How I got my Australian Work & Holiday Visa

Standing in the Target store’s cereal aisle, the shoppers around me must have thought I was a crazy person. Admittedly, had I seen someone excitedly jumping up and down for no apparent reason at 1pm on a Tuesday, I would’ve thought they were crazy, too.

What they didn’t know, is I had just received an email from the Australian Department of Immigration. My visa was approved! I was ecstatic to say the least, though I’d really had no reason to worry.

You see, not many people from the USA apply to go to Australia on a Work & Holiday visas, so, as long as you’re not a psycho or a felon, chances are you’ll be approved.

When my phone buzzed in that cereal aisle, I didn’t think much about it. I’d only submitted my application about 90 minutes before, so when I saw who the email was from, I figured it was just an automated “We’ve received your application and will get back to you” message. Everything I had read told me that the application process usually takes a few days.

It’s insanely easy to qualify for a Work & Holiday visa

Yes, it’s super simple to get a Work & Holiday visa. There’s only a few requirements. You must be:

  • Age 30 or under
  • Have a passport from one of several approved countries (more on that below)
  • Fluent in English (or have passed an English as a foreign language test)

And that’s it! There are a few documents required; a certified copy of your passport, birth certificate, and possibly a medical exam, if you’ve been to a certain list of at-risk countries.

Wow, that sounds easy…too easy…

So, there are a few caveats:

  • The visa costs about USD$400 (actually it’s AUD$420 plus a transaction fee).
  • You have to have at least AUD$5000 in savings (but thanks to the current exchange rate, that’s
  • You’re limited to one year (or two, if you’re from a certain subset of countries; unfortunately for me, the USA isn’t one of them).
  • You can only work for the same employer for up to six months during the year (though you can work for as many employers, and as many hours as you want).

But if you really want to visit Australia for more than just a 1-2 week holiday, those hurdles aren’t insurmountable.

It costs a LOT of money

The hardest part for me was actually saving up the money. Basically, though, I started actively saving money with every paycheck, and stopped spending money on things I didn’t need. The biggest savings for me was not going to movie theaters, and canceling my Netflix/Hulu subscriptions. That alone, saved me about $50/month, or $600 for the whole year.

In total, though, I needed to save about $7500 to make everything happened:

  • Sufficient Funds for entering Australia: $4400
  • Visa Application: $400
  • Documents/Passport photos: $75
  • Travel Insurance (6mo.): $335
  • Transportation (Planes, Trains & Buses): $1150
  • Accommodations (Hostels, mostly): $980
  • Miscellaneous (suitcase, supplies, etc.): $200

But I scrimped and saved for over a year, and got it done. Ok, well, I admit–I got some help from my family and friends to the tune of about $1000, but I still did it mostly on my own.

But saving money is hard! (tl;dr; no, it’s really not)

When people ask me how I saved that much money, I turn it back around on them. “How often do you buy a Starbucks coffee?” If it’s even just a few times a week, that adds up to over $600 in a year. Eat out or order in a couple times a week? That can be over $1000 in a year. How often do you go out to bars and clubs?

It doesn’t take long at all to realize that you could save a lot more money than you think. It’s just a matter of setting your priorities, and, yes, sacrificing. But the sacrifices will be worth it, ten-fold.

Every once in a while, you might want to cave, and buy that Starbucks, or order out for dinner. When those times come around, remind yourself that $4 coffee might cover half a night in a hostel in Fiji (no joke; I’m staying at one for about $8/night). Get your friends and family in on the game. With them supporting you, you’ll be less tempted to spend money that could go towards your travelling.

Ok, so what do I really need to know?

If you’ve gotten this far, and still think you might want to get a Work & Holiday visa, congratulations! Most people stopped reading at “I have to give up Starbucks?!” If you’re one of those, or your one of my friends or family reading this post because you love me, you can stop reading here.

Ok, are they gone? Cool. Let’s get started.

So, I don’t know where you’re from. I’m from the US, so applying for the visa was insanely simple for me. Other countries might have a couple more hurdles to follow. Some countries, however, have it good, because they can stay for a second year.

