Australian Work and Holiday Visa for U.S. Citizens

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House

A Work and Holiday visa is a great option for young adults wanting to travel the world without going into debt. And with a working holiday visa, travelers have the opportunity to immerse themselves into another culture and really experience daily life in a foreign country.

Australia is one of the most popular countries to offer working holiday visas. It is a beautifully diverse nation with ample opportunity, making it a great place for experienced travelers and novices alike. Australia offers two subclasses of working holiday visas, the 462 and the 417.

Citizens of the United States of America can apply for the Work and Holiday visa subclass 462. The visa allows Americans to travel in Australia for a year with the option of working and studying. Follow this guide, which is aimed to help U.S. citizens, to get started on applying for your Work and Holiday visa in Australia.

Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia

About the Visa

The Work and Holiday visa is available for people between 18 and 30 years old (inclusive). It allows you to travel and work in Australia for up to 12 continuous months.

The visa is electronic; there is no label physically placed in your passport. Entry to the country is cleared by scanning your passport, but it is a good idea to have a paper copy with the visa grant number as a back up. Additionally, you are able to travel in and out of the country as many times as you would like with the visa.

Twelve Apostles Great Ocean Road

Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road

Applying for the Work and Holiday Visa

Applying for the visa is a very simple process. U.S. citizens apply online, and the application is usually accepted in a few days. The immigration website states six days as the average application acceptance rate, but mine only took four days (more on that later).

You must apply for the visa while outside of Australia, and you can only apply if you have not previously entered the country on another Work and Holiday visa. When applying, you’ll have to sign up for an ImmiAccount, where you can track your application or submit additional information if required.

The application also includes a short questionnaire about where you’ve traveled and whether you’ve committed crimes or ever been arrested. Assuming you meet the basic requirements and don’t have an extensive criminal record, you shouldn’t have any issues with your application being accepted.

A word of advice: make sure that the passport you use to apply for the visa is the same passport you use to enter the country. So, if you’ll need to renew your passport during your stay in Australia, do so before you apply for the visa so that it will be linked to your new passport. You might be able to update your passport details after you apply for the visa, but it is extra paperwork and money that is a hassle that should be avoided.

Visa Requirements

Here’s a list of the basic requirements for applying for the visa:

  • Aged 18 to 30 years old (inclusive)
  • Hold a valid passport from an eligible country (listed below)
  • Have no dependent children staying with you in Australia
  • Have enough money to support yourself in the country ($5,000 AUD)
  • Be of good character and good health
  • Hold a high school diploma

What to Include with the Application

The immigration website includes a document checklist of the things that need to be included with your application. However, when I applied, I didn’t need all of the items. I think it’s because the 462 visa applications are mailed in by other countries, but since U.S. applicants submit theirs online, the same paperwork is not necessary. However, it’s best to be prepared and have all of the items on hand while applying.

Here’s a list of the required documents:

  • Copy of the biographical pages of your current passport
  • Copy of your birth certificate (I don’t recall having to include this)
  • Two recent passport-sized photographs (I don’t recall having to include this)
  • Evidence of sufficient funds of $5,000 AUD (I don’t recall having to include this)
  • Evidence of education: high school diploma or higher (I don’t recall having to include this)
  • Copy of military service record or discharge papers if you’ve served in the armed forces
  • Copy of name change evidence if you have indeed changed your name

Visa Cost

You’ll need to pay the visa application fee before you can submit the application. The base rate for the application is $440 AUD. There is also a debit and credit card surcharge. Surcharge rates are: 0.98% for Visa and MasterCard, and 1.4% for American Express.

Occasional Requirements

Occasionally, you’ll have to submit more information during the visa application process. As I mentioned earlier, my visa approval took about four days. That’s because I was required to have a Tuberculosis chest x-ray completed by an approved agency to obtain my visa. I think this was because of health concerns in other countries I had recently visited before applying for my Work and Holiday visa.

