This guide is aimed to help get started on what is sure to be their greatest adventure.
The decision to take a gap year in Australia will provide your customer with incredible memories as well as skills and work experience to put them ahead of their peers.
Prospective employers look for certain qualities in candidates, many of which can be shown by having done a gap year - courage, curiosity, maturity, open-mindedness and independence, just to name a few.
If not yet sure what career path to take, a gap year is an excellent chance to try their hand at different jobs. If totally sure where their career is headed, this could be an ideal opportunity to get real-world experience in their field. Whether it’s paid or volunteer, it will enhance their CV and provide them with valuable contacts in the industry.
At the very least, they’ll experience an incredible part of the world, make lasting friendships and leave with cherished memories.
What should be done before they land?
Once they’ve decided to take a gap year in Australia, there are a few things you can do to help prepare and make their arrival as smooth as possible.
Apply for the Working Holiday Visa
If a resident of [COUNTRY NAME], they should apply for [APPROPRIATE VISA SUBCLASS]. Get detailed information on the requirements for this visa as well as instructions on how to apply here.
Applications are often approved within a few days, but best they give at least a month in case any details need to be verified by the Australian Department of Home Affairs.
Decide where they want to base themselves
Once their visa has been granted, you can really start planning their trip. The first step for them will be deciding which of Australia’s amazing cities to base themselves in. If a truly metropolitan experience is what they're after, consider Sydney or Melbourne. If they love a more tropical climate, laid-back lifestyle and lots of opportunities to access the Great Barrier Reef, living in Cairns or Airlie Beach might be right for them. Adelaide or Perth are excellent locations for people that love the beach and discovering great food and wine. If looking for real adventure or a quintessential outback experience, suggest they head to Darwin.
Australia has so many great cities and regional areas. Advise them to travel around and see as much as possible during their stay. Read about the backpacker precincts in around Australia for a better idea on what they can find in each location.
Book an open return ticket
One of the most exciting things about travel is the unknown. Giving your customer the flexibility to make or change plans as they go will ensure they never miss out on doing something that appeals to them. By booking an open return ticket, they are essentially pre-paying for their flight home without locking in the date. This option gives flexibility to extend their stay in Australia without paying high fees for changing return airfare dates. If they commit to staying in Australia for one year and then decide that they’d like to remain for a second year, this flexible ticket option makes it simple to adjust travel plans.
Some countries have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Australia. However, it’s recommended they take out health insurance to cover any unforeseen medical treatment they might need in Australia. They are personally liable for all their healthcare costs while in Australia and insurance can help limit their financial liability.
Travel insurance is also highly recommended to protect them and their valuables as they move around the country.
Create a CV/Resume
It can be challenging to secure work before they arrive in Australia as prospective employers will want to meet face-to-face. However, there are a few things they can do before they arrive to make the process easier.
Having their CV (or resume) ready to go on arrival will save time and stress. If in a PDF version, they can start emailing potential employers right away, or make a more lasting impression by hand-delivering their CV to prospective employers. Their hostel will likely have internet and printing services, or they can head to a local library to print a few copies.
The CV should be kept to one page and list only relevant experience. Plus more tips and tricks to writing an Australian CV can be found here.
Start practicing for job interviews
In Australia, most employers would prefer to meet face-to-face before they offer a job. Depending on the role, interviews tend to be fairly casual. To give them the best chance at success, they should dress nicely and be well-presented, arrive a few minutes before the scheduled interview time, offer detailed answers to the questions and show enthusiasm and interest for the role and the company.
Even if a confident person, doing some interview prep can help to stand out when meeting prospective employers. Look online for sample interview questions with tips on how to answer them. If they can, practice with a friend.
Remember that interviews go both ways. This is also a chance to learn more about the role and the company so they can decide whether it's a job they want to do. They should have a few questions ready to ask their prospective employer to help them decide. Be sure they phrase their questions in a positive way - so rather than asking if they will be required to do overtime, ask what a typical day on the job looks like.
Here are a few more great questions they may want to ask the interviewer.
What about once they land?
They've made it! Now it's time to take care of a few things so they'll be ready for an incredible gap year.
Fulfill second year requirements
A Working Holiday visa has a validity of 12 months. However, it’s possible to apply for a second-year Working Holiday visa if they meet certain eligibility requirements. One of the requirements is the completion of three months of specified work in a rural area. If considering staying a second year, or even just unsure whether to take the option, doing their specified work on arrival is something to consider.
First of all, it will allow them to meet other working holiday makers right off the bat. It’s a great opportunity to connect with like-minded people, hear about the experiences they’ve already had in Australia, and get a better understanding of what to expect from their gap year. They may even meet someone who can help secure a job once their specified work requirements have been completed. Secondly, thanks to its rural nature, most specified work comes with accommodation (whether paid separately or deducted from wages), so they won’t need to worry about securing a flat - or even deciding which city to base themselves in - until the three months are complete. Finally, by doing the specified work early, they won’t have to worry about uprooting themselves later in the year. They can fully settle into their new life Down Under and immerse in the Australian culture and way of life.
Information about harvest work opportunities in regional Australia can be found at the Australian Government’s Harvest Trail website.
Find a place to stay
Once they know where they plan to land, you can get their accommodation sorted. While they could secure a permanent room or flat before arriving, it’s best to give them a week or so to get the lay of the land. They may want to compare different neighbourhoods - exploring options for public transport or local job opportunities. They may even prefer to find a job before deciding where they're going to live.
