I've decided to create this post because I still get heaps of people contacting me asking for advice on how to go about planning a year in Australia. I'm still very happy to answer individual questions, but here's a go-to for all you Aussie-lovers and/or wannabes out there...
Working Holiday Visa
Basically, if you are between 18 and 30 years of age (have to apply before your 30th birthday so technically you can be 31 while under a WHV) and have not obtained the same visa in the same country, you are most likely eligible to live in that country for up to 12 months! How awesome is that?! For all the facts, check out this link. In Australia, you can even stay a second year if you pick fruit for three months! (Really wish I had been able to do this.) If you think there is even the slightest chance you'll want to stay longer than a year, I recommend looking into this and doing it sooner than later.
Obtaining a WHV is very easy. All you have to do is fill out the form online. My application was approved within 24 hours. Make sure you are set on going because (1) it's a once-in-a-lifetime visa and (2) you have a deadline to set foot in the country after receiving your visa approval (I believe it's 90 days). You are able to come and go as you please, but you only get 12 months from the date you land in Australia under this visa. Again, you can find all this info on the website.
A little overwhelmed? No worries, mate. There are plenty of resources to help you on your way.
Many of the emails I receive are in regards to Cultural Embrace, an organization dedicated to getting more young people out in the world, whether to teach, volunteer, intern, work, or just play! I went through CE when planning my big trip across the world. Although I'm glad I did this, I would not necessarily say it's for everyone and this is specifically in regards to the Work in Australia program. To get a better idea of how this program (or ones like it) may or may not benefit you, I have created two lists:
Reasons you should consider CE when planning your big move:
- You have never travled by yourself or have never lived in foreign country before. Venturing out on your own, especially to live for an extended period of time can be scary. Thus, it can be comforting to have the help of an organization to get you there, make sure all the t's and i's are crossed and dotted before you land, and assist in getting you settled those first overwhelming days. CE set up an airport pickup, the first few days of lodging for me, and an orientation with the Work and Travel Company in Sydney, which was a fantastic intro to the Australian culture as well as a place that set me up with necessities like a cell phone, bank account, and social events with other WTC members.*
- You want to get there ASAP! When I made the decision to go live in Australia, I wanted to leave the next day! Slight exaggeration, but I didn't want to stay any longer than I had to. CE helped in this way because they knew exactly what I needed to accomplish before leaving and guided me along the way. They provide you with a check-list, contacts/links, and take care of some of the business for you so you can concentrate on packing.
- There's a good chance you won't stop traveling after this adventure. Be sure to cruise around CE's website. They offer tons of different kinds of programs. Some of these may take place in a country with a different native language or with stricter visa restrictions. You may benefit from CE's assistance with these programs. If you go through them once, you'll be guaranteed more discounts in future expeditions.
- You appreciate reliable and friendly service. I gotta say, the people over in the CE office really do take care of you. From the moment I showed interest in their program, I was assigned to one representative who was my point of contact throughout the entire process. She was always there to answer questions, got back to me immediately if I left her a message or wrote her an email, checked in with me constantly, and all the while very attentive to my needs and concerns. If for any reason she was out of the office for a few days, another staff member would take over with ease.
*If social events and connecting with others is a big concern as a solo traveler, please don't forget there are fantastic social networks out there now for travelers, ones I wish I had known about when I first set foot in a foreign land. While preparing for you trip, make sure to check out sites like Tripping and Meetup. If you're anything like me, you're going to want to immerse yourself in your new culture by meeting locals- people outside the backpackers' bars.
Reasons you probably don't need CE to plan your trip:
- You have traveled alone or lived abroad before. If you are an experienced independent travler, you may not need the guidance or assistance of such programs. For me, it was nice to be connected to an organization simply to make the big move a little less hectic and difficult. However, now that I have done the year away on my own, I probably wouldn't need to go through something like this (at least not for the same type of trip and in an English-speaking country).
- Your main concern is employment and/or housing. I hate to say it, but from my experience, I had to find a place to live and work on my own. CE did hook me up with WTC, for which I am grateful. For the first couple months, I was in the WTC office all the time and it was an extremely helpful resource as far as always being able to answer my questions and better acquaint me with life in Australia. However, they do not guarantee job placement or finding you a place to stay. Sure they can book hostel dorms for you and they have some listings posted on their bulletin boards, but these are limited and you'll find yourself waiting around for a job this way. I should say that if you have no preference in how you make money while you're there, they do have plenty of labor-intensive factory jobs. I for one wanted a job in which I could meet people and be engaged in the aussie lifestyle aka hospitality. It wasn't until I printed out about 30 resumes and spent a day cruising the streets of Sydney speaking to as many managers as I could that I nailed a job. Despite the blisters, I got to know the city very well in one day (I knew of places and streets that some of my aussie flatmates hadn't heard of). In addition to this, the job I did get lead to another job once my six months were up (WHV time limit for each employer). Hospitality is great this way. Plus both jobs were really fun and I was able to make great friends from them (and in Australia, the hourly wage is WAY better than the US). As far as housing goes, I found my place through Gumtree. There are heaps of ads posted here every day.
- You're on a strict budget. This program was not cheap (and I believe the price goes up every year). It does get you hostel discounts, a WTC membership which provides more discounts on various attractions, etc. So depending on what you intend on doing while away, this could be cost-beneficial. The YHA discounts were nice when I was traveling around, but I didn't spend my year backpacking like many on the WHV do. This leads me to my concluding point:
- You have time to do some research. Unlike me, you may have more time (read: more patience) to plan your trip. Therefore, you can really establish your cost-benefit analysis. Maybe the fees are worth it in the end. Maybe you feel confident in figuring it all out on your own. Time will tell. Literally.
- First and foremost, you need to take advantage of this visa regardless of which way you go about obtaining it and what you decide to do once you have. Remember: once in a lifetime!
- If you're not sure where to go, check out Cultural Embrace for great ideas and keep an eye out for specials by signing up for their newsletter or liking their facebook page.
- If you're not sure where to go, pick Australia! You won't regret it. Trust me.
- If you have any further questions about the Australian immigration/WHV, working in Australia, anything about Sydney or my personal experience, please do not hesitate to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope this was helpful! I love hearing about people's travel experiences, especially down under, so make sure to share your thoughts! "Ta!"