The sister of one of my friends messaged me to ask about my working holiday visa (visa 417) as she is thinking of applying for one here.
I’ve also had a few people asking me about how things work in Australia for someone on a visa so I thought I might just go through some of the questions I have been asked as well as a few things I have thought about that are helpful. I am by no means an expert and certainly not an immigration expert but these are the things I learnt, sometimes the hard way when I arrived. If you need more specialst advice you should contact immigration etc!
I applied for the Working Holiday Visa which lasts for a year (it can be renewed for a second year as well in some circumstances) and this entitles you to work for six months for any one employer and also study for up to 12 weeks so is very handy for getting your way around Australia. A handy key fact sheet is here. I tried to find out how much you need in your account when you arrive but I couldn’t find that bit. I think when I got here it was between $4,000 and $5,000.
This is like the NHS in the UK as it will pay for medical treatment costs. Some people have Medicare and private health cover and some have just medicare. Here is a link I found explaining what is and is not covered.
I discovered whilst doing some research that there is a reciprocal health agreement between some Countries and Australia so you are entitled to apply for a medicare card if you have a passport from those countries.
I applied for a card by visiting my local Medicare Office (they are in all sorts of places including shopping malls so fairly easy to find) filling in the form and then providing proof of my ID with my driving licence, passport (you will need this all the time when you first arrive) and visa details.
Now the first time I tried to register for a card I was told off because I had been in Australia for more than 2 weeks and so they for some reason couldn’t just accept my visa stamp in my passport. They sent me off to immigration, who shook their heads in wonder about why I had been sent there and then printed me off the original visa letter I had confirming when I was entitled to stay in Australia.
The whole process went smoothly from then, other than when they spelt my name as Vistoria rather than Victoria. It’s an easy mistake to make!
Going to the Doctor was easy, you can seemingly go to any Doctor, although I have heard that they like you to stick to one really, make an appointment and then just pop along with your Medicare card and be seen by a Doctor. The surgery had to check I was entitled to treatment with Medicare but it was all very straightforward.
It’s useful to know that there are Doctors here who do bulk billing where they invoice Medicare direct and get paid for seeing you. There are also some surgeries where you pay the Doctor for the appointment and claim it back which I have heard can be a hassle. I’ve also heard that some Doctors charge more than you can claim back (about $90) and so you end up out of pocket. I haven’t experienced that but that is what I have been told.
There seems to be lots of bulk billing places around so should be easy to find.
Tax File Number
This is crucial if you plan to work as, you can work without one but then you pay higher tax and have to claim it back etc. I applied online here and it took about 2 weeks to arrive. I just filled in my details and visa/passport details and they sent it straight through.
Then when you start work you give them the number and they set everything up for when you get paid. It also links to the Superannuation (like a pension) which everyone has. With the click of a few buttons it was all sorted out.
I found opening a bank account relatively easy to do. I just looked around for the migrant bank accounts each bank offered, applied online with my visa details and then received confirmation online shortly afterwards by email. They then ask you to make an appointment to go down and show them your passport and visa and arrange for your card to arrive. I tried doing this by email before I arrived but it became very convoluted so I just turned up at the bank one day (ok two as the first time I forgot my passport) and they opened the account for me.
My problem was I applied had applied for the account to soon before I arrived in Australia, so the bank in Darwin had returned my card to the main bank. They quickly sent a new one direct to my PO Box and it took about a week (probably not helped by living in the rural area so everything takes much longer).
I have found its a bit inconvenient not having an Australia credit card here, especially to buy things online as the bank card I have is not a debit card like we have in the UK. If you use foreign cards here you attract the charges as well so its a bit of a pain, especially when you want to do something like book a cinema ticket.
Paypal works but I didn’t want it running from my UK bank account and I was eventually able to set up an Australian account but as I don’t have a credit card that means I have to transfer money from my bank to Paypal account in advance to pay for things, unless I am doing something wrong.
I have now just applied for a pre pay credit card and when it arrives will give that a go.
I thought I would just be able to buy a travel insurance policy which would last me for a year and I would be fine. However when I read the small print I found that these actually limit the length of the trips that you take in that year. I did some research and found that gap year insurance was the best deal for me as it has good coverage and you can use it if you venture farther afield as well depending on the level of cover.
My policy cost me about £300 in total and was easy to set up as there are lots of comparison sites like this one.
As I mentioned before we use PO Boxes here as lots of places don’t have street delivery.
There are lots of places around where you can apply for a PO Box and then its really easy to use but you have to have proof of your address in Australia, usually via your Australian driving licence which is tricky. If you can prove that then its just a case of filling in another form and they give you a key for the box.
Lots of information there and I hope some of it was useful! To break up the text here is a picture of a kangaroo from my garden