As its name suggests, working holiday visas allow you to live, work, and have an extended holiday. The purpose of this kind of visa is to promote cultural exchange and stronger bilateral ties between countries. It also provides young people the opportunity to experience life abroad without going through tons of immigration red tape. As such, holiday visas usually have an age limit, commonly between the ages of 18 to 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 to New Zealand. If you’ve successfully obtained one of those spots, here are 5 things to consider before you embark on your trip.
# 1 Your Big-Ticket Expenses
The two big money items are rent and food. Unless you have already secured a job before your trip, you need to cater enough funds for these expenses beforehand.
Will you be staying in hostels, Airbnb, or sharing a house with people? If you are going to rent, you’d have to pay a deposit (usually two weeks’ rent) and the first week’s rent upfront. Eating out in New Zealand and Australia can be expensive, so you will probably be cooking to save money.
Aside from rent and food, you also need money for other meals, going out, entertainment, travelling around. All in all, make sure you have enough to tide you over the first part of your move there.
# 2 Insurance Needs Overseas
After paying for rent, food, and entertainment, the next thing you want to focus on is insurance. Since this is an extended trip, travel insurance won’t be sufficient. Health insurance is a must-have when you are abroad, especially when it is for long periods of time, since as a non-citizen, you will also not have access to the subsidies that the locals enjoy.
Read through the terms and conditions of your existing insurance policies and check if you have international coverage, and if necessary purchase the necessary health and personal accident insurance. New Zealand and Australia are known for their amazing outdoors, and you might want to try adrenaline-fueled activities like bungee jumping or whitewater rafting with a peace of mind.
# 3 Important Documentation
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. But in the event of technology failures like a bad Wi-Fi connection, a dead phone, or airport systems being down, hardcopy documents will be a lifesaver.
Print everything out and have several photocopies of your visa, proof of funds (bank statements), passport, and driver’s license with you.
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. 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 Telecommunications Needs
Which telco will you use when you’re overseas? How much data do you need? Does your accommodation have good/free Wi-Fi? You’ll need a decent connection if you plan on doing Skype or FaceTime calls with your loved ones back home.
Generally, data plans in New Zealand and Australia are slightly more costly compared to what you’re used to paying in Singapore. Nonetheless, if you do your research well, you’ll be able to find a reasonably affordable plan that suits your budget and lifestyle. Coverage is one thing to take note of. Australia and New Zealand are huge countries where certain parts receive poor or no coverage. Research online to see what kind of coverage residents in your area are getting from each of the telcos.
# 5 Know Your Rights
People on working holidays are usually young, not very loaded, and have limited real-world experience. Many are also new to the country and have no idea how things work there. Some unscrupulous employers take advantage of that. They might insist that you work for free for the first week as a “trial”, or threaten to cancel your visa (they can’t), or advertise 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 the 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, including the Singapore embassy.
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. There are limited places every year, so if your application was accepted, it means that someone didn’t get it. Follow this guide, do your research, and have a trip of your lifetime!
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