Woohoo! I hope you as excited about heading down under as I am! When Tom and I first decided we were going to head to Australia for a working holiday, we just booked the flights and didn’t think too much further ahead. Turns out, there’s a fair amount that needs to be sorted before we jump on our flight. Now we’re getting closer to our leaving date, there are a whole bunch of essential things to be done.
So I have created my handy guide and checklist to help you make sure you have it all in place before you hit Australian soil.
Check whether you are eligible to apply
Australia has reciprocal working holiday arrangements with a number of countries. Head to the Australian Government website to check whether you are eligible to apply. If you can apply then you also need to check you meet the other criteria too. You have to be between the ages of 19 and 30 (you can apply up until your 31st birthday), have no dependent children, meet the health criteria, be of ‘good character’ (whatever that actually means), and have proof of return/onward travel or proof of enough money to be able to support yourself ($5000 AUS). I hear so many stories of how no one ever gets asked to provide proof of funds on arrival, but I really wouldn’t risk getting all the way there to be turned away because of that!
Apply for the right visa – £250
The Working Holiday Visa is a subclass 417 and allows you to work for up to 6 months with one employer (but you can work for multiple employers). You have to make the application outside of Australia so if you’re visiting Australia and decide you want to stay for longer, you will have to leave to apply. I believe there are companies that you can pay to do the application for you, but it’s really not that complicated. Make sure you go onto www.border.gov.au website and follow the instructions here to create an ‘immi’ account to apply. You can apply up to 12 months in advance of activating it.
You will be asked for your usual details, what you aim to be doing for work out there, to declare any criminal convictions, and to state your previous travels if you have been outside your home country for more than 6 months in the last 5 years. Make sure it’s all filled out properly and honestly as this could affect your application. Once we had applied for our visas, Tom’s was approved within a couple of days but it depends on the backlog of apps. I, however, had to provide further information as I will explain below. But once I had done this then it was also approved within a couple of days.
Have a medical examination – £250
If (like myself) you have been abroad for more than 6 months in the last 5 years, you will possibly be required to have a medical examination if you’ve been to countries with high TB rates. I received an email telling me that I needed to provide more evidence and I could also log into my immi account where it shows the status of my application. You will need to go on it and click that you consent to use the eMedical system.
On the Border.gov website, you can search through a list of medical centres who are affiliated with the immigration medical checks, and you must call one of these to book your appointment and provide your HAP ID which will be on your letter. Some of these centres are e-Medical centres which mean they can upload your results and x-ray to your immi account on your behalf. If not, then you will be required to scan the results and upload them to your account. So it’s far easier to go to an e-medical one if possible.
When you go you will need to take your passport, the referral letter with your HAP ID on and any info about current medical requirements and any previous chest x-rays. I can only speak from my own personal experience here but I had the usual things check (blood pressure, pulse, eyesight, weight and height) as well as provide a urine sample, have my reflexes tested and my stomach pressed to check for tenderness. If you have prescription glass you have to take them with you. I also had to have a chest X-ray. No blood samples were needed, but the doctor did tell me that it depends on what passport you hold as to whether you might need that also.
Sort savings or get a credit card
If you are going to Australia with a one-way ticket, you will need proof of savings to show you can support yourself or a credit card with a limit of at least $5000 AUD. Make sure you take supporting documents with you to show you have this i.e. recent bank statements as you may be asked to show this on arrival.
Set up your Australian bank account
Lots of people sort this when they arrive in Australia, but you can do it before you leave home. I have just opened a bank account with ANZ for which you can also have a savings account. I just went online and applied for it, then the UK branch called me to give me my online banking details, and it’s all good to go! I put my initial location as Brisbane (obviously, cos’ that’s where I’m flying to) and can pick my bank card up from an ANZ there.
Figure out how to transfer your money
ANZ are partnered with a transfer company called TorFX that offers the best exchange rate available to them without any fees to transfer money. When I created my ANZ bank account, the company also called me and I was able to set up an account with them over the phone without obligation to use them. However, having searched through a number of Facebook groups and forums, lots of people have used Transfer Wise, who although charge a small fee, tend to offer a better exchange rate. It’s tricky to figure out when is best to transfer your money and how best to do it, but my advice would be to keep an eye on the exchange rates and shop around.
Tell student loans
If you have a student loan, you will need to declare to them that you are going to be leaving the country. You will need to fill out an Overseas Income Assessment form stating your predicted earnings while you’re in Australia and it’s fine to put £0, if like me, you don’t have a clue what you will be doing or how much you will be earning. This review will need to be done each year you are out of the country, so don’t forget to do it if you extend your visa, or you could get fined!
Apply for tax rebate
Good news is, as you will be leaving the country to working abroad full-time for at least a year (which you will be) you might be able to claim some of your tax back! Don’t be put off by the ‘full-time’ part though as I’m sure most people (like myself) go out there with few plans. I have spoken to HMRC and they have confirmed that we are eligible even if we don’t have any work arranged out there. You will need to fill out a P85 form and attached parts 2 and 3 of your P45 when you get it and then send it off to HMRC.
Cut out any unnecessary outgoings
The last thing you will want is payments coming out your English bank account when you’re not getting any benefit from them anymore. Go through your direct debits and standing orders and cancel anything you won’t need. It’s also a good time to assess the things you do need like your phone bill- if your contract has finished then cancel it, get your phone unlocked and find a rolling monthly contract one to tide you over before you go. This will also be so much easier for when you buy a local sim card in Aus.
If you have a car (particularly on finance, like I did), it’s best to get rid of it. what’s the point of paying for a car that you can’t use? Just make sure you leave plenty of time for this as there are loads of time wasters out there.
Make sure passport is in date
You are required to have 6 months left on your passport in order to apply for the visa, but this isn’t gonna stand too well if it runs out before halfway through your year abroad. I don’t know how complicated it would be to update it from Australia, but I’m pretty sure it’s easier to just pay £60 and get it updated whilst you’re still in the UK. It can be done and dusted within a couple of weeks but it’s worth leaving plenty of time still. Head here to find out more.
Make sure driving license is in date
Luckily, I just noticed this one in time! Australia is a road trippers heaven, so the last thing you want is your licence expiring whilst you’re out there. It cost just £14 to renew and can be done online. If you have an electronic passport the DVLA will pull your passport photo from hat to go on your new licence. Sexy!
If you think ‘that will never happen to me so I don’t need insurance’ quite frankly, you’re a muppet. If ANYTHING happens to you, and I mean anything, it’s gonna cost ya big time. I was speaking to a girl in STA and she had to cough up about $300 dollars for a course of antibiotics and a doctors appointment, just because she didn’t have insurance to cover it. And I’m sure the fees for needing to go in an Ambulance is enough to make your eyes water. DO NOT go without it.
And don’t forget about insurance to cover other things such as flight cancellation, lost luggage and gadget coverage. It might seem like a big expense and you might never need it, but you will be glad you have it if you do!
Make copies of your documents
If your stuff goes missing/gets knicked, having a copy of all your documents can seriously save your bacon. I would recommend having a copy printed off and saving it in an email or on Dropbox. If you are travelling with someone else then it’s worth having copies of each other’s stuff too.
Stock up on medication
If you’re going to be carrying a large amount of medication with you, check with your airline’s policy as they might request a doctors letter to support the quantity. Also, it’s worth knowing that contraceptives are not free in Australia so either ensure you have a longer-term solution in place such as the implant, or make sure you have enough pills to tide you over. But don’t take too many as it’s important to get checked over regularly.