Practical Travel Tips: Work & Holiday Visa for Australia.

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Hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving weekend. We have much for which we are thankful. Something a bit different this week — for those who have met us, you would know that one of us once moved to Australia for a year. Here’s her experience in applying and receiving a Work and Holiday Visa to Australia.

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About 3 years ago, I applied for a Work & Holiday visa to live and work in Australia. (Please note that I’ll only be writing as an American for other Americans in this post). This visa is unique but has its own benefits and limits too. The first thing to note is that there is an age restriction. You are only allowed to apply for this visa after turning 18 but before you turn 31 (being the last-minute person I am, I sent in my application less than a month before my 31st birthday!). As an American, you are essentially given one year to enter the country from the day you are accepted. And then you may reside within Australia for one year from the day you enter the country.

When you are in Australia, you are permitted to work legally with this visa. However, you cannot work for any one company beyond 6 months. If you are studying there, you cannot be a student for over 4 months. Apart from that, you are basically allowed to work and travel as you like, doing basically anything you want (as long as it’s legal!), and come and go into the country as often as your heart desires. The job flexibility is beneficial as you are not limited to cash-only jobs. I was fortunate enough to find an administrative role within two weeks of starting my job search. (On a side note, crafting a resume in Australia is vastly different from how you might go about this in America – job resumes should generally be a minimum of 3 pages and maximum of 5; you can go beyond 5 pages if you are going for a high-level executive job but this rarely applies to those with a Work & Holiday visa).

Now the visa process was not as difficult as I had originally imagined. I’ve had some visa issues in the past with other countries that turned into massive logistical nightmares. The Work & Holiday visa application process, however, was fairly painless.

As a side note, there are plenty of online visa agencies that are ready to assist you in your application. However, do note that this will cost you roughly an extra $200 so if you aren’t keen to pay that, then don’t. You can definitely take on this visa process on your own, I promise, so please don’t feel intimidated.

If you decide to bypass the visa agency, then you would need to go directly to the Australian government website (link provided below). Please note that there is a difference between the “Work & Holiday visa” and the “Working Holiday visa.” Yes, they sound very similar and that is because they are. However, they represent two separate categories of visas and depending on which country you are from, you would apply to the visa that is appropriate for that country. As an American, I would apply for the former; however, those from the EU and Canada would likely apply for the latter. Unfortunately, the Work & Holiday visa has a bit more restrictions than the other but there isn’t much you can do about that anyway.

OK, here is the website: the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection

The online visa application basically will assess if you are physically, emotionally, and educationally fit to be in Australia. If you have any major health issues, this may hold you back because the Australian government is not keen on taking people from other countries under their own healthcare system (understandably so). Also, if you have any kind of criminal background, I don’t think you’ll have much luck securing this visa either. Lastly, you must be able to prove that you are an educated individual (i.e. high school or college diploma, academic transcripts, etc.). You also need to have health insurance too though I think purchasing some travel health insurance should suffice. Lastly, you will need to show that you have $5,000 USD or more in your bank account.

The online visa application is pretty straightforward. Fill in your personal information and then answer a questionnaire about the aforementioned topics: health, finances, education level, etc. You will also need to submit the following documents: diploma or academic transcript, bank statement showing $5,000 USD or more, birth certificate, etc.

If you don’t have many of these documents on hand, then I would suggest trying to secure all those documents ahead of time so you can submit everything altogether when you apply for your visa. They will not process your visa until everything is turned in.

In my instance, I haven’t a clue where any of my diplomas went because my family has moved multiple times, things have gotten lost, and in the last decade, I’ve had at least 7 different addresses. I simply contacted my high school and asked them to mail me an unofficial academic transcript. It was free and easy (as a back-up, I also asked my university to mail me a transcript because that was free versus paying however much money it costs to send a replacement diploma).

I also needed to get a certified copy of my birth certificate. I was born in New York City so I went on the New York State Department of Health to order a copy. It cost me about $17 and that arrived within a few days. It also comes with a letter certifying that the certificate is authentic.

As for proof of sufficient funds, I downloaded a bank statement of mine into my desktop. I made sure the page I submitted clearly showed both my name and the account balance.

Lastly, you will need to pay about $400 upfront when you apply. You can pay with your credit card (accumulate those credit card points!) but do note that this is non-refundable, regardless of whether or not your application is accepted.

Once you have your documents ready, go for it! Submit your application, your additional documents, and pay the visa fee — you should have your answer within a week or two. The Australian government website says it’ll take around 2 weeks but I was granted my visa within a week. Kudos to their government for being extra speedy and efficient!

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