified work in your second year. Specified work can be anything from regional farming, to construction, surveying, mining or fishing – there’s a lot of scope.
How to find regional work in Australia
Talk with your fellow travellers. Those who have already completed their regional work can recommend where they did it, or perhaps places nearby. Facebook groups like ‘Australian Backpackers’ and ‘Farm Work Australia’ are a good place to find a range of jobs across the country. Alternatively, there are agencies you can pay to find your regional work, and websites you can check to ‘follow the harvest’ so you know which fruit and veg will be in season and in need of farming, where.
Applying for a Working Holiday Visa with STA Travel
When it came time to apply for our visas, we had two options: Do it ourselves online, or use an agency to help with our applications. After a lot of research and consideration, we chose to use our local STA Travel. The difference in price to use STA Travel was minimal, and in addition to sending off our applications, the company offered an entire starter package for our new lives in Australia. They gave us a contact ‘down under’ who helped us to open our own Australian bank accounts, which included three free international money transfers, set up our tax file numbers and started our superannuation accounts in advance, so we could work immediately.
This package saved us a lot of time and hassle when we arrived in Australia and cannot recommend this STA Travel service enough!
If you don’t go for a package like this, and decide to sort it out when you arrive, these are some key things you´ll want to get sorted out within the first few days.
- Aussie mobile number – You don’t want to be paying through the nose making international calls and texts on your UK mobile. If you’re here for a year, the cheapest option is to get an Australian sim card. Bear in mind that hostel wifi is usually pretty weak, so worth paying a bit extra for a larger data package. Vodafone, Telstra and Optus all have cheaper sister companies that offer PAYG and monthly contracts, perfect for backpackers and travellers. No contract required!
- Bank account – Avoid carrying around your spending money in cash, and get a bank account set up ASAP. You’ll get your debit card in the post a few days later, so you may have to stay put for a little while until it arrives.
- Tax File Number (TFN) – When you’re working in Australia, you’re going to need to pay income tax, the same as you would back home. To avoid being put on the maximum tax band, you’ll need to register for a tax file number. You can sometimes claim part of this tax back when you leave. This takes a minimum of four weeks, so apply early, perhaps before you even arrive in Australia.
- Superannuation account – Referred to as ‘super’, this account is like your pension while in Australia. You pay part of your wages into this automatically every paycheck, and can claim some of it back when you leave the country permanently, as it’s unlikely you’ll still be living there when you hit retirement age.
Ready to work hard and play harder Down Under? Get started here.
Thanks Borderline Backpackers for all the first hand advice!