Getting a job in Australia can be hard or easy, depending on what you know to do, where you are, and how you go about it. If you have a working visa already, or a marriage/de facto relationship, skip this section entirely. You’re as hirable as at home.
The United States is very tight with the working visas allotted to citizens of other countries, including Australia. Reciprocally, they’re tight with working visas allowed to U.S. citizens. Apparently, the U.S. regulations and restrictions will be changing in the next year or so, but that is not the case yet. While the Australian immigration raises open arms to all the British Commonwealth countries, it’s a bit harder for American citizens to achieve. However, if you are a direct descendent of someone from a Commonwealth country, say a grandmother or father, you’re eligible. This can get a little tricky. Call the U.S. Consulate to find out if you’re eligible. So, how does it work? Because of your relative, you can then get a passport from a commonwealth country, let’s say, for example, you grandfather was born in Ireland. You are then eligible to obtain an Irish passport. You are not required to enter Ireland (although it would be nice), just to get the Irish passport. and you are then eligible to obtain a one year working visa to Australia (as well as to work throughout Europe).
If all else fails, and you can’t get a working visa- then- work is still very possible without it. It’s simply a matter of where the work is and how. It was once easy for the budget traveller to find work fruit-picking throughout Australia- no visa required. The lists of fruit-picking seasons and places are found everywhere from the popular TNT Magazine for backpackers to daily papers. Recently, however, a law has been passed which fines those who employ illegal aliens (that’s us, the Americans), sometimes up to 20,000. Two consequences have developed from this: 1. It’s much harder to find work fruit-picking; and 2. I’ve heard many horror stories from fellow travellers where they have worked dawn to dusk for a couple of weeks, until paycheck time, when they were threatened with jail and chased off the property, never to be paid. If you are involved in such a situation, you are entitled to get the police to retrieve your pay, and then the rotten employer will be fined, and you will be deported for a few years.
The glamorous ideal of working as a fruit-picker is in actuality a reality not unlike the back-breaking slave labor of cotton-picking in the eighteen hundreds. It’s sticky hot- with no relief (AKA any nearby bodies of water, Air Conditioning, etc) and the pay is ridiculously low. If you are looking for a working-class labor experience, try the GAP sweatshops in Saigon-they might be more of an adventure.
If, however, you are looking for regular laboring jobs, from skilled to unskilled work, the best way to find decent ones is in your local pub. Rather than searching the want ads or the internet, where you’ll usually be checked for the proper visa, talk to people. The wages are comparable to those at home, depending on whether the labor is skilled or not. If you have a trade, explore it. There is a high demand for most, just make sure you’re looking for the right job description. For example, auto-body mechanics are called “panel-beaters.” It’s really easy to get cafe work as well. This works best with word of mouth too, but most cafes are cash-paid jobs anyway, so you can just walk in and ask for a job. Before you go looking, be aware that tipping is almost nonexistent in Australia. Waiters/Waitresses/Bartenders are paid a regular wage, ranging anywhere from about 12 to 17 per hour. Occasional tips are looked on as an added bonus, but in no way expected.
Stay towards the coast. The closer to the water you are and the greater the populous, the better your chance of employment. Most guidebooks will tell you to stay to the cities as well. Not all cities are hiring though. This January, which is the middle of summer and one of the best times to find jobs, there were almost no jobs in Brisbane. I looked and looked. and met others who were doing the same. By late February, I still met people who had passed through Brisbane, finding no work. But who knows? This may be different next year. Regardless of the type of work you’re looking for, if you’re looking for work, you can always find it in Sydney. Especially with the Olympics coming on- there are jobs jobs jobs. Anything you want to do, and you’re hired. Or, watch for large festivals or events. Obviously the Olympics. But also, there are always work-available situations such as the Formula One Races in Melbourne in February. Or the Blues and Roots festival in Byron Bay in April.
These are all jobs that are accessible once you are here, without a working visa. If you are planning on going to Australia, but are still outside the country, find the job first. If you already have the job, then you already have the legal work permit.