Jobs Abroad

Seriously, It Is That Easy to Get Paid and Travel in Australia

Lauren Salisbury

A California native, Lauren has worked, taught, and lived in four countries, including the United States, Australia, Spain, and Costa Rica.

Australia holds a very special place in my heart. It was the place where, what now feels like many moons ago, I had my first solo experience overseas. As an exchange student in Melbourne, I took to my newfound independence like a bird to flight and lapped up every minute of my time in the city, touring laneways to checking out the latest graffiti, visiting new coffee shops on study breaks and traveling as far as I could on holidays and after I finished my studies. Australia changed my life, turning me into a world traveler and opening my eyes to the world.

But my own personal nostalgia aside, there’s so much to love about Australia. Natural beauty abounds down under with rugged coastlines, sunny beaches, red desserts, mystic mountaintops, snowy peaks, and golden fields. Both countries are chock full of magnificent cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Darwin. The continent is a gateway to bucket list locations such as the Sydney Opera House, fjords, and Uluru, as well as bucket list activities like snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, bungee jumping canyons, cuddling koalas, and even shearing sheep.

In addition to scenery and sites, both countries have great reputations for safety, friendly people, and you don’t even have to worry about a language barrier. With these factors in mind, Australia is an ideal country for beginning travelers and seasoned globetrotters alike.

I could go on and on about why Australia is the ultimate travel destination, but here’s the real kicker -- it’s easy to get a temporary job there, which allows you to make enough money to travel. I know what you’re thinking. Hold up? You can work and travel in Australia. This must be some sort of scam right, or some contest where only one in ten thousand win.

Nope. Seriously it’s true: it IS that easy to get paid and travel in Australia. In fact, it's one of the easiest places in the world to obtain a working holiday visa. Read on -- we are about to shed some serious light.

What is a working holiday visa?

The working holiday program was founded back in 1975 with the intent to “promote international understanding by enabling young people to experience the culture of another country.” The program provides opportunity for eligible young people who are between the ages of 18 and 30 to visit Australia and supplement their travel funds through employment.

What’s really great about the working holiday visa is that you don’t have to be a student, or even a recent graduate to obtain one. In fact, the only school related requirement is that you’ve graduated high school.

With the working holiday visa, you are able to stay in Australia for up to twelve months and study there for up to six. There may be an option to renew for a second year.

What is the process for obtaining a working holiday visa?

The term visa is one that makes many people stop in their tracks with fear. Its implications can be so negative, conjuring images of paperwork, red tape, and lots of waiting.

But like many things seem to be in Australia, obtaining a working holiday visa is a much easier and simpler process down under than nearly anywhere else in the world. The process can be completed online in just a few days.

There are two types of holiday visas for Australia – Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417) and Work and Holiday Visa (subclass 462). They sound nearly identical, but which country you come from determines which one you apply for, so you’ll want to make sure you read up on the full details on the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.

If you’re in need of some assistance with the visa process or just want some extra help landing a gig before or after you arrive, several operators are out there that offer this kind of assistance. Really, I haven’t heard of a different sector of the world where it is this simple to get permission to work!

What kind of job can I get with a working holiday visa?

The working holiday visas in Australia allow you to stay up to a year in the country and work. However, there are some preclusions. First of all you are only allowed to work six months with a single employer. Although having to work for multiple employers while overseas may seem a bit stressful, it actually comes with several benefits. Mainly, you'll have the freedom to move around the country or even just to different businesses while gaining new experiences.

There are a multitude of employment opportunities that will be open to you. Some of the most popular jobs for those on working holiday visas include working retail at a clothing shop, manning the front desk of a youth hostel, waiting tables at a popular tourist resort or helping with logistics at an outdoor adventure company. Some fields -- including working with children as an au pair or harvesting vegetables on an organic farm -- will allow you to stay with a single employer for longer than six months.

Be sure to brush up your resume and bring it with you down under. Although jobs are plentiful, you will want to do everything in your power to be a more competitive applicant so that you will have a better choice of the jobs available.

Why should I do a working holiday abroad in Australia?

As the Aussies would say, there are heaps of reasons to do a working holiday abroad in Australia. We all know traveling can be expensive, but with the working holiday visa, you can work to travel and earn back either some or all of your travel costs. This is a huge advantage for those who have the travel bug, but are strapped for cash.

Working abroad will also be extremely beneficial to your resume. No matter what job -- or jobs -- you end up doing overseas or what field you want to go in, having working experience in another country is bound to give you skills and life experience that will give you a leg up over the competition. What you learn working in another country may even inform your next step and shape your future career.

And finally, this really should go without saying, but Australia is one of the world’s most beautiful countries and deserves a firm spot on every travelers’ bucket list. With so much to see and explore, the working holiday visa grants you the gift of more time -- and money -- to see all the locations that make these countries wonderful, from the dusty outback to colorful coral reefs to looming trees and majestic fjords.

Should I do a working holiday program or plan it on my own?

The logistics behind planning your working holiday trip can quickly get confusing. In order to get situated after you arrive in Australia, you need to:

  • Get a tax ID number
  • Register for a bank account
  • Purchase a SIM card
  • Find a job network and apply to jobs

A working holiday program, usually located in Sydney or Melbourne, helps you do all of this and more. Before you even arrive in Australia, your provider will help you apply for the visa and begin to plan your trip. Once in country, there is an orientation that will last from 2-10 days, depending on the provider. This orientation includes trips around the city, the opportunity to make friends, and support on taking care of the list above.

One of the best perks of participating in a working holiday program is that any time throughout the year you want to switch jobs, you have a source that you can contact with job connections all around Australia.

But, if you're the do-it-yourself type of traveler, you certainly don't need to participate in a working holiday program. It may take a little more effort, but you can accomplish these things yourself, and use online job boards like Gumtree, Backpacker Job Board, Seek, and Career One to find work.