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Working in Australia: An American’s Experiences and Tips

I have been in Australia about a month and am proud to say I’m currently employed.  Unfortunately my job is not ideal and I’m in the process of finding something bigger and better as soon as possible.  Finding employment in Sydney isn’t hard but it does take some time to find the right job for what you’re trying to accomplish while living in Australia.  I personally am looking for a great bar or restaurant job that pays well, where I get to meet a lot of fun people, and I don’t have to work early in the morning!

Sydney Harbour


In order to legally work in Australia you will need to have a valid working visa.  I personally have the Work and Holiday Visa, Subclass 462, which is the one for American citizens.  I can legally work anywhere I want for up to 6 months and the visa is good for a year from the date you enter the country.  It’s an electronic visa and is applied for online and accepted within 48 hours.  It really couldn’t be easier!  Unfortunately Americans do not have the option to extend their visa, but if you are a Commonwealth Passport holder you are able to stay an additional year by applying for an extension after being in the country for 3 months.  The catch here is that you have to do 3 months of “Specified Work” in the horticulture industry. Go Harvest is also  a great site to give you an idea of what kind of work you would be doing in the fields.


Before you get a job it is necessary to file for Tax ID Number.   This can be done online or I had a travel service company called Travellers Express file it for me.  Without a Tax ID Number you will be paying around 50% taxes to the government.  With one the payout is about 29% or less, but you do get most of this back when you leave the country or at the end of the fiscal year, which is in July.  It’s definitely beneficial to work for a company in which you will pay taxes because it’s acts as an automatic savings account, and trust me you will need that when you leave this expensive country.

How to Find Work

There are tons of websites that can point you in the right direction.  Some helpful websites for general searches are: Seek, Career One, Gumtree, My Career.   If you’re interested in working specifically in the hospitality industry White Now, Frontline Hospitality, Hospitality Now, & Alseasons, are all sites that focus on that field of work.   Also Global Gossip has a Notice Board with tons of job postings for all over Australia.  There are also employment agencies that will help you find work, usually for free, and set up interviews.  I would save this for the last resort.  I think the best way is to go around to different places and just drop off your resume or CV and try and set up an interview.  If you’re capable of the job and they need workers, this route should suffice.


Australia has a very high minimum wage at about $15 an hour.  However the cost of living here in Sydney makes their wages look like chump change.  A good bar or restaurant job, usually with a larger company, will pay you around $20-$25 an hour plus some tips.  The tips here aren’t great, but it’s always nice to walk out with a little cash for that after work cocktail.  The good paying jobs are bigger companies like hotels, nice restaurants, or clubs that are owned by the RSL.  An RSL Cub is government run and the pay is always a lot better.  Also working in the city will usually mean higher wages compared to working in Bondi, which is where I’m trying to find work.  In Bondi and other backpacker infested areas it’s quite competitive since there are so many people constantly coming and going and employers also tend to pay a lot less and they can get away with it.  The place I’m currently working at pays $12 the first two weeks, then $15 after that and don’t file for taxes.  Definitely a shady company that I need to get away from ASAP.  Also companies should pay you time and a half on the weekends / Sunday and double on Bank Holidays.

Campbell Parade is main road in Bondi where a lot of work can be found


If planning on working in a job where you serve alcohol it’s mandatory to take a RSA Course.  The course is about teaching you the Responsibility of Serving Alcohol.  The class is a lecture about the dangers of alcohol and the laws in New South Wales.  It’s 6 hours long and super boring but easy and the exam is usually open notes.  There are also certifications you will need to get if working around gambling.  The employer will inform you of all of this and hopefully help set it up for you to get it taken care of.

My second job...tanning....has proved to be quite lucrative ;)

Hope this post proved to be helpful for those thinking about moving to Australia to work or are currently living here and trying to find work.  Let me know if you have any questions or need some help with this! :) Also I’ll keep you all posted with my adventures in working here and hopefully finding a new job very soon!


  1. On February 7, 2010 @ 11:04 am Byron Kline said

    Excellent post, Lauren! I’ve really enjoyed your last couple of entries…very informative stuff (which is good for some of us who are seriously entertaining the idea of visiting Australia for an extended period of time in the near future). Keep ’em coming!

    Good luck finding a new job!

  2. On February 7, 2010 @ 3:31 pm Milly said

    Wow, thanks for this entry! I have been going to uni in Australia (I’m an American) for a while now, but been entertaining the idea of working. Until I read this entry today, I had no idea that I would have to pay like 50% of my income in taxes if I didn’t apply for an ID. Did that today. Thanks!

  3. On April 1, 2010 @ 12:12 pm Tara said

    I plan to travel to Oz this November. I was just wondering…in your post it says you can file for an extension to spend another year in Australia…Is that true? I thought that option was only open to people on the 417 working holiday visa. I was hoping there would be a way to stay longer!

  4. On October 9, 2010 @ 10:21 am Darren Kitchens said

    good info. I will be moving to Melbourne in a few months, my company is opening up a site there and I will be heading up the IT department. do you know anyone in the IT field there. I know the cost of living is much higher there (I currently live outside of Nashville) and I am wondering how much of a pay increase I should ask for.

  5. On January 19, 2011 @ 5:08 am Sus said


    A word of warning on tanning, Oz has the highest cancer rates in the world. The sun here is much stronger and the UV rating much higher than in the USA.

    Watch out or you might get more than you bargained for.

  6. On January 20, 2011 @ 4:15 pm Kandace Smith said

    Is there another way to contact you? I am living in the United States and about to graduate college in May. I think after this is the perfect time for to go live and work in Australia for even just a year! I have a close friend that has family there but I don’t know how to go about really starting to look at seriously getting the ball rolling. Your posts have helped! Hope to hear back!

  7. On January 24, 2011 @ 6:13 pm Lauren Smith said

    Hi Sus- Thanks for the warning- I am well aware of their lack of ozone and was very careful! I definitely saw some nasty sunburns while I was down there!

    Kandace- You can email me at Feel free to ask any questions. It’s the perfect time to go and you will have the time of your life! Just posted another blog with some more tips about making the move. :) Hope I can help you out!

  8. On July 30, 2013 @ 12:31 am Benedict said

    Hi Lauren, I live in Vanciuvef Washington and I am an accountant in process of applying for skilled visa to work in Australia. Your article was the best piece of advise I have had so far about Australua. Thank you very kindly. Benedict

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