Day 2 | What is a Working Holiday Visa?

What you need to know about the Working Holiday Visa

If you have ever considered moving abroad to live and work in another country, an easy and inexpensive way to do so is on a working holiday visa. This is essentially a visa granted to young people so they can travel a country for an extended period of time, while working along the way. There are a huge number of countries that offer this visa classification, but the details are way over my head so I am not even going to pretend I know what I am talking about. What I can tell you for certain is that Australia (and New Zealand) offers this visa to Americans. The only restrictions in place are that you must be between 18-30 with a clean criminal record, and you can’t work for the same company for more than 6 consecutive months. Up until November of this year, this was literally a once in a lifetime opportunity for Americans, as you could only be granted this visa once. As of now however, if you fulfill certain requirements that I will go over later, you can renew your visa for a second year which is VERY exciting for me.

Ever since I was young, I have wanted to visit Australia. The image of the Sydney Harbor Bridge has been imprinted in my mind since I watched “My Lips Are Sealed” with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen back in 2000. Who’d have thunk that the Olsen twins would be the ones to spark my wanderlust? Anyways, I knew nothing about working holidays until one of my friends from Amazon quit and moved to Australia. As soon as I heard about his plan, I spammed his inbox with questions about the visa process, how expensive it was, how hard it would be to find work, how much planning it would take, and anything else that popped into my head. His answers were, easy, inexpensive, easy enough, and very little. Turns out, loads of people from all over the world move to Australia every year on these working holiday visas, I’d just never had the privilege of meeting someone who’d done it. My friend was kind enough to entertain my questions, though I probably could have just as easily googled the answers myself. Soon enough, the idea was planted firmly in my head that before I turned 30, I was going to take advantage of this (at the time) once in a lifetime opportunity.

Working Holiday Visa

When I left for Asia in April, Australia was still in the back of my mind. Then I started meeting other travelers and hearing their stories. Almost everyone I met on the backpacker trail in SE Asia either had already been in Aus on a WHV or was planning to head there next. The envy I felt listening to them recalling their adventures of sailing the Whitsundays or 4-wheeling in Fraser Island started to eat me alive. I could do it too… I didn’t really need to go home. The only things stopping me from booking a flight to Australia instead of home to Seattle were my dog, and the fact that I needed to get all my stuff out of the storage unit I was renting for an astronomical price. So I did the responsible thing and flew home.

Working Holiday Visa

It wasn’t until I was in Israel over the summer that I firmly decided I was going to move to Australia in 2017. The pieces of my puzzle had finally aligned and I realized that if I didn’t do it now, I never would. So I emptied my storage unit, moved home to Spokane and pressured my best friend Katy into going with me.

In August, I filed my visa application with the Australian government and within a week had a confirmation that I had been approved and I could depart for Australia anytime within the next year. I had originally wanted to leave Spokane in January, but Katy convinced me that the end of February would make it easier for her, and since I had basically forced this trip on her, I conceded, and booked our flights for the 28th of February.

Unfortunately for Katy, with the possibility of extending the visa for a second year came new visa terms. Here is an outline of what is now required by the Australian government for visa approval:

  • Online Application
  • Payment of around $350
  • Copy of your passport
  • Proof of funds – The Australian government requires you to prove you can support yourself and recommends $5,000 AUD in your account
  • High School/College Transcripts

All I had to do when I applied was fill out the form online, have a short phone interview, pay my application fee and wait to hear back on whether or not I have been approved. Katy did those steps back in November, but she received an email from our broker company (though you can also apply directly through the government website) asking for the additional information above earlier this week. Now, Australia border security could technically have always asked for any of the above at your point of entry, but other than having to show your passport, from what I have read, they typically don’t ask for anything else. As broke backpackers, having $3,600 USD readily available in our bank accounts this close to Christmas is nearly impossible, so hopefully she can find a way around this extra step. I will keep you updated on whether or not any of this is actually required for visa approval, but from the sound of the email she received, it is.

It isn’t really surprising that they are trying to make it more difficult for just anyone to enter their country. I am sure that they had a flood of applications from Americans after this election season ended the way it did. Regardless, it is still a fairly easy and inexpensive way to get a ticket into a life abroad. For me, its something that I have been dreaming about for a couple of years now, and it is finally coming true.

If you are interested in learning more about WHV in Australia, follow along as I will be sharing all the details of my journey as I go. Don’t consider me an expert or anything, as this is all new to me too, but if there is anything you want to know, shoot me a note in the comments and I will try to answer your questions!

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