About a year ago I wrote a post called Backpacking in Australia: A Simple Guide and at the same time gave a big mention for the Working Holiday Visa (WHV).
In this post I am going to talk a lot more about the WHV and at the end of this article, I’ll introduce you to an e-book written by a young man who has had not just one year here, but two years on a WHV.
If you want to get the most out of your WHV here, you may want to consider grabbing a copy of his book. But first…
Working Holiday Visa
This visa allows young people aged 18 to 30 from qualifying countries to come here for a year to work and play. This can be extended to 24 months (under current rules) for those who work a minimum of three months in the agricultural or construction industries.
I think the WHV is a great way for young people to find out what it’s really like to live here in Australia and have a fun time as well. It’s also a great way to find out whether Australia is the kind of place that you really would want to come to and live permanently, and if for you the answer is yes, being young, you would have the time and opportunity to make that happen.
But, I wondered, how easy or difficult would it be to find work while you are here and how much money would a year-long trip like this cost?
With a little bit of searching today, I have come up with some interesting information. First…
The Working Holiday Visa and the similar Work and Holiday visas are only available to passport holders from qualifying countries. If you want accurate up-to-date information on this, please search for ‘working holiday visa subclass 417’ and ‘work and holiday visa subclass 462’ and look for the Australian Government’s website, the address will end with .gov.au
Then look for the ‘Visa applicants’ information and specifically eligible countries.
As at May 2016 they were:
WHV: Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
Work and Holiday Visa: Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, United States of America and Uruguay.
How much will it cost?
First off, you’ll need to book some return flights, the cost of which would very much depend on where you are coming from and when. Secondly, one of the conditions of being granted a WHV are that you have at least $5000 AUD in funds available for yourself to call upon if necessary. My understanding is that this can be by way of a credit card limit, but I would suggest it’s a much better idea to physically save that money for your trip.
Finally, how much would it cost you to survive down under?
On one of the sites I found, (more on that later) according to Tourism Research Australia backpackers spend, on average, $71 per night whilst here.
So if you are staying for a year, then you’ll need something like $25,000. Remember though, everybody’s spending habits are different and I am only talking averages. If you’re coming here to hit the bars and nightclubs every night, you will need much much more.
Why you might need more money?
Whilst a budget of around $2000 per month AUD will get you by, I’d suggest it’s the absolute minimum. To fully enjoy Australia you may need more and it also depends very much on what you do here and how you do it.
- Will you stay in a cheap backpackers in a shared dorm with 8 to 12 beds, or do you want your own room in a hotel?
- Will you be cooking much of your meals for yourself, getting your food from the supermarket or will you be eating out in restaurants and bars?
- Will you be travelling by greyhound bus or by train, or do you want to buy a cheap second hand car and drive around in that?
- Will you be going on guided tours to some of Australia’s iconic locations like Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef or will you just spend most of your time hanging out on the beaches for free?
- Will you be drinking cheap boxes of wine (less that $20 for 4 litres) or will you be drinking beers in bars at $8 a schooner?
Here are some additional articles worth looking at that go into backpackers budgets in more detail. Please check the dates at the top of each of these articles and adjust for inflation to bring them up to date:
- How much to budget for a month… in Australia?
- Backpacking Australia: How much does it cost?
- How much do I need to budget for backpacking in Australia?
Let’s go jobhunting for backpackers
Update November 2016: Scams
Before we go job hunting, a warning.
I received a comment on this page from Reggie who provided some information he’d found online, suggesting that one of the advertising boards I did have here is a scam. He posted his message October 30, 2016, 11:05 pm if you want to look for it below.
I hate scams, but sometimes it is difficult for me to know which companies are scamming and which are genuine. Originally I posted three links here to 3 different, apparently free, job boards. My understanding was that only the employers needed to pay to advertise jobs, jobs search was free.
Having heard what Reggie had to say, I checked all three links and indeed two of them did, either immediately or after trying to find the contact details of an employer, ask me for money, including the one that Reggie warned me about.
I have now, therefore, removed these links. As far as I am aware, all the links that are left here are genuine. The message I would like to give any of you seeking casual work on a WHV is this:
If you are asked to pay any money in advance, no matter how small, on the promise of being introduced to or given the contact details of somebody who may be able to offer you a job, you are very likely being scammed. Please keep your money in your pocket.
