I've been lucky enough to take two round the world trips, both times surviving on savings and volunteering along the way. As my 31st birthday crept up, I still had the opportunity to use my Australian working holiday visa, which all British Citizens under 31 can apply for. With another English Winter settling in and no real ties apart from a rental agreement with my landlord, working in Australia became an inviting option.
The process of applying for an Australian working holiday visa and planning such a big move can be both daunting and exciting. Here I talk through my own experience and offer some tips for anyone who wants to take up the awesome opportunity that this visa presents.
The Australian economy is booming right now, which makes a working holiday visa a tempting prospect, allowing you to earn, rather than struggling along on a small backpacker budget.
A working visa permits you to work for up to one year (capped to 6 months per employer) either simply to fund your travels, or as a career move in the hope of sponsorship like myself. Wages are good, so if you're savvy you can save up for further travels - many round the world tickets will take you via Asia or South America, where your earnings in Aussie dollars will go a long way.
There is no cap on the number of Aussie working holiday visas given to British Citizens and over 250,000 visas were issued in 2012/13 alone. You’re eligible to apply if aged between 18 and 30. Like me, you can wait until just before your 31st birthday and once the visa is granted you have one year to enter Australia.
One thing to bear in mind is that you get just one chance to take up your working holiday visa. In 2007, I visited Australia as part of a round the world trip and decided not to work as I was there for 2 months and wanted to move around. Now 7 years on, I still have the chance to work over here, so glad I didn’t waste the visa opportunity several years back.
You have a few options in terms of applying for a working holiday visa, depending on your budget and the level of support you require. Often it can pay to get experts involved if you are unsure of the process or have any questions, or just like to have more support.
There are great packages like the one offered by Base Backpackers that include airport transfers, your first few nights’ hostel accommodation and support with things like building your CV building and opening a bank account in Australia.
These services certainly take the hassle out of your arrival, but if you’re stubbornly independent like me, you can hop on the Australian Government website and apply directly for the Australian working. I found it pretty straightforward with confirmation coming through to your email. The visa is then electronically added on to your passport and you’re ready to go!
Your next step is to decide when and where to go and whether to apply for jobs from home, or wait until you arrive. Personally, I wanted the peace of mind of securing a job before I left the UK, so I could make the most of the whole year I have available to me.
After travelling to Australia a few times and having worked in travel for many years, I knew that the remoteness of Western Australia appealed to me the most and this is where I set my sights. If you’re planning your Australian working visa yourself, do remember to consider the seasons of the places you are travelling to, especially if you want to work in the tourism sector.
As a keen snorkeler, I set my sights on Ningaloo reef in Western Australia quite early on. The season there runs from March to December to coincide with the migration of the whale sharks. I therefore started applying for positions in November, so I didn’t miss the application process. The lodge I applied for already had many applications so there is absolutely no harm in planning ahead for this, and making sure you don’t miss the deadline for a place you really want to work.
I found the lodge I will be working at just by searching online – I’ve always worked in the sales side of the travel business, so I don’t have direct experience in the hospitality sector. I therefore did some research into the lodge itself and re-wrote my CV to sell the skills I do have that can be transferred to this industry.
On receipt on my CV, the lodge contacted me for an interview which was conducted over Skype. If you’re planning on applying for jobs before arriving in Australia, it’s handy to have things like Skype set up to make it easier for prospective employers to contact you. I also found LinkedIn to be a useful tool, as it validates the experience you talk about in your CV.
When I applied for my visa my priority was to find a job in an area and environment that I really love, rather than the job that pays me the most. That said, working for a lodge means the company provide my accommodation and the remote location makes it very difficult to spend my wages!
If your aim is to earn money, the mining sector can be very lucrative and again the location means you’ll struggle to spend what you earn. Compare these jobs to something like bar work in Sydney (which can pay relatively well when you factor in tips) and you might find that city rents and the general cost of living erode your wages quite quickly! The Seek Australia website is a good place to get an idea of what jobs are available and the skills they require.
Even though you’ve perhaps just started looking at your Australian Working holiday visa, it’s a good idea to think now about your options should you wish to stay. If you’re still under 31 at the end of your first year working in Australia and have undertaken at least 3 months of regional work (for example fruit picking), you can apply for a second year’s visa. It is good to know this in advance, so you can plan in some regional work during your first year.
If you don’t get any regional work, or like me, will be over 31 at the end of the year-long visa, your other option is to obtain sponsorship. This is another reason I did my research before leaving the UK, choosing a company where I knew sponsorship would be a possibility. If this is your aim, there’s no harm in being open with prospective employers, as it demonstrates that you’re keen and willing to stay on and avoids any disappointment on your behalf if this is not going to be a possibility.
If you’re thinking of working in Australia, we can find you great multi-stop flights that let you make the most of this life-changing opportunity and take you to all the places you want to visit. Check out some of our round the world flight itinerary ideas that include Australia – but bear in mind these are just suggestions, we can make any itinerary possible!
For more information, contact us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email.