Before you book your flight and jet of to explore you need to get yourself a visa. As a backpacker the visa you will need is a Working Holiday Visa and you can get this from www.immi.gov.au along with loads of information which is well worth reading through.
What is a Working Holiday Visa?
A WHV allows people from other countries to live, work and study in Australia for up to 12 months. It is primarily aimed at people who want to have an extended holiday which they supplement through casual work. You must be between the ages of 18 and 30 to apply, which is super easy to do. Simply fill in an online application, pay the fee (currently $365) and wait. My application was approved within 6 hours so it's also quite quick too but bear in mind it can take up to 6 days to be granted (which is still pretty fast I think).
Once granted you will receive an email which contains information about your visa including your visa number. I highly recommend that you print a copy off and keep it in your hand luggage. We've needed to use ours on occasions such as applying for a Medicare card and it's also useful to have it to hand when filling in job applications as some employers request your visa number. You will also need it to apply for your tax file number.
The email will also detail any restrictions that apply for your visa which relate to working and studying. The visa allows you to work but you are limited to working for one employer for up to 6 months (so if you wanted to work for the full 12 months you would need to work for 2 different employers). This condition can only be extended under exceptional circumstances. If you plan to study the Working Holiday Visa allows you to do so for up to 4 months. It will also show the date your visa has been granted. You need to activate your visa within 12 months of this date, meaning you need to enter the country, or it will expire.
For more information I recommend having a good read on the Australian Department of Immigration website. It's extremely easy to navigate and contains all the information you need.
Things you need when working in Australia.
So you've applied for your visa and it's been granted? Congrats! There are a few more things that you need to do before you can work in Australia.
It's highly likely you will need to get an Australian bank account. There are a few different banks and each one offers different accounts so take time and check each one out. Here are a few of the main banks:
I highly recommend choosing one of the larger banks over the smaller, more localised banks as they each have their own network of ATM's and if you don't use the one owned by your bank you will be charged.
It is very easy to apply for an account. Below I will explain what happened when we opened ours:
We decided to go with Commonwealth Bank and set up a basic Smart Access account. Most banks seem to charge a small monthly fee, ours is just $4 a month. We entered the Port Macquarie branch and were immediately greeted by the concierge who gave us advice on what we would need to open an account and set up an appointment later that day with an advisor.
During our appointment we were shown to a cosy office where our advisor asked us about how we would be using our account to determine which one would be best for us. He ran through our options and advised that a basic Smart Access account would be sufficient for our needs. It gave us access to our account on the internet via NetBank and a bank card which we can use at CommBank ATM's and in stores via EFTPOS (Aus equivalent to chip and pin in the UK) Next he set up our details. We needed our passports and an address (because we didn't have a permanent Australian address he used our British ones). The only problem we had was having no address for the bank cards to be sent to as we were still travelling around. They take around 5 working days so our advisor asked where we would be travelling to next (which was Byron Bay) and set them to be sent care of the post office there. I'm not sure if he was supposed to but it worked for us! He also set our account to be paperless so there would be no statements being mailed out.
It was so easy and was all set up in less than an hour. The next thing we needed was a Tax File Number (TFN), which we applied for about a month later when we had found a permanent address. Again, this is very easy to do and you can either go to a tax office or do it online at www.ato.gov.au. Ideally you need one of these before you start working, otherwise you will be absolutely hammered for tax! It can take up to 28 days to be processed so if you have already applied and don't want to wait you can start working, just make sure you give your TFN to your employer ASAP! You will need your passport, visa details and an address and can apply here.
That's pretty much it! Too easy ;) This is just how we have experienced things, I'm sure others have gone about it in a different, equally hassle free way but I hope some people might find this information useful.
As always feel free to comment below and ask any questions.