It very much saddens me to say that WHV workers here in Australia, especially those looking for work on farms in order to extend their visas, are being ripped off and taken advantage of all too often. Please be sure to read my further update at the foot of this page about that.
If you do come here on a WHV, I urge you to research thoroughly; join every forum, social media site, meeting place and website that you can find that is all about backpacking and connect with as many other backpackers as possible.
Knowledge is power, forewarned is forearmed.
This site called backpackerjobboard appears to be free and there were 1728 jobs on offer when I looked in 2013, including…
- Brickies labourers
- Pool installer/labourer
- Door knockers
- Kitchen staff
- Fruit pickers
- Furniture removers
- Racing stable workers
So, as you can see, quite a variation of jobs on offer and quite a few opportunities.
According to a recent article in ABCNews, there has been a 25% increase in the number of people trying to do agricultural work in order to qualify for that second year.
Jackie Jarvis, who works for the Harvest Labour Service, says “I think if you speak to any farmers anywhere in Australia, where it’s a known agricultural or horticultural region, what’s happening is they’re being literally inundated“.
Who are the Harvest Labour Service? They help backpackers find agriculture work through this website…
So that’s who you need to go to if you want to try and extend your visa. From what I’ve seen though, a lot of farm jobs don’t pay a very good wage, sometimes you are working just for the food, accommodation and those precious three months agricultural work so you can extend your visa.
Update: I am pleased to say that Jackie Jarvis from Harvest Trail has added further information in the comments below. Jackie has also provided a freephone number for those seeking work, please be sure to read the full comment here.
Backpacker numbers down
According to an article in The Australian from August last year, the Australian backpacker industry is in crisis.
‘The numbers of International backpackers staying in hostels were down in every state in the year ending March 2012, Tourism Research Australia figures show.
There was a 20 per cent fall in backpackers from the UK – Australia’s largest source market – since 2010.‘
On the one hand backpackers are flooding the agricultural market looking for jobs in order to extend their visas, but on the other hand maybe there are more non-agricultural jobs to go around with the falling number of backpackers generally.
The bottom line though, I think, is this: Do your research before you come, make a few enquiries and try to find out what is likely to be available work wise when you arrive. Remember, as a rough guide and assuming you have $5000 start off money, you’ll need to earn a further $20,000 in the year to survive.
That, roughly speaking, is working six months full time or part time for the whole year, providing you are earning about $20 per hour. It is possible to earn that kind of money with casual labour, but I have also heard of people being paid as little as $12 an hour.
Here’s another interesting fact from Tourism Research Australia, backpackers stay in Australia, on average, for 78 nights. So, not too many people last the full year, is that because they run out of money?
Hopefully I’ve given any of you considering backpacking here are a few links to check out to help you find work. More importantly though, I hope I’ve shown you the need to plan your backpacking trip with care, otherwise your time here in Australia may not be all you had hoped for.
Don’t forget to pay your tax!
There was a lot of discussion in 2016 about suggested reforms to backpacker taxes here in Australia, and I believe that changes have been made. I don’t know what they are or how they work, but I do want to make you aware that you should ensure that you pay your taxes while you are here.
You will find that there are many tax agents around Australia that work out of very small offices, sometimes even booths in shopping malls, and they will prepare your tax return for from $99.
There is a chance that maybe, just maybe, you won’t pay tax at all and you will instead get a refund. Either way, you should make sure that you look into this to prevent problems later. If you do not want to pay for an accountant, you can always phone the Australian Tax Office for advice.
Beware of getting ripped off by employers!
Update November 2015:
More bad news.
As you probably know, if you do three months work in, for example, farming, you can qualify for a second years WHV stay. Unfortunately some unscrupulous employers are taken advantage of this and ripping people off.
I wrote a post about it a while back and I was reminded of it by Dave’s excellent comment below offering people some advice about this kind of thing. As he says, do your research, be aware, get advice from people who have already done this and try to find out a bit about your potential employer before you commit.
The sad truth is, the situation is probably far worse than even Dave thinks it is. Check this out…