So Ya Want To Visit Oz?

Since I brought my brother back to Australia from Aberdeen I thought now would be a good time to write a primer on how to go about getting a (subclass 417) Working Holiday Visa, what to do before you leave, what to do what you get here, and what pitfalls you’ve to watch out for. It’s handy because my brother found a couple that I didn’t! And why wouldn’t you want to visit? It’s the friggin’ best! Everyone who’s ever done it will attest to that. I’m surprised more people don’t stay to be honest 🙂

Applying for the 417 Working Holiday Visa

Firstly, here’s a link to the government website to get started with applying for this visa:
Australian Government – Department of Immigration and Border Protection – Working Holiday visa (subclass 417)
Key points to note about applying for this visa are:

  • You must be aged at least 18 years old but not yet 31 years old
  • Do not have a dependant child accompanying you at any time
  • You have a passport from an eligible country
  • You must be outside Australia when you apply for your first working holiday visa
  • The visa entitles you to live and work in Australia for up to one year
  • You may apply for a second year if you spend three months doing regional work
  • You may work for the entirety of your stay, but you may only work for the same employer for up to six months
  • You may study for up to four months
  • You may leave and re-enter Australia any number of times as long as the visa is valid
  • Once granted, the 12 months of your visa takes effect from the moment you pass through immigration

The application is dead easy and doesn’t take long at all. I filled out my form on my lunch break at work and got a response within an hour of submitting it. My brother got a response within half an hour. Sarah did it on a public holiday and got it almost instantly. Basically it’s probably automated. It’s not overly expensive either, at the time of writing it’s $440AUD, roughly £220 (okay, so that did go up a bit from when I did it, but hey, that’s pretty cheap to be granted permission to stay in a country for a year, and total worth it!)

Before You Leave

  • My brother got caught out by this one bad, took him ages to get this sorted without resorting to splashing out $120 to get it unlocked in some dodgy stall in the shopping centre. Make sure your phone is unlocked! Your carrier should be able to do this, but if you’re still tied into a contract you may be out of luck here. It might at least be cheaper to get it done in some dodgy stall wherever you are than to get it done here.
  • Get yourself hooked up with some backpacker insurance. I can’t really recommend where to look, just Google around and see what you can find, make sure it covers you for hospital treatment, lost or stolen personal items, all that jazz. All covers are different depending on your circumstances and what activities you plan to get up to, so it’s up to you to pick the right one. Just make sure you’re covered for the period you intend to be over. Hopefully you won’t need it, but you could be saving an awful lot of money by taking it out.
  • Pack light! You don’t know where you’ll end up, so my advice is to take only what you need. When I came to ‘Straya I had a backpack and a suitcase small enough to take in the cabin with me. I figured if I needed anything else, I could buy it when I got here. Things like toiletries and that, just pick ’em up when you get here. Also, depending on where you end up, you may not need so many clothes. My brother thought he’d need three pairs of jeans – I did warn him, three pairs was too much, but he didn’t believe me until he got here! Now he just wears shorts and singlets all the time. So yeah, travel as light as you can, it makes getting about a lot easier, especially when you don’t know where you’re gonna end up, you might go all over the place.
  • Book your flights – come on, pretty obvious this one! The sooner you do this, the cheaper it’ll be. If you’re planning to do this trip several years in the future, it’s definitely worth looking in to joining some manner of airpoints loyalty program, some let you earn points by using credit cards, filling up with fuel, and obviously by flying with certain carriers. Save up enough points in time and you can save a chunk of money from your trip. There are plenty of sites to help you find good value flights, and SkyScanner is a personal favourite of mine.

When You Arrive

  • You’ll need a TFN (Tax File Number) before you can get yourself sorted out with a bank account and all that. Unfortunately, you cannot apply for one until you are in the country. It’s a pretty straight-forward process to apply but the TFN will take about a week to arrive in the post so it’s best to do this as soon as you can. To get started with the application, go here.
  • Once you’ve got yourself a TFN, rock up to any bank and get yourself sorted with a current account. You’ll need an address, your TFN, and a little bit of cash to make an initial deposit ($50 is a good start). In a few days you’ll get a shiny new card, then you can start thinking about sending money across from home so you don’t get charged foreign transaction fees every time you want to make a withdrawal.
  • Get y’self a local SIM card for your phone. You can pick up a prepay (pay as you go) SIM dead cheap, typically $2, a decent way to get started, or you can dive in and get yourself a post-pay SIM-only (1-month contract) deal if that’s more your thing. Just nip into any grocery shop like Woolworths or Coles, or convenience store like 7-11 and you’ll find heaps of SIM cards you can just take a look at and see what suits your needs best.
  • You’ll need a place to stay. That’s kind of up to you. It helps if you know people where you’re going. If you don’t you can start in a hostel while you find your feet, get a feel for the area, and it’s an amazing way to meet people. Hostel World is great for finding good hostels. Once you know where you want to be, you can try Gumtree for flatshare and houseshare ads, get some shared accommodation on the cheap.
  • You’ll also need some work! Again, this is up to you. If you’re staying in a hostel, see if they have a jobs board, otherwise there are plenty of backpacker jobs sites online, or more general job sites. And you can always go into places the old fashioned way and hand in your CV or fill out their application forms. The world is yr oyster, go nuts!
  • Medicare is Australia’s national healthcare programme, and visitors from certain countries are covered by it. Check this page out for more details on what countries are part of the agreement and what you might be covered for. For a start, this will typically include free doctor appointments and subsidised medication. If you’re eligible, fill out the Medicare Enrolment Application Form to apply for your Medicare card, and take the completed form along with your passport in to a Medicare Service Centre.
  • This is the easy part – enjoy y’self!