So speaking from experience, when first casting your eye over the wordiness of the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs website, it can seem difficult and almost daunting to find the information you need for the appropriate visa you’re intending to apply for. However, don’t be fooled by appearances – it’s actually a LOT simpler than it looks.
First, you’ll have to establish the visa you need to apply for. They will all be listed under ‘Visitor Visa’s’. In this post, I’m focusing on the two main options being, the 417 (Working Holiday Visa) and the 462 (Work and Holiday Visa). As you can see the names have been easily differentiated to avoid any confusion. *eye roll*
The SIMILARITIES between the 417 and 462 visa’s are;
- they both allow entry to Australia for 12 months,
- they both allow you to leave and re-enter Australia as much as you like within those 12 months,
- anyone between the ages of 18 and 30 can apply to either,
- they also generally allow work for up to 6 months with a single Australian employer, as well as study up to 4 months if desired.
The DIFFERENCES are;
- the application processing times vary between the two types (with 417 generally taking 13-17 days and 462 taking 33-49 days),
- each visa type has an eligible list of countries of passport holders able to apply. I’m unaware of the reasoning behind the differentiation in visa’s and countries, but the lists can be found easily under the ‘Eligibility’ section on each relevant visa’s page of the website.
- there are a few extra requirements to successfully gain a 462 visa that aren’t required for the 417. E.g. providing a letter of support from your government (specific countries only) and knowing a “functional” level of English language.
Applying from the UK, my Visa was the 417 and once I understood what I was applying for, the process was – as Aussies would say – “too easy”. All of the initial confusion disappears when you start to complete the application process and realise it only takes around 15 minutes, answering mostly tick-box questions. Once complete, you’ll need to pay the sum of AUD$485 for your visa. Ouch. Then, you’ll need to keep an eye on your inbox for the all-important email containing your grant letter informing you that your application has been a success!
You’ll then receive the grant letter in the post and this is your only confirmation of your Visa. So when you inevitably begin your mammoth Australia research session and come across sentences such as “bring a copy of your visa”, DON’T PANIC. Keep a couple copies of your grant letter for sure. But thankfully in this modern world of technology, your visa is linked to your passport. So when you enter Australia and pass border control, having your passport checked is equally the ‘checking of your visa’. The visa is validated from the day you enter the country for 12 months, not from the day you’re granted it.
Then what’s next? Planning the rest of your trip! If you’re a bit like me, you might feel weird about how easy the visa application process actually was, almost like it was too good to be true. I expected more documentation, more questioning, more everything. I was surprised arriving in Australia that the procedure for checking my visa and documents was so simple. I expected a strict grilling at Australian border control but after completing a small form and answering one or two standard questions, I was through the doors and making my way to the taxi rank! (Side note: This was my first big Mistake – DO NOT take a taxi, jump on the Skybus instead).
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER…
So visa out of the way, that’s a big chunk of your working holiday process complete. However there’s a whole lot of extra admin to do to ensure your year Down Under goes as smooth as possible. Some things won’t be completed until you’re actually in Australia. But there are definitely things that can be done before you leave home to take away some of the hassle!
It’s tempting to of course look for the cheapest flights but chances are you’re traveling a very long distance from your home country to Australia. So, honestly I believe it pays – quite literally – to give yourself a little more comfort on such a long journey. I booked three months in advance (usually a good time to book long haul flights) and found a great deal with Singapore Airlines. At the time, they were named airline of the year, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong!
Bit of a biggy! Don’t pick the first one that pops up on a comparison website but do your research a little. Consider the possibility that you may want to do outdoor (or extreme) activities and ensure you’re covered for them. Think bungee jumping, skydiving and water sports, all massively popular with travellers in Australia.
Not an obvious one but important. If you’re planning on taking a sufficient amount of medication to Australia, you’ll need to consider a few things. You might need a letter from your doctor, as well as a prescription and even the box for your medication could come in handy. Also if you’re stopping in other countries on route to Australia with said amount of meds, you must check their regulations regarding this too.
Aussie Bank Account
I can’t say too much about any other banks besides Commonwealth. I had them recommended to me by an Australian who told me I could apply before I left home. Because I was trying to be super organised, I jumped at the opportunity to get this out of the way. The application was easy and all you have to do is select a branch to collect your bank card when you arrive in Australia. The second part of the process in the bank was also very easy. A member of staff handed over my card and sat down with me for a few minutes to run through the features of their app and made sure I was happy.
For moving money between your home account and your new Aussie account, download an app like TransferWise. The fees are much cheaper than using bank transfers and my experience sending transfers – roughly 20 over the course of my year abroad – was always quick and safe.
Australian SIM card
Some phone providers are actually real good these days when it comes to using data abroad. I stayed with Three Mobile (UK) for almost 4 months of my year and only switched to an Aussie SIM when I knew I was travelling to the Outback so thought it a good idea to try and get even the tiniest bit of service out there, which is much more possible with an Aussie provider – supposedly Telstra is the best, if not Optus. It’s also just a good idea to get an Aussie number when you start applying for jobs! *Remember to get your phone unlocked with your provider before you leave home so that it accepts all SIMs!*
Tax File Number
Something to apply for once in Australia, it’s pretty vital to obtain if you want to find employment anywhere. You will need to apply through the Australian Gov website and they will ask for an address to mail you a letter containing your TFN. Something to bare in mind if you apply whilst traveling and are constantly on the move. I never received my letter due to moving on from the address I had it sent to, but it’s worth knowing that it’s just as easy to call and be given your number over the phone!
Australia has a reciprocal healthcare programme with several countries, the UK being one of them. It won’t cover you for absolutely everything, but if you do need a doctor’s or hospital appointment during your time there, you can expect to have at least a partial rebate through having a Medicare card. And since, most standard doctor’s appointments could cost you up to $80, it’s well worth having!
Definitely worth having are some copies of important pieces of paperwork, like doctors letters for any bulk medication you need to take with you, recent bank statements (in case you’re asked on arrival to prove you have sufficient funds to leave Australia after your 12 months), 2-3 copies of your passport photo page and of course your visa grant letter!
So these are some of the most important things to know both before and during your time in Australia. If I could give any advice to someone planning a WHV in Australia, I’d definitely say – plan ahead. Get some of these boring (but vital) admin bits out of the way as soon as you can. Save yourself a headache later on by going out there mentally prepared with just one wallet of your important documents – that’s all you need! On the grand scale of everything else you’re going to be carrying around on your back, it’s no extra baggage or stress to pop that one wallet into your backpack to give you that little extra peace of mind on the other side of the world!
It might seem like a total drag to get all of these things organised, but honestly – it’s simple stuff that barely takes up any of your time. You’ve got 365 days to enjoy yourself, so use the first few days or even the first week to get all your life admin SORTED, and then go have an AMAZING YEAR IN AUSTRALIA!