Australia's Working Holiday Visa – What I learned from a year DownunderTravel | Rex | May 22, 2011 at 20:14
Having lived in Australia’s Gold Coast for almost a year now, I’ve learned a lot and, if given a second chance, would do things completely different. I’m going to start with some basic visa information and then tell my story in hopes that someone els
e doesn’t make the mistakes I did.
I was very misinformed about the rules and regulations attached to my visa type, mostly due to the strange wording on the visa itself. The way it was stated on my actual visa document made it sound like I could only work for one employer at a time for up to 6 months. This is not at all true and my trip here to Australia has suffered because of it.
You are allowed to work for as many employers as you wish, just not for longer than 6 months on the books. I’ve been told from other backpackers living here that some jobs will simply switch to paying you cash and take you off the payroll, if they really like you.
Your working holiday visa is good for up to one year upon entering Australia, but you can extend this visa for another year, if you complete 88 working days of rural farm work before the one year mark. Because of weekends off and lulls with no work, you need a solid 4 month-job to get in the 88 days. Due to the flooding in Queensland and because I arrived in winter, I didn’t have enough time to complete my 88 days. There are no extensions or exceptions, even if you are currently employed on a project and have 5 days left at the one year mark. So guys, Plan Ahead.
Getting a job can be very tricky, as many places won’t even consider hiring you due to the 6 month limit. Even if you are fully qualified for the job and wouldn’t need training, many managers don’t want to bother. You also need to be wary of the opposite; some businesses prey on backpackers and their desperation for work. I’ve had several friends get hired at restaurants in Surfer’s Paradise and Broad Beach, only to get 2-hour shifts a couple times a week. They went from being completely stoked in a new job to realizing they can’t even go to the grocery store with their paycheck.
There are a number of hospitality temp agencies around town who offer banquet waiting positions on an on-call basis. It is very easy to get hired by these companies, and if you can get a few shifts with them and work hard, then they will use you as often as they can.
My recommendation is to sign up immediately for all the hospitality temp agencies in town. The major ones in the Surfer’s Paradise area are Zenith, Fresh, Pinnacle and Bluestone. They all have very low hiring standards and pretty much keep way more staff on hand than they have work for. But between all the agencies you should be able to get a few shifts a week and it will buy you time to get a real job if that’s what you want. I got hired by Bluestone a month ago and haven’t had a single shift with them. The only work offered to me is major shifts like working at the stadium which I already do for Pinnacle.
The way the 6 month system works here is that it’s based on the venue you work and not the agency. So I can work for Pinnacle for the entire year I’m here, but can’t continue to work for places like the Casino, Marriott and Sheraton Hotels because my first shift there was over 6 months ago. Never mind that I’ve only had
4 shifts total at the Sheraton during this time period.
You also need to be careful because, at least with Pinnacle, once you’ve worked at a venue, you are no longer allowed to apply for a job there for 6 months. So I couldn’t work anymore at the Casino, which is a great job in town, because I started there with Pinnacle. You really get the shaft after a month of agency work and you’ve worked everywhere in town.
I myself started work with Pinnacle, still thinking this was the only employer I could for. They were recruiting off of a website called seek.com.au looking for bartenders. I got hired straight away, taking two fairly easy quizzes on bartending and waitering. I never heard back from the bars I applied to, probably because of the holiday visa, so I couldn’t wait to get to bartending.
During the first month I received a decent amount of work (20+ hours per week), but I only had one bartending shift; the rest were doing banquets. But as time went on, the work dried up. December was supposed to be this incredibly busy month and I think I totaled 30 hours. After the New Year, I was lucky to get 12 hours a week, many weeks having nothing.
Soon I was broke,
owed hundreds in rent and simply couldn’t make ends meet. Becoming desperate, I accepted any shift I could get with Pinnacle and this is where the shady part of the business started to show. They would give me to work in Brisbane for a 6-hour shift, and I would be let go after 4. I had to take the train up and back (around 20 dollars), and including bus time, it would end up being a 10-hour day for me, getting paid for four with a lot of expenses. They were also prone to cancelling shifts; I would be excited to be working 3 days in a week, but by the time the week finished, I would have competed one 4-hour shift.
When I learned that I could be employed by more than one employer, I signed up for the other agencies. Zenith has been really good to me. Ellie the boss is very hip and feels more like a friend, but most importantly, she views you as an asset for her company and not someone who is expendable.
If you’re going somewhere far, she pays travel time. She always makes an effort to arrange a ride for me so that I don’t have to take the bus, and if a shift comes up where there is no ride and its a real pain to get there, she offered to find me a replacement with no hard feelings. I always worked anyway because I’m broke But it’s the thought that counts. But even working for 3 agencies, I’m still struggling to make enough money to make ends meet. Things might have been different if I had been working for all the agencies the whole time.
In short, I wasted a lot of time finding out how the Australian work visa really applies. I’d really like to stay on in Australia, but am running up against the end of my year. Know any Aussie girls who’d like to get married to a fun-loving Californian?