Once they're on the ground they can start meeting up with potential flatmates in person. They can tour the flat and get a better idea of whether the neighbourhood (and the company) is a good fit. Here are some useful sites for finding flatmates and rooms to rent that you can pass on: Flatmate Finders and Flatmates.com.au.
Open a bank account
Their employer won’t be able to pay them until a bank account is set up. Thankfully, opening a bank account in Australia is easy and quick. Just have them visit a bank branch with their passport and proof of address (if they don’t have a permanent address yet, their hostel can help with this). They don’t need an appointment - tell them to simply visit a teller and let them know they'd like to open an account.
Australia has four main banking institutions - ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank, NAB (National Australia Bank) and Westpac. In addition to these, there are everal smaller banks as well as some online banks. If they plan to travel extensively throughout Australia during their stay, it may be more beneficial to stick to one of the main banks. They'll find more branches and ATMs around the country, helping to avoid costly fees for using a competing bank’s ATM. Before choosing, recommend they read about the different account options, required balance and any monthly fees that may be applicable. This will help them pick the best account for their needs.
In a few days they will receive a bank card from their chosen institution. Most bank cards come with a PayPass chip. This chip allows them to pay by simply tapping their card on the reader. For most transactions under AUD$100 they don’t need to enter their pin. Many mobile phones also allow them to “load” these cards to their telephone and pay by tapping their phone on the card reader. It’s a quick and easy way to pay and is a very common method of payment across Australia.
Apply for a Tax File Number (TFN)
Your customer doesn't require a TFN to work in Australia, but it is to their advantage to have one. If they don't, they may pay higher tax and have no entitlement to government benefits that they may otherwise be eligible for. Residents and temporary visitors are required to pay taxes on income earned in Australia.
If they have a valid visa already issued, which allows them to work in Australia, they can apply for an Australian Tax File Number online via the Australian Taxation Office. It’s important to note that they cannot apply for a TFN before arriving in Australia.
Applying for a TFN is done online and should take about 20 minutes. They will be asked to enter personal details, including passport or travel document number, a postal address in Australia where the TFN can be sent, their legal name and other names they use or have used and contact details for themselves or their preferred contact person.
Set their phone up
There are four major mobile phone networks in Australia, each with a range of service plans and coverage. They can find a detailed ‘coverage map’ on their websites. Depending on where they intend to travel, it may be useful to check the coverage areas to ensure adequate service and reception while on the move.
Telstra - This is Australia's leading provider of mobile devices and services. They also have the largest coverage area;
Optus - Optus offers the second largest coverage area in Australia;
Vodafone - the smaller of the 3 major providers (covers mostly metropolitan and larger regional areas);
Virgin Mobile - uses the Optus network.
Most service providers require proof of employment and residential permanence (name on a utility bill, for example) to enter into a contract with them. As they've just arrived, a prepaid plan is probably the best option. If they already have an unlocked phone, they’ll just need to purchase a SIM card and decide what level of talktime and data is needed each month. They can top up as they go, or stick with a monthly allocation.
The easiest way to do this is to research the different plans and coverage, then head directly into the shop of the provider. They’ll help to match a SIM card and get set up. Just make sure they take their passport along with them.
Find a job
If finding a job is a major concern, there are work programs designed to take the pressure off. Some providers to look into include The Global Work & Travel Co. and Work N Holiday. They guarantee work opportunities for working holiday makers throughout the duration of their stay. The program might include airport pick-up, an induction to help get established, and social activities. They may also help set up housing, provide training and even assist with getting a bank account and tax file number (TFN).
If happy to see where the adventure takes them, work in hospitality, office administration, childcare and construction is usually readily available. Browse openings on Australia’s main job boards: Seek, Indeed, Jora and Backpacker Job Board. They can also check the job boards at their hostel or sign up with a recruitment agency.
Get more tips on finding a job here.
Furnish their flat
It’s not difficult to find a furnished room to rent in Australia. However, they may want to purchase a few things to make their house feel more like a home. If they want something new, most major cities have at least one IKEA to visit for inexpensive furniture options.
If they don’t mind upcycling, Gumtree is a popular Australian website where people sell their used goods. They can find everything from furniture and cars through to clothes and even jobs advertised here. There are also a number of Facebook groups dedicated exclusively to selling, buying and trading used goods. Advise them to search for “buy, swap, sell” in their city. Here’s a popular one for Sydneysiders to get them started.
If they don’t have a car, they can try negotiating delivery into the price of the item. Alternatively, there's Airtasker, an online services marketplace. They can just place an ad (it’s free to place the ad) for the work needed and what they're willing to pay. Someone will accept the job and pick up the new furniture for them. Handy tip - if looking for casual work and odd jobs, this is a great place to start.
Make some friends
One of the best parts of a gap year will be the friends made along the way. Their hostel is the perfect place to start and will often host events where guests can meet and hangout. Another option is Meetup. They can visit the website or download the app to find organised events around their interests, be it a soccer team, pub trivia or even to learn a new language.
There are just so many beautiful places in Australia to discover - it’s time to get out there. Whether you pre-book them a hop on/hop off bus ticket to cruise the country, or they buy a campervan and venture out on their own, they won’t regret taking the time to visit every nook and cranny.
And then what?
They could stay for a third year!
There are a few conditions, but it’s now possible for Working Holiday Makers to stay and work in Australia for even longer. The most important condition is that they'll need to complete six months of specified work during their second year to qualify. Previously, WHM visa holders were required to work in specific areas of Australia to qualify, but to make this easier to achieve, WHM visa holders are now able to work in a wider geographical area across Australia. They can also now stay with the same agricultural employer for up to 12 months (previously six months).