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Sometimes, a couple of weeks just isn’t enough for a holiday. But longer trips can end up getting expensive, and be difficult to reconcile with life back home. Wouldn’t it be great if it was possible to travel somewhere interesting and actually live and work there - just for a year or two?
Good news: working holiday visas - WHVs for short - allow you to do just that. WHVs are visas that let you stay in a country for an extended period of time, and to get a job to support yourself while you’re there.
The emphasis is on “holiday” rather than “working”: it’s not the same as a standard working visa. Principally, it’s designed for young people looking to expand their horizons, and not for people looking to emigrate for good. That’s why WHVs tend to come with restrictions, including age limits.
WHVs are usually reciprocal agreements between countries. That means if Australian citizens can apply to go to the UK on a WHV, for example, then UK citizens can also apply for an Australian WHV. Australia currently has WHV agreements with 42 countries or territories.¹,²
This article will tell you some more detail about working holiday visas, with information on how to apply for one.
A working holiday visa is an official document that gives you permission to stay in a country for a limited period of time while both enjoying a holiday, and working to support yourself.
WHVs are generally for a fixed period of a year, and you may be able to extend it for another year. There tend to be extra conditions attached, such as how long you can keep any one job. You also generally have to be under a specific age.
Yes, Australia offers a WHV for citizens of certain countries who want to come to Australia. In fact, it offers two different types of WHV, with very similar names:
- Working Holiday visa (subclass 417)
- Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462)
Your eligibility for each type depends on which country or jurisdiction you’re from. Here’s an overview of who should apply for which:
|Working Holiday visa (subclass 417)
|Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462)²
|Hong Kong region of China
|Taiwan (not on an official or diplomatic passport)
The two categories of visa are similar, but there are a few extra conditions for getting a Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462): you need to meet requirements concerning education and English language ability, for example.²
Australian citizens, meanwhile, can look for working holiday visas anywhere listed above. Visas are always issued by the host country, so the eligibility conditions will differ from place to place.
WHVs are substantially different from work visas. Here are a few of the key differences.
Working holiday visas are for young people only. If you’re above the age threshold, even if you consider yourself young at heart, sorry about that but it’s not going to happen.
For an Australian WHV, you need to be between 18 and 30. If you apply aged 30 but they haven’t made a decision before you turn 31, you might still be in with a shot.¹,² There’s an exception for Canadian and Irish citizens: they can be up to 35.¹
By contrast, while regular Australian work visas may also have age limits, they’re often considerably higher.³,⁴
Australians wanting to travel abroad on a WHV will need to meet age criteria as well. These visa are generally for 18-30-year-olds, just like the Australian one, but there are a few exceptions - 18-25 for South Korea, for example, or 18-31 for Poland.⁵
With both types of Australian WHV, there are no restrictions on the kind of work you can do. However, in most cases you’ll only be able to keep a job for 6 months at most. If your focus is on work rather than holiday, the official advice is to consider a work visa instead.⁶,⁷
There are exceptions to the 6-month rule. You can keep the same job if the work involves you travelling around the country, or if you’re working in plant and animal cultivation, or in certain industries in northern Australia. In other cases, you can request permission to keep a job for longer than 6 months.⁸
Other countries all impose slightly different conditions to ensure that you don’t end up staying for longer than agreed. In general the rules exist to make sure the focus stays on the holiday side of the visa, rather than the working side.
The exact process depends on exactly where you want to go, but in most cases the key steps should be as follows.
- Decide where you want to go, and check you’re eligible. See which places your home country has WHV agreements with, and look at the conditions of eligibility such as age limits. Also have a think about what sort of work you’d want to integrate into your trip.
- Put your application pack together. One universal truth of visas is that the authorities will need to see some documents and forms from you. At the very, very least, this is likely to be a passport and an application form. You might well also need to prove that you have enough money to support yourself, you meet health and character requirements, and you’re able to speak the local language. It could take some time to put the documents together.
- Submit your application. There’s often a way to do this online, but not always. Be prepared to make a trip to the country’s embassy or consulate as well, as you might need to attend an interview.
- Wait for the outcome. It’s a long process, and it could take a while. Good luck!
This sort of visa does come at a price. Both types of Australian WHV currently cost AUD 450.¹,²
In other countries, fees vary. Australians looking to take a working holiday in Canada will need to pay CAD 150 or CAD 250, with a potential biometrics fee of CAD 85.⁹ Australians interested in Ireland, meanwhile, have to pay AUD 95, or AUD 195 for authorisation within 5 working days.¹⁰
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Now, back to what you came here to read.
It’s easy to imagine yourself starting out on a working holiday visa, and having such a great time that you never want to leave. But unfortunately, the terms of these visas tend to be quite strict. And really, they’re meant to be once-in-a-lifetime types of experience.
However, in Australia you’re allowed to have a second one. If you’ve already been on a WHV in Australia, and completed 3 months of work in any of a few specific areas of employment, then you can apply to come back and do it all again.¹¹,¹²
You do have to have been working in an “approved industry”, though. That includes plant and animal cultivation, and a few other fields of work mostly connected to farming. The industries are a little different depending on whether you’re on the 417 visa or the 462. Also, on a 462 visa you often need to have been working in northern Australia in order to qualify.¹³,¹⁴
Not all countries offer a second working holiday visa. Most of the time, if you want to extend your stay or work out another way of staying abroad, you’ll need to consider other options. The sad truth is that a year is a pretty long time for a holiday by any standards. Perhaps a full working visa is the best way forward?
Working holiday visas are a brilliant way to explore the world without running out of cash or abandoning all your career plans. Good luck exploring your options - with luck, you’ll find the country, and the job, and most importantly the holiday, that’s perfect for you.Sources:
All sources checked 16 May 2019
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