Does getting a visa really have to be that complicated?


Toward the end of 2015, I had a bit of an epiphany. Things hadn’t really been going to plan, and I really needed a change of scenery. I’ve always loved to travel, and at the back of my mind, I’d always thought about spending several months or even a year living abroad. However, you can always find reasons and excuses to convince yourself not to do something, and so aside from a brief stint as a Camp Councillor in America at the age of 19, I’d always put it off. At 26, with no ties I finally thought to myself: “right, this is it, it’s now or never”. And so I took the plunge. I moved – albeit temporarily – to Australia.

Deciding to move countries isn’t an easy one. There are plenty of reasons why it’s not a good idea, but hey, guess what? There are loads of reasons why it’s a GREAT idea, too.

If you’re a student, and you’re feeling a little lost over what to do next, this could very well be your answer.

When it comes to getting a visa, I won’t lie – borders are a tricky thing! You have to make sure everything is above board before you go, as there are plenty of laws stopping you from simply setting up home wherever you fancy.

Australia is a place I knew I could get a visa to visit relatively easily; my sister had moved with her boyfriend the year before. As it’s a fellow commonwealth country, British people can get a Working Holiday Visa by simply applying online. You have to be aged 18-30, with no criminal convictions or children. Mine was approved in 24 hours, and lasts for one year. You can extend this by doing agricultural work, or by being sponsored by a company to stay. With this visa, you can’t stay in employment in one place for more than six months. The idea is that your job supplements your travel. However, the pay is actually amazing even for casual work; a lot more than you’d be expecting for similar roles here in the UK. Jobs of this nature can be found very easily using sites such as Indeed, Gumtree and Seek, and they’re often really keen to hire backpackers. However, some jobs – like bar work – do require you to pass a quick exam to ensure you’re selling alcohol responsibly!

Canada offers a similar scheme on a Working Holiday Visa, although their places are more limited than those given to Australia. I quite fancy the look of New Zealand when I’m done – you can stay for 23 months in the same job, and it’s a stunning country!

Lots of countries are harder to get long term roles in, for example the USA. Annoyingly, most working visas only last a few months, and the J1 (which I was on for the camp work) lasts for just one year, and there are specific rules such as needing to be a student. Some visas are granted for longer, but you typically have to still be a student.

As it stands, Brits can work anywhere in the EU without a visa. However, this may change depending on the result of the referendum, so keep your eyes peeled and be sure to vote if you want us to stay in.

It can be very tempting to try and work illegally in certain countries. However, you should be aware of the risks. Other countries may well seem appealing, but their judicial systems can often be anything but!

If you’re going for the visa route for places like Australia and Canada, STA Travel is a great place to start. I couldn’t be bothered with the headache of sorting all the paperwork out, so they made it very simple for me, and there was always a friendly voice on the other end of the line. Plus, they offered me a package for my arrival here in Sydney, which included hostel accommodation, job help, as well as assistance in setting up a bank account and medical care. The package included the essentials; but there were also activities such as a beach BBQ, surf lesson, zoo trip, harbour cruise and mountain visit included in the package. It’s helped me to make friends, find a job, and given me plenty to do. Of course, a money saver, you can choose to do it all by yourself.

So, if you’re stuck for what to do after graduation, why not get saving? I’m so glad I made this decision, and I’m sure you will be, too. If it’s not for you, don’t worry – the UK will still be here waiting for you when you get home.

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