Work and Holiday Visa – Australia

Most of the information out there on the internet seems to be geared toward Europeans, Canadians and the few other nationalities that come on the Working Holiday 417 visa, but Americans have a different visa. For citizens of the United States, we can only get the Work and Holiday subclass 462 visa.

This is the same visa people from Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Thailand and Turkey can come in and work on. Why? I don’t know, my guess is probably something to do with the reciprocal visa situation for Australians coming to the US. (Read about my experiences in Australia on the Work & Holiday visa.)

There are a lot of reasons to work abroad in Australia, but once you’ve made up your mind, it might still seem overwhelming. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about getting the Work and Holiday visa and setting off on your adventure in Australia.

About the Visa

Regardless, if you’re an American thinking of coming to Australia to work for a year, you’re in luck. Why? Because it used to be we could only come and work for four months! Still, there are restrictions on those 12 months (which begins from the day you enter the country, which can be anytime within a year from when your visa is granted).

  • First and foremost, you have to be between the ages of 18 and 30 (and have graduated from high school) to get the visa.
  • Second, you can only work at each employer for six months.

However, you are allowed to undertake any type of work (though you should check if your field requires any special licensing or registration). I worked in telefundraising (basically a telemarketer asking for donations for major NGOs) and in a legit position in my field (marketing) as well as with a start-up company (also in marketing), so really anything is possible.

Also in those 12 months you are entitled to come and go from Australia as much as you’d like. That means visiting home or taking trips to New Zealand, the South Pacific, or even Southeast Asia, are all in the realm of possibility.

There is no minimum or maximum amount of time you must work (aside from the previously mentioned six-month rule).

You can work anywhere you want, take just about any kind of job, and you can even study for up to four months on the visa. Jobs can be easy or hard to find, depending on your expectations and/or field of focus. There are plenty of jobs aimed at backpackers, as there are thousands of them working all over Australia at any given time. Read more about finding a job in Australia.

Applying for the Work & Holiday 462 Visa

Applying for the visa is an incredibly easy process. You can apply online (though they do also accept paper applications) and once you’ve applied it can take as little as one day to a week (took mine a little less than a week and they were “backed up”). Their “standard” claimed on the government website is six days. They also claim you could be required to do an interview, but I can’t imagine this would ever happen unless you have something very, very strange or suspicious on your application or record.

The following is the list the government’s immigration website lists as necessary for your application, and those in bold are the ones that I (to the best of my knowledge, unless I have completely lost my memory) found that I actually had to include:

  • Visa Fee ($230AUD $420AUD as of 2015)
  • Certified copies of all biodata pages of your passport (basically the first page or two, I submitted everything online and I didn’t have anything certified)
  • Certified copies of birth certificates or the family book, showing names of both parents (not required if in passport)
  • If you have changed your name (eg by marriage or deed poll), a certified copy of evidence of the name change
  • Two recent passport-sized photographs (45mmx35mm) of you. (I don’t recall attaching this at all, but I could be wrong…)
  • If you have served in the armed forces of any country, certified copies of military service record or discharge papers.
  • Evidence of sufficient funds. Certified copy of a bank statement showing you have access to appropriate funds of at least AU$5,000. (It seems to be rare to never that anyone actually has to show this proof of funds.)
  • Evidence of relevant education qualifications. (I tried to attach my college diploma at the end but kept getting an error. I guess they didn’t care anyway…)
  • Evidence of health insurance, if required.

So basically, not much is required! I would urge you to at least have access to all these things in case they do request it, but I wouldn’t stress too much about it. Otherwise, they ask you some health and “character” questions, nothing too major.

Do You Need AUD$5,000 Proof of Funds?

A lot of people’s concern is the bank statement showing access to $5,000. There are rumors floating around the internet of this or that person being asked for it (in the application process or at the airport) so I was all freaked out because I had more like $3,000.

But nobody ever asked me, and my plan if they did ask was one to do one or all of the following:

  • Say I don’t have a copy of a statement on me but can I use their computer to print one (if this is at the airport, hey probably wouldn’t bother) and/or claim I have my money spread among different accounts and don’t have all the statements on me (which would have been true)
  • Show my credit card with $2,000 limit to save my butt if I really hit rock bottom
  • Resort to having the parents wire money into the account and/or showing their account statement and that they would bail me out if necessary.

No worries, you’ll be approved and on your way to Oz in no time!

Before/When You Arrive

There’s no harm in starting your job hunting and housing search from home, but most people (myself included) will tell you it’s better and easier to just wait until you’ve arrived in Australia. Book a few nights or a week in a hostel and give yourself some time to relax and enjoy your new surroundings a bit.

One other thing to be aware of when you first arrive, as soon as possible apply for your TFN (Tax File Number). You need this to start getting paid, and while it will likely only take a few days or a week to get to you, it’s better to apply as soon as possible. You can apply online, by phone, or in person. You just need your passport info and an Australian address they can send the number to (so somewhere you intend to be for the next few weeks).

You should also try to open a bank account as soon as possible, as you will need these details when you get a job, and it’s probably good to put some money in it and start spending from an Australian card. (The interest rates on the savings accounts are pretty good too!)

Read: Packing for Adventure

Extending Your Stay

So you might very well find that you love Australia (or maybe an Australian) and want to stay. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, Americans have slightly fewer options than others.

The one big downfall of the 462 visa versus the 417 is that we aren’t allowed to go pick fruit on a farm somewhere and extend our visa another 12 months. Americans can’t renew for a second year. However, if you do find that you really want to maximize your time in Oz,  there may be some ways to extend your stay.

Most likely you will have to leave the country at least for a short amount of time (a good excuse for a New Zealand or Fiji vacation, or to head home and see some family!). But you may be able to apply for another kind of visa, such as a student visa to study or a work (Skilled Migrant) visa if you have certain skills. Or if you just want to do a bit more traveling around the country, you may be able to leave and come back on a visitor visa. Your best bet is to contact the immigration department directly and ask them what your options are.

Of course, there is the elusive sponsorship that you could aim for. Most companies won’t even go near the idea of sponsorship as it’s seen as a huge pain, but if you’re really something special at what you do, or you’re willing to do any kind of job just to stay in Oz, then you might be able to work something out. There are some backpacker-focused companies that do promise the chance of sponsorship if you stay loyal to the company. One that comes to mind is 2evolve, an organization based in Sydney that does face-to-face and telefundraising.

Finally, if you’ve met the love of your life during your time in Australia, you could also try applying for a partner visa. Brooke at Brookevstheworld did this, and from her chronicles it seemed to be a long and slightly frustrating process. But if you’re looking to make a long-term commitment to Oz (and, of course, that special Australian), this might be your best bet.

Everything Else

Check out my other tips on:

Read my firsthand commentary from my own Work & Holiday adventures in Australia.

2015 Update: Please note, my experience was in 2010-11, so things have likely changed. Thanks to one commenter, Holly, for providing an update of her experience working in Australia in 2013. I encourage you to scroll through the comments to find updated experiences and answers to your potential questions.

Are you in Oz or newly returned from your work & holiday experience?

Please share your experience in the comments, and I will work on an up-to-date Work & Holiday Australia FAQ post.

Thank you to all the commenters who have contributed so far!