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Australian Working Holidays; No Longer Just For Students

By Oonagh Baerveldt

No longer just for the backpacker, the Australian Working Holiday Program has broad appeal for those looking to undertake a life changing experience Down Under.

The Australian Working Holiday Visa used to be the domain of the gap year student, but now an increasing number of under 30 year old professionals are taking advantage of the Australian Government's work/travel scheme. Known as career-breaks, these mini sabbaticals are challenging the way the Working Holidays are perceived both here in the UK and in Australia.

Amazingly, in 2004 over 93,000 Australian Working Holiday Visas were issued to travellers from around the world of which more than 35,000 were to UK nationals.

Under the Working Holiday Visa requirements, the primary purpose of an Australian Working Holiday must be a holiday; but the visa allows for employment for up to 3 months with any one employer. For those on a career break, the 3 month work periods offer an excellent opportunity to enhance skills through work experience or try something new altogether. However, the visa conditions are strict, and visa holders must be sure to abide those set out by the Australian Government.

To be eligible for the Australian Working Holiday Program, candidates must be between 18 and 30 (inclusive), have no dependents and be citizens of country where a reciprocal working holiday arrangement exists (these include the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany and Canada). In addition, applicants must prove they have "sufficient funds", roughly A$4,000 to support themselves for the initial period of their holiday plus a return or onwards air ticket (or an additional A$1000 to cover this expense) and be of good health and character. Criminal convictions are taken into account and may delay or extend the visa processing period.

In addition, applications for Working Holiday Visas must be made outside Australia. In other words, applicants cannot be on holidays in Australia already and apply from within the country. The visa is granted upon entry to Australia and is valid for 12 months from the entry date.

Unlike Australian tourist and visitor visas, Working Holiday Visas must be stamped into the holder's passport. Travellers arriving at Sydney airport can have this done on arrival, otherwise passports must be posted to the nearest Department of Immigration office

A Working Holiday Visa allows for multiple entries to Australia, meaning travellers can visit other countries in the region while on their working holiday visa. However, any time spent outside Australia cannot be reclaimed.

As the criteria for the visa are straightforward, other considerations for backpackers and career breakers alike include processing time and the conditions imposed once the visa itself is granted.

A straightforward visa application can take anywhere from 2 days to 6 weeks to process. Generally, processing is under two weeks, but if applicants have medical or criminal considerations this period may be extended.

Once the visa is granted, the conditions imposed on the holder include the previously mentioned 3 month working limit for any one employer. This same condition extends to study and training.

An Australian Working Holiday Visa is activated upon entry to Australia for a period of 12 months from the date of entry. In November 2005, it became possible to apply for a second Working Holiday Visa. This 12 month "extension or second visa is available to applicants who worked as seasonal employees in a regional area. In this case, a seasonal work is defined as picking fruit, nuts and other crops, pruning and trimming vines and trees, general maintenance crop work and other work associated with packing or processing the harvest. Regional Australia is defined anywhere in Australia except Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, the NSW Central Coast, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Perth, Melbourne or the ACT.

Applications for a second Working Holiday Visa must be submitted with proof of the work completed and in what area.

About The Author

Oonagh Baerveldt is the Communications Manager at Visa Bureau, an independent immigration advisory company. The firm specialises in immigration and visas to Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada. Complete details of Australia's Working Holiday Program can be found at


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