In most cases, it seems an uncommon requirement for U.S. citizens. But note that there are only a few accepted hospitals in the country to get the x-ray done for the visa. Thankfully, there was a location a mere 3-hour drive away from my home. I went the day after being notified of the requirement, and the results were sent in straight away by the hospital. The visit, x-ray and electronic submission of my results ended up costing me about $350. It was quite a large chunk of money, especially considering the cost of the actual visa. But still, it was absolutely worth the expense.

Bay of Fires Tasmania

Bay of Fires in Tasmania

After Your Visa is Granted

Again, it’s highly unlikely that you won’t be approved for the Work and Holiday visa, so don’t stress out about it. The application process is very straightforward. You should have your visa within a few days. And with that, you’ll need to know what to do once your visa is granted.

Like I mentioned before, the visa is electronic, so you won’t have a physical label added to your passport. You’ll have a VEVO (Visa Entitlement Verification Online) account that allows you to view your visa details and conditions. The account also give you the option to approve organizations, perhaps a potential employer, to check your visa conditions. There is no registration required; all you have to do is use your passport and transaction reference number provided when your visa application is accepted.

Visa Stipulations

Once your visa is issued, you have 12 months from the issue date to enter Australia. The visa allows you to stay in the country up to 12 months from the date of first entry. The 12 months is continuous even if you leave the country; time spent outside of Australia cannot be reclaimed. However, you may enter and leave Australia as many times as you’d like within the 12 month period.

There are no restrictions on where you can work or what type of position you can have, but you are only allowed to work for one employer for a maximum of 6 months. The visa also allows you to study for up to 4 months, which is measured as 17 weeks of study, including weekends, public holidays and non-teaching days prior to exam periods.

Getting Started in Australia

Once you’ve entered the country, there are a few things you’ll need to do to set up your life in Australia. You should get phone service set up straight away so you are easy to reach. You will also need to open a bank account. You’ll need somewhere to put your money once you start working!

Speaking of, you can start hunting for a job before you leave for Australia, but it is much easier to apply for jobs once you are in the country. Employers really prefer in-person applications and communicating with you face-to-face or by phone rather than email. Be aware that you should apply for a Tax File Number as soon as possible. You are not required to have a TFN, but you’ll pay less taxes if you have one.

You can also start searching for housing before entering the country, but again it’s better to wait. You’ll want to see your housing options before you commit to living somewhere. Plus it’s a great way to check out different neighborhoods around the city.

I also recommend getting health insurance. Even if you don’t visit the doctor often, it’s good to have in case of emergencies. Unfortunately, the U.S.A. does not have a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia, so you will have to get private health insurance.

Great Barrier Reef

Clown Fish in the Great Barrier Reef

Second Year Work and Holiday Visa

I’m certain you’ll fall in love with Australia, and one year won’t seem like long enough. Well, lucky you! It has only recently become possible for holders of the 462 visa to apply for a second year visa. If you complete three months of eligible work in northern Australia, you can apply for a second year Work and Holiday visa that can be used straight after your first visa, or sometime later as long as you apply before you turn 31.

Here’s the low down on requirements for the second year visa. You must work for three months or a minimum of 88 calendar days while on the first Work and Holiday visa. The work does not have to be done continuously or with the same employer. You can spread work out over time and at different places as long as you complete the 88 calendar days.

But all work must be done in northern Australia. This is defined as areas north of the Tropic of Capricorn in Queensland and Western Australia as well as the whole of the Northern Territory. Additionally, only paid work in an accepted field can count toward the minimum requirement. Work that is approved includes positions in tourism and hospitality or agriculture, forestry and fishing. Check out this list of eligible work that is accepted for the second year visa.

You’ll have to submit proof of your employment with your application. This is typically a form completed by the employer, but can also include tax returns and bank statements. The application is also done online and requires another application fee.

Govetts Leap Blue Mountains

Govetts Leap in the Blue Mountains

Visa Information for Non-U.S. Citizens

The Work and Holiday visa subclass 462 is available for people from the following countries: Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay and Vietnam.

Though it is important to note that these countries have additional requirements that do not apply to U.S. citizens. Only U.S. citizens can apply for the visa online.

If you don’t see your country listed, check out the Working Holiday 417 visa. It has similar requirements, but is available for passport holders from several other countries.

Which city will you call home in Australia?

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