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Australian Working Holiday 101: Turning Inspiration into Employment

AUSTRALIA | Thursday, 24 February 2011 | Views [11648] | Comments [1]

I was never one of the fortunate kids who travelled the world at a young age, nor was I one of the kids who was taught the value of a dollar. I think for many middle-class American families its spend, spend, spend until you’re in debt, debt, debt.

At the age of 22 I managed to rack up $10,000 of credit card debt before I won the Van-Tastic Adventures contest. I wasn’t alone either, I had tons of friends who applied for credit cards their Freshman year of college and ended up burying themselves because no one ever reiterated the fact that we’d actually have to pay them back, with

After my six-week adventure in Tasmania I would have to come straight home to work and pay off my debt or, I could stay in Australia and work to pay off my debt. The latter seemed far more appealing so, that’s what I did. Most people told me I was absolutely crazy, but I did it anyways.

I researched working holiday visas for Americans in Australia and found I was able to stay for 12 months upon my arrival. There are a few options depending on where you are from. If you visit the Australian Government’s web site you can decide which working holiday visa suits you.

As an American, I applied for visa subclass 462. I answered a few questions, paid a fee of $230 AUD and got my visa electronically via email less than one week later- EASY!

If you are a national of the Commonwealth, after 12 months, you are eligible for a second year visa if you “fruit pick” or do some kind of “rural farm work.” You must be employed for at least 3 months and complete the work before your first visa expires. One good thing about doing your 3 months in Tasmania is that almost the entire state is considered rural. After you log your hours you can begin the application process for the second-year visa.

My adventure continued. I decided to stay with a friend of mine in Melbourne and begin my job hunt there. My plan was to apply for a job in marketing or public relations since that is what my degree is in.

I applied for about 40+ jobs and was only granted one interview. I posted my resume on several job sites and heard back from next to no one. The one interview I went to, I was told that I was qualified for the position but, they were looking for someone permanent and would not go through the legalities to sponsor me. Foreign sponsorship, these days, is a very long and lengthy process for employers and most
are not willing to jump through the hoops.

Unless you have a specialized skill such as nursing, construction, etc., it is next to impossible to find a "career" as a foreigner. You will find most, if not all, countries want to hire their nationals to stimulate their economy- with good reason.

If you are flexible about where you will work, for how much and how often, it is pretty easy to find a hospitality job whether or not you have experience. You can work at restaurants, bars, hotels, or work through companies such as Octopus Hospitality and Events
that staff major festivals or events.  The pay in Australia is quite good because tipping is not expected.

I got a job as a bartender in the city, at a hotel, and made $20/hour. I worked six days a week and was able to pay off a big chunk of that looming $10,000. I worked there for about 4 months and decided to move on to something new and exciting. I found out about a few different ski hills in Australia's high country that hire tons of young people to work the winter season. Mount Buller, Falls and Mount Hotham are just a few of the major ski resorts that hire instructors, bartenders, servers, front-desk staff, lift operators and housekeepers offering cheap accommodation for its employees.

I worked at Mt. Buller as a bartender and made $21/hour and had $100 of rent taken out of my paycheck each week. Staff accommodation consisted of two bunk beds per room and about 10 rooms per floor of a building that had anywhere between 2 and 4 floors. If you work directly for the resort you will also usually get a free lift pass to use for the season. If you aren't a pro-skier or snowboarder don't get discouraged. Born in Miami, I went snowboarding once in my life, but I wasn't the only one working on the hill who was a beginner.

Unfortunately, Australia doesn't have nice fluffy powder for you to board or ski on, but my experience there was a lot of fun and I met tons of great people. I was also able to save even more money to pay off my debt. If you are an avid snowboarder or skier, or would love to get into it, I highly recommend researching work on a ski hill during the winter season. New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Argentina, USA- all places you can work and play if you are eligible for a working holiday visa. Kiwis, Canadians and Australians are very lucky; they can apply for a working holiday visa in more than 20 countries. Americans aren't so lucky; we only have the option of working in Australia or New Zealand, and I think Singapore. For all kinds of information on jobs overseas, visas and more, visit Any Work Anywhere

I'll leave you with a few tips that will be a huge help when you're ready to work in Australia. Upon entering the country you will need to apply for a tax file number. Once you are hired your employer will have you fill out paperwork, as would any employer, that includes personal information that will get you paid. If you are living in Australia for 6 months or more I recommend ticking the box that states you are a "resident for tax purposes." You will get about 29% of your pay taxed, but you will get almost all of it back when you fill out your taxes (so think of it as saving). You can easily file your taxes online with "E-tax."

Upon accepting work you will also be asked to choose a superannuation fund or "retirement fund." Most employers have a company they already use, so don't stress out about finding one. If you work in hospitality or tourism you are likely to have HostPlus. Your employer must match 9% of your earnings to deposit into your super fund.

If you are leaving the country outside of the tax period you are eligible to "file early." You can pick up a "tax pack" at your local tax office or news agency. Unfortunately, you can not file early via the web, so you are required to mail in your tax pack or bring it to your local tax office.  Find out more information on filing your taxes early here if you are permanently leaving Australia.

You are also eligible to receive your superannuation upon permanently leaving. You will get taxed about 40%, but I like to think of it as extra, extra savings. Find out how.

Related Articles:

Australia Working Holiday Regrets: What you should have done before leaving home

Working Holiday decisions - travel first, then work?

About the Author

After winning Van-tastic Adventures’ Tasmania leg, Dara decided it was time to pack her bags and begin her epic adventure around the world. She worked in and around Melbourne until heading to Thailand to become TEFL certified to be an ESL teacher. Her next journey will be back to Asia and then Canada. Get a front-row seat to her wild ride on her video travel blog, One-Way Ticket.

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Tags: australia, hospitality, money, skiing, tax, travel, usa, visas, working holidays



Hey! I want to try this out too---visiting Australia and eventually finding a job---but I'm just wondering if they required you to present a health insurance (probably from nib or http://www.austhealth.com )? And also, will this require you to get a special visa, a 457 visa perhaps? Thank you so much in advance!

  Shana Nov 12, 2012 8:50 PM

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