Working Holiday Visas: 5 Things To Consider Before Embarking On Your Trip
As their name suggests, working holiday visas allow you to live, work, and have an extended holiday. The purpose of this kinda of visa is to promote cultural exchange and stronger bilateral ties between two countries. It also provides young people with the opportunity to experience life abroad without going through tons of immigration red tape. As such, holiday visas usually have an age limit requirement, commonly between the ages of 18 to 30 or 35.
Currently, Singaporeans can apply for a working holiday visa to two countries – New Zealand (for up to 6 months) and Australia (for up to 12 months). There are only 500 places available for Singaporeans each year to Australia, and 200 for New Zealand, so if you’ve successfully obtained one, here are 5 things to ponder before you embark on your trip.
# 1 Expenses
The two big money items – rent and food. Be prepared for the fact that you may not get a job right away, so you might have to dig into your savings for the first couple of months. Of course, if you get a job in a hostel, accommodation and breakfast will probably be taken of. Those may be the only things that are covered. You would still need money for other meals, going out, entertainment, travelling around…and you’ll be doing plenty of travelling. Will you be staying in hostels, Airbnb, or sharing a house with people? If you are flatting, you’d have to pay a deposit (usually two weeks’ rent) + first week’s rent up front. And we all know that eating out in New Zealand and Australia can be expensive, so you will probably be cooking to save money. All in all, make sure you have enough to tide you over the first part of your move there.
# 2 Insurance
After paying for rent, food, and entertainment, the last thing you want to pay for is insurance. However, health insurance isn’t just a good-to-have, but a must-have when you will be abroad for long periods of time. A broken leg while skiing isn’t going to wait for you to get back to Singapore to fix. New Zealand and Australia are known for their amazing outdoors, and most travelers are going to try adrenaline-fueled activities like bungee jumping or whitewater rafting. Accidents can and will happen! On a less frightening note, having travel insurance would help if you lose your phone / if your bags get stolen. Either way, not having insurance could cut your trip short, or ruin your overseas experience.
#3 Paper documents
In today’s world, we have important docs like copies of our passport, NRIC, driver’s license etc stored on the cloud. Even visas are electronic. However, in the event of technology failures like a bad Wi-Fi connection, dead phone, airport systems down, you will need to show actual paperwork. Print everything out and have several photocopies of your visa, proof of funds (bank statements; AUD 5000 for Australia and NZD 2250 for New Zealand), passport, and driver’s license with you. These will also come in handy if you lose your passport!
One of the first things you will have to do upon arrival is to set up a local bank account for future employers to pay you in. Besides that, you’ll also need a bank account before you can register yourself as a tax resident in New Zealand. Official business like this often require some form of original ID + photocopies. Print shops in Australia and New Zealand are not cheap. Bring all your paperwork with you before departing.
# 4 Telco
Which telco will you go with over there? How much data do you need? Does your accommodation have free Wi-Fi? If it does, is it good Wi-Fi? Slow internet is worse than no internet, and don’t even think about skyping your parents on a bad connection. Generally, data plans in New Zealand and Australia are slightly more costly than Singapore. Nonetheless, if you do your research well, you’ll be able to find affordable plans that suit your budget and lifestyle. Coverage is one thing to take note of. Living in tiny Singapore, we grumble when a network is slower than usual. Australia and New Zealand are huge countries where certain parts receive poor or no coverage. Depending on your itinerary and how often you’ll be camping / roadtripping, getting with a suitable telco is important if you want to stay in touch with your family and friends back home 24/7.
# 5 Know Your Rights
People on working holidays are usually young and broke and have no real-world experience. Many are also new to the country and have no idea about how things work there. Some employers would take advantage of that. They may insist that you work for free for the first week as a “trial”, or threaten to cancel your visa (they can’t), or offer free accommodation only to put you in the same room with 5 other people. Know that you have the same workplace rights as all other workers in the country. You are entitled to minimum wage, safe working conditions, and extra pay for working on public holidays. Reach out to the relevant authorities if you think that you’re being treated unfairly at work.
Living abroad by yourself is a life-changing experience. The friends you make and the sights you see will always be a part of you. Treasure the opportunity to make these memories. If your application was accepted, go. There are limited places every year, and if you get a seat it means that someone didn’t. Get the 5 things above in order, do your research, and have fun!
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