It’s been just over a year since I first stepped foot in Australia. I’d always planned to travel after after my working holiday visa expired, so I spent the first six months working hard as a waitress and a cleaner to save up.
In the first six months, I managed to save around $8,000 working part-time, despite paying a premium for rent in a beautiful coastal town on the Sunshine Coast.
After the first half of the year, I did a month-long road trip around Queensland. I travelled from Noosa up to Cape Tribulation and back, taking in the main sites like the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. The best part was finding secluded beachfront campsites that most people have never heard of though.
The next three months were spent back on the Sunshine Coast, working again and adding to my savings ready to travel the rest of the east coast of Australia later in the year.
As you may or may not know, if you're British or Canadian, you need to do 90 days of regional work (also known as "farm work") in order to be eligible for a second year working holiday visa. I had heard horror stories within the expat community about farm work—manual labour in 40-degree heat getting paid next to nothing and living in squalor. (With that being said, I have a few friends who had great experiences and managed to save a good chunk of money.)
I always knew I wouldn’t want to do the farm work for the second year, purely because I didn’t envisage Australia being somewhere I’d want to stay for longer than a year. While this is still true, I do wish I had a little more time to be able to work for a few more months and take advantage of the high Australian wages (minimum wage for cleaning in Queensland was $25.42 per hour, with overtime of between $30 and $35 per hour.)
Doing the right thing
What I didn’t know was that getting a visitor visa to be able to travel post-working visa would be so awkward. Some people—friends of mine included—don’t bother doing the right thing. They stay in Australia illegally after their working holiday visa expires and when they come to leave the country they are then banned from re-entering for three years or more.
I decided this wasn’t the way for me. I didn’t see the point in doing anything illegal and potentially ruining my chances of getting working holiday visas elsewhere. (You usually have to provide details of any other WHV you’ve had around the world and prove you didn’t overstay your welcome.)
So I researched what I needed to do to get a temporary visa to be able to travel in the country. There are a few different types but the most common is called the Visitor (subclass 600) visa. I gathered my documents needed; I had to prove that I would no longer be working so I got a letter from my employer to say my contract had been terminated. I also had to provide a travel itinerary to prove my plans to travel and provide evidence of how I would be funding my travel (bank statements).
Draining the bank account
I did all this and realized I was then to be charged $355 for a visa that would allow me to stay up to three months. The most annoying thing is if I had been outside Australia when applying, they would have only charged me $140. The other option would have been to fly out of the country somewhere and fly back in as a tourist. This would mean I would have been granted the normal tourist visa, which is only $20. (Costs may differ dependent on what country you hold a passport in.)
I considered doing this but I was still working right up until I planned to travel so didn’t have time. It also would’ve cost me more than $355 to find a return flight anywhere. I had read of people doing this though. If you lived somewhere like Sydney, Perth, Gold Coast or Melbourne it would be a lot easier and more affordable.
My visitor visa was granted five days after I applied for it, but I was only granted two months. When I queried this (I was expecting at least three), I was told it was because I was only allowed 12 months in the country in total (I had a couple months visiting the UK).
To say I was angry is an understatement. I feel like I had to jump through hoops to prove I wouldn’t be working illegally despite the fact that most people just don’t bother to do the right thing.
Australia is an incredible country to live in and travel, but it’s also one of the most expensive and restrictive in terms of visas. I have poured a lot of money into the economy in the year I’ve lived, worked and travelled here, but I’m not sure what I’ve had to do (fees paid and evidence I’ve had to provide) to be able to do that is entirely fair.
It’s a First World problem at the end of the day, and I shouldn’t complain. I’m aware most people would kill to be in my position. I’m looking forward to beginning my next Working Holiday adventure in New Zealand in 2019.Add this article to your reading list