During the last four years as a career counselor, I developed a reputation for being the “go-to” person for any student interested in interning or working abroad. I’m no expert, but with my personal interests, I knew about a variety of visas and paid opportunities. For the travelers reading this post, this is probably no news to you, but Australia is one of the few fabulous places that supports young people (am I still that at 30?!) coming to live, travel, and work on a visa. Yes, Visa 462, better known as the Work and Holiday Visa, allows citizens of several countries from ages 18-30 (inclusive) to travel and work for up to 12 months (there’s also Visa 417 for citizens of a larger set of countries). After advising students for so long about work abroad options, I decided it was my turn to take advantage of this great opportunity!
Organizations like BUNAC can help you apply for and secure the visa for a fee, but I opted to apply on my own, directly through the Australian Department of Immigration website. I wanted the experience of securing it myself, but the primary reason was to save MONEY. A couple of years ago the visa was AUD$180 and when I applied it was up to AUD$230. If you choose to go with an organization who applies on your behalf, obviously it costs even more.
I had heard that the process could take as little as 24 hours or as much as several months if there was a problem with the application. I decided to play it safe (smart?) and apply just over 3 months before my estimated day of departure. From reading the “how to’s” on the site, it appeared as if I might be asked to provide proof of my educational background, travel medical insurance, and several other official documents during the process. I didn’t want anything delaying the application that was within my control, so I researched various options for insurance (that deserves its own post) and purchased a policy.
The online application system was fairly simple. I supplied the basic information about myself and then answered some Yes/No questions — could I supply proof of insurance and education/degrees…CHECK. Would I comply by the requirements of the visa (e.g., not working with one employer for more than 6 months unless sponsored for longer), abide by Australian law, and so on. Absolutely.
I submitted the application and then, if I recall correctly, there was a page that followed asking me to upload supporting documents (e.g., proof of insurance). By the time I had located the files, made sure everything was in order, and tried to submit them, the site didn’t seem to want them any longer. Afraid that I had messed something up, I checked my email for a message from the Department. There was one, confirming receipt of my application. And there was a second, saying that my application had been APPROVED and I was free to enter Australia any time within the next year. I was in shock. Approved — really? It happened so quickly that I thought it was a mistake. I logged back into the application website, and there was my approval letter waiting for me. Twenty minutes, folks. I think that’s a new record.
With my visa secured, I realized that this was indeed going to happen. My parents really realized that I would be leaving…they’d heard me talk about it for so long that I think to them, it was a dream that would most likely never be fulfilled. Thankfully this all happened over the course of a weekend so there were a couple of days to process it before returning to work.
I’m still curious if I’ll need to produce various documents upon arrival, as the original application checklist mentioned they were required but I wasn’t asked to submit them (i.e., educational transcript, additional passport sized photos, certified copies of the biodata pages of my passport, and a copy of my birth certificate). I’ve read and heard that a certified bank statement demonstrating I have sufficient funds to support myself is all I’ll need, and I’m hoping I’ll hear back from the Department soon to get a final answer (emailed them last night — trying to avoid a call to the helpline, which is based in Canada and costs more than a free email).
Any other Work & Holiday makers out there? If you’ve done it, I’d appreciate any tips and advice you may have. If you’re planning on it, I’d love to answer questions and help if I can!