How to set up your life in Australia
Embarking on a gap year is an exciting life opportunity. But it can also be daunting. If you’re not sure where to begin, this guide will help you get started on what is sure to be the greatest adventure of your life.
By Allie Metz
Congratulations on your choice to take a gap year in Australia. It’s a decision that will leave you with incredible memories as well as skills and work experience that will put you ahead of your 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 you’re not yet sure what career path you should take, a gap year is an excellent chance to try your hand at different jobs. If you’re totally sure where your career is headed, this could be an ideal opportunity to get real-world experience in your field. Whether it’s paid or volunteer, it will enhance your CV and provide you with valuable contacts in the industry.
At the very least, you’ll experience an incredible part of the world, make lasting friendships and leave with cherished memories.
What should I do before I land?
Once you’ve decided to take a gap year in Australia, there are a few things you can do to prepare and make your arrival as smooth as possible.
Decide where to base yourself
Once your visa has been granted, you can really start planning your trip. The first step will be deciding which of Australia’s amazing cities to base yourself in. If a truly metropolitan experience is what you’re after, consider Sydney or Melbourne. If you 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 you.
Get an open return ticket
One of the most exciting things about travel is the unknown. Giving yourself the flexibility to make or change plans as you go will ensure you never miss out on doing something that appeals to you. By booking an open return ticket, you are essentially pre-paying for your flight home without locking in the date. This option gives you the flexibility to extend your stay in Australia without paying high fees for changing your return airfare dates. If you commit to staying in Australia for one year and then decide that you’d like to remain for a second year, this flexible ticket option makes it simple to adjust your travel plans.
Some countries have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with Australia. However, it’s recommended that you take out health insurance to cover any unforeseen medical treatment you might need in Australia. You are personally liable for all your healthcare costs while you are in Australia and insurance can help limit your financial liability.
Travel insurance is also recommended to protect you and your valuables as you move around the country.
Create your CV/Resume
It can be challenging to secure work before you arrive in Australia as prospective employers will want to meet you face-to-face. However, there are a few things you can do before you arrive to make the process easier.
Start practicing for job interviews
In Australia, most employers would prefer to meet you face-to-face before they offer you a job. But don't be nervous. Depending on the role, interviews tend to be fairly casual. To give yourself the best chance at success, be sure to 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.
What do I do once I land?
You've made it! Now it's time to take care of a few things so you'll be ready for an incredible gap year.
Fulfil your 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 or second-year Work and Holiday visa if you meet certain eligibility requirements. One of the requirements is the completion of three months of specified work in a rural area (see here for specified work guidelines for the Working Holiday visa and here for specified work guidelines for the Work and Holiday visa). If you’re considering staying a second year, or even just unsure whether you’ll take the option, doing your specified work right when you arrive is something to consider.
Find a place to stay
Once you know where you plan to land, you can get your accommodation sorted. While you could secure a permanent room or flat before arriving, it’s best to give yourself a week or so to get the lay of the land. You may want to compare different neighbourhoods - exploring your options for public transport or local job opportunities. You may even prefer to find a job before deciding where you’re going to live.
Open a bank account
Your employer won’t be able to pay you until you’ve set up a bank account. Thankfully, opening a bank account in Australia is easy and quick. Just visit a bank branch with your passport and proof of address (if you don’t have a permanent address yet, your hostel can help you with this). You don’t need an appointment - just visit a teller and let them know you’d like to open an account.
Apply for a Tax File Number (TFN)
You do not require a Tax File Number (TFN) to work in Australia, but it is to your advantage to have one. If you do not, you may pay higher tax and have no entitlement to government benefits that you may otherwise be eligible for. Residents and temporary visitors are required to pay taxes on income earned in Australia.
Set your phone up
There are three major mobile phone networks in Australia, each with a range of service plans and coverage. You can find a detailed ‘coverage map’ on their websites. Depending on where you intend to travel, it may be useful to check the coverage areas to ensure you will get adequate service and reception while you’re on the move.
Find a job
If finding a job is a major concern for you, there are work programs designed to take the pressure off. Some providers to look into include The Global Work & Travel Co., Work N Holiday and Work and Travel Company. 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 you get established, and social activities. They may also help you set up housing, provide training and even help you set up your bank account and Tax File Number (TFN).
Furnish your flat
It’s not difficult to find a furnished room to rent in Australia. However, you may want to purchase a few things to make your house feel more like a home. If you want something new, most major cities have at least one IKEA you can visit for inexpensive furniture options.
Make some friends
One of the best parts of your gap year will be the friends you make along the way. Your hostel is the perfect place to start and will often host events where guests can meet and hang out. Another option is Meetup. You can visit the website or download the app to find organised events around your interests. Join a soccer team, play pub trivia or even learn a new language.
There are just so many beautiful places in Australia to discover - it’s time to get out there. Whether you get a hop on/hop off bus ticket to cruise the country, or buy a campervan and venture out on your own, you won’t regret taking the time to visit every nook and cranny.
And then what?
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 you’ll need to complete six months of specified work during your 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. You can also now stay with the same agricultural employer for up to 12 months (previously six months).
Note: Tourism Australia is not the Australian government visa granting authority. The visa granting authority is the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs. For up-to-date information, please refer to their website: https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-finder.
The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an Australian qualified immigration lawyer or migration agent if you are seeking legal advice.