How to get a working holiday visa for Australia

Dreaming of moving to Australia? Here’s all you need to know if you are thinking of applying for a working holiday visa.

How to get a working holiday visa for Australia
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Dreaming of moving to Australia? Under 30 (or in some cases 35!) years of age? Read on.

Holiday makers from 40 countries who are up to the age of 30 (or 35 and British, Irish, Canadian, French, Italian or Danish passport holders) have the opportunity to work, live and travel in Australia with a 12-month “working holiday” visa.

The scheme is hugely popular for a post-school “gap year” – or an early career break – looking for a life-defining adventure: you'll make new friends, develop new skills and take home incredible memories (and maybe even some savings).

If the idea of moving to Australia to surf, sail and soak up that famously bountiful sunshine appeals to you, then read on for everything you need to know to make it happen.

Two men working in a bar in Sydney one is pouring a drink
Hospitality is a key industry looking for workers across the country © Isabella Moore / Lonely Planet

Who qualifies for a working holiday visa in Australia?

The Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) is open to young people from 40 countries mostly up to the age of 30 (that means you've not yet turned 31). Since mid-2023, citizens of the UK, Ireland, Canada, France, Denmark and Italy can apply up to to the age of 35 (inclusive). You can arrive in Australia at any time within the 12-month period from the date your visa is granted.

There is a small catch for some would-be holiday-makers, however. For a handful of countries the number of applicants per year is capped putting the dream for 2024, for some, on ice for now.

To increase transparency the Australian government publishes a list of countries that have reached (or are approaching) their annual quotas. And as demand outpaces spots available, the government plans to introduce a lottery-style system for citizens of China, Vietnam and India from next year. 

Industry groups in Australia have also been lobbying to lift the age for eligibility to 50 years to help plug skills gaps, especially in management level roles, but as it stands if you’re over 30 (or 35) you’ll need an employer to sponsor you to work there. 

Find out what else do you need to know before going to Australia

Can I stay for more than one year in Australia?

There are certain requirements that need to be met if you want to extend your visa beyond the initial 12 months – mainly taking up work in industries that have the biggest labor shortages such as seasonal farm work, hospitality jobs in remote locations, fishing and pearling, or mining and construction. 

For more on what jobs you need to do, and for how long, to get a second (and even a third year visa) read up on the latest from the Department of Immigration and follow these tips on how to make the most of your working holiday visa.

Two sets of eyes are better than one
In between jobs, take off and explore Australia's vast countryside © Holger Mette / Getty Images

How much money do you need for a working holiday visa in Australia?

The working holiday visa is not cheap. It costs AU$635 and a further AU$635 for each subsequent 12-month visa.

You’ll also need an airfare (you don’t need a return ticket, but you will need to get one eventually), plus enough money to feed and entertain yourself until you find work. The more financially secure you are the less likely you’ll have to take the first job you get offered. Don’t forget this is also supposed to be a holiday! 

A shortage of housing (an issue in many countries now) has seen rental prices skyrocketing across Australian cities, so do your research on upfront costs such as rental bonds, even for share housing, before you depart – and budget accordingly. Adelaide is the cheapest capital city to rent in, with Perth not far behind.

Jobs in more rural areas can come with accommodation included, but ask for details – and even photos – before committing to traveling to very remote locations (and manage your expectations). 

Save this guide to saving money while traveling in Australia

How long does it take to get a visa?

Provided you have an up-to-date passport, you satisfy the age requirement, have enough savings to show and meet the health and character requirements, you can apply online immediately.

How long it takes to have your visa granted can depend on whether you have all the necessary documentation ready and how many people are applying. There’s an online tool to get a sense of wait times for visa processing at any given time.

A man picks chardonnay grapes at the vineyard in Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, Australia
Need a break from office life? Australia has plenty of jobs in the agricultural sector © MichaelMajor / Getty Images

What jobs can I do if I am on a working holiday visa?

Matthew Heyes of Backpacker Job Board, Australia’s largest recruitment website for working holiday makers, told Lonely Planet: “Job opportunities for working holiday makers are widespread, covering a range of different sectors. There are fruit-picking and other agricultural-based jobs, which are really popular because these roles contribute to the second- and third-year visa-extension program. The roles are also seasonal and offer the opportunity to earn well while the seasons are high.

“Other cornerstones of backpacker employment include au pair work, plus sales and marketing positions as well as other broader hospitality jobs.”

Not all working holiday makers are there for short-term work, some hope to gain experience that can help advance their careers back home.

A strong Australian dollar is another incentive for some especially if their home currency is struggling. Work hard and save well and you could go home with some major dollars in the bank – unless you're tempted to spend it all having the time of your life traveling around Australia.

Have wheels, will travel: here are some of the best road trips to do in Australia

Can I leave Australia and return with a working holiday visa?

Yes, you can leave and re-enter Australia with a working holiday visa which means as well as exploring this vast and varied land, you can also hop over to neighboring countries like New Zealand, Pacific islands such as Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, or Indonesia to the north.

With age limits set for the working holiday visa, and the clock ticking, what are you waiting for?

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