Essentially there are two kinds of WHV’s for Australia:

Working Holiday visa (subclass 417)

  • Eligible countries: Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, (South) Korea, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
  • The visa is issued for one year.
  • You can only work for each employer for up to 6 months during the visa period.
  • You can apply for a second year visa, if you’ve done three months of approved “regional” work (farming, fishing, mining, construction, etc.) during your first year.

If you qualify for a second year, you are allowed to repeat any employer from the first year, as long as you work for them for no more than six months during each year. If you’re from any one of the countries listed, you can apply for this visa online, via post, or in person at an Embassy.

Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462)

  • Eligible countries: Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Poland, Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Urugay
  • The visa is issued for one year.
  • You can only work for each employer for up to 6 months during the visa period.
  • You are not eligible to apply for a second year.

So the main difference between the two visas, other than which countries are eligible, is that 462 visa holders aren’t allowed to apply for a second year. Unfortunately, I fall into that category, so once my year is up, I’ll have to make plans to go elsewhere.

Education requirements vary by country. If you’re from the US, you only need to have graduated high school. Other countries require two or more years of undergraduate studies.

Only US citizens can apply for the 462 visa online. Everyone else must apply via post or in person at an Embassy. If you’re from a non-English-speaking country, you also have to be able to prove fluency in English, either by passing a test, or by having a certain amount of education completely taught in English.

Please note: The information above is current as of the time of publishing, but I am not a legal expert, and things change, so be sure to read up on the official Australia Immigration website, via the links above.

Whew! That was a lot of info! Have any questions? Feel free to let me know in the comments, or via my contact form.

9 thoughts on “How I got my Australian Work & Holiday Visa

  1. So I am trying to get my documents together for the 462 online application, but I was wondering about the certified copy thing. I feel like it’s silly to get a copy from the government or whatever when I’m just going to then copy (scan) that for the online app. Would it be acceptable to just scan my originals for the application? Like just straight up scan my own birth certificate and passport and send that? Or no? Thanks!

    1. You probably don’t need to make certified copies unless they ask you to mail them in.

      I was never even asked to scan in a copy of my documents for the online application process.

      Still, it’s not a bad idea to have extra copies of these documents. They can make getting replacements, or proving your identity if you lose your passport, a lot easier.

      And, from what I’ve read, you can theoretically be asked for the documents even up to the point you enter Australia. They likely wouldn’t take them to keep, but I’d feel better about giving them a certified copy than my original.

      If you’re near DC or one of the other cities where there’s a consulate, the staff there can make certified copies for (usually) a lot less than getting copies from the birth records office or State Department (for your passport) can.

      All that being said, IANAIL (I am not an Immigration Attorney), so if you want to be sure, I’d recommend calling up the Visa office in Toronto.

      1. Thanks so much! I just submitted my application, now it’s showing on my account the place where I can attach documents, should I attach a scan of my passport etc.? Or will they notify by email if I am missing these?

      2. I don’t remember being shown a place to attach my documents, so I’d go ahead and scan/upload them to be safe.

  2. I applied for the holiday working visa last Saturday and today is Friday and i still didn’t receive any response. By the way I’m an american from Arizona, so do you think i should contact them or wait a couple of days ?

    1. I would imagine this time of year, they might have a longer backlog, so that could be normal. As long as the application shows as submitted online, you should be fine.

      I’d probably wait until the end of next week.

      Also, keep in mind that the place to call is in Toronto, so have some skype credit or something to make the call cheaply. When I called t ask about something, there was a long wait on hold.

  3. Hi again
    Hopefully this is my last question. I’ve been granted my working and holiday visa, after words I’ve done my bio-metrical information which means they’ve taken my photo of me and my finger prints. Once i did it 3 people told me 3 different versions. the first one said that you might need to come back to print your visa. The other one said that no need to come back, and it will take three working days to be notified and finally the last one said no need to receive an email that you got it because you were notified the first time. please tell me which version is right or at least what happened with you and thanks in advance.

    1. I wasn’t asked to submit my biometric info, so I’m not sure. It’s probably best to call the processing center in Toronto (I think) directly to check on the status.

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