Sydney trip for my French Working Holiday Visa

I was in Sydney this month to finally get the paperwork moving for the working holiday visa for France. It went smoothly, other than a minor hiccup involving additional paperwork that I needed to send off.

Some simple yet effective advice for anyone that is applying:

  • Follow the paperwork to the T. There is no leeway at all whatsoever even if this is your 4th or 5th WHV visa and you’re used to all the different requirements.
  • Look for a requirements checklist offered by the Consultate. Don’t rely on requirements checklists offered elsewhere.
  • Don’t bother asking them if you can apply at another French embassy elsewhere in Australia.

Anyway, here are just a few photos from my trip.

The last time I was in Sydney was in 2014, so there has been quiet a few changes to the city. Most notable were all the changes around Pyrmont with the ICC. Some things remain a classic, like the Sydney Opera House:

There was also some contemporary art

My visa should arrive sometime mid to late May.

Home search in Ireland, some reflections on housing in Canada, Australia and the UK

Home around the corner near my old flat in Primrose Hill, London.

I am embarking on searching for rentals on my fourth country (Ireland).  I know what it’s like in London (UK), Australia (Brisbane, mainly and a short while was seeking in Sydney), and Canada (Vancouver and Toronto).  Going through this process can be exciting, tedious and stressful all at the same time.  It’s exciting because you are imagining what the end is going to be like and you relish the novelty of living in a new place.  It’s tedious because you have to figure out an entirely new locale, whether or not it meets your requirements and all the details that need to be considered.  It’s stressful because you are out to meet that basic Maslow hierarchy of needs requirement – physiological and safety – while dealing with other stresses and constraints such as time and budget.  I am getting all these feelings now searching for a place in Ireland!

On the way to Camden Town, I look over the bridge and see this...
On the way to Camden Town, I look over the bridge and see this…

Anyway, while waiting on a few responses and paperwork to arrive, I just thought to have a think about what the rental ‘scene’ is like in all the other countries that I’ve been in…



Brisbane and Sydney, Australia

I went to university in Australia and worked in the industry for two years after.  During university, I rented a house with friends – the first one was those typical Queenslander-style homes and the second one was built by the owner who was an architect.

After university, I rented in a condo (or apartment) which was right in the CBD (central business district) and overlooked the river.  I could even spy someone from my window working at his office desk!  It was a bit of a weird sight because since I was on the ground level, the outdoor pool was also on the ground level and if I sat upright from my chair, I could see people dive into the pool.

Now, if you were searching for properties around Sydney and look at Google Maps, you will see that Sydney has a very unique natural setting.  I haven’t lived in this city, my sister has and she lived in Bondi Beach where you can see a glimmer of the beach and ocean from the apartment.  When I walked outside during summer, I seriously felt like I was in some sort of resort city. When I look out of the window of the airplane and see the harbor, it is absolutely magnificent seeing the boats on the harbor and the Sydney Opera House.  Make sure to grab a seat by the window!

London, United Kingdom

London is hands down THE best city in the world.  And if you can lock in that rental property in the right part of London that suits your needs, you will guarantee that the rates pay themselves off.

When I first arrived, I was renting temporarily right in the heart of London – Barbican. You can see the brutalist style architecture in Barbican as well as the arts centre.  It’s quiet amusing that my place didn’t have a laundry so I had to go to the outside laundromat. On one hand I was living in the area well-known for the prestigious arts centre but at the same time I had to go outside to do the laundry.

If you wander the streets of London, you can easily run into so much history in the place all juxtaposed with new developments.  

Cute houses at one of the streets in Primrose Hill
Cute houses at one of the streets in Primrose Hill

After Barbican, I moved to Primrose Hill.  I was only there for about six months until the landlord decided that he didn’t want tenants to do renovations.  Primrose Hill is an absolute dream.  Just walking across the Primrose Hill Park (when you walk up the hill, you can see the CBD) from my work at Regent’s Park to my flat just put a smile on my face.  I chose this area because it was walking distance to and from work and because I wanted to live near a park.  I secured a viewing while I was travelling in Dublin and didn’t even realize how beautiful this area was until I arrived.

Cafe Rouge, St Johns Wood
Cafe Rouge, St Johns Wood

When it was time to move, I was at St John’s Wood and I lived in those historical red brick apartments. I chose this area since it was also near a park and within walking distance to and from work.  For the first week or two, I was mourning over the fact that I was no longer in Primrose Hill but eventually fell in love with St John’s Wood.  I loved the flowering trees that bloomed, the High Street, the houses and mansions and Regent’s Park.

St Johns Wood High Street

The three areas that I’ve lived in London was perfect for me.  But, there are so many other choices that it really didn’t matter too much because those choices were great anyway.  I had a flatmate that moved to Old Street, another at Brick Lane, co-workers in Brixton, a friend who semi-squatted in this artsy type of commune living space in Hackney.  At the same time, I have seen some pretty depressing places when compared to its asking price since the need for property in London is always high.

And, living in London is always so interesting and since the connections to travel to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa is fantastic.

However there is one thing that bothered me while living in London.. and that was the lack of seeing blue skies because of the weather.

Vancouver and Toronto, Canada

I really only took one look at the rental market in Vancouver when I decided that it really was not for me. This is further supported by the real estate price bubble driven up by foreign property investment that the city is being addressed.  However, Vancouver has a beautiful backdrop with the mountain skyline always in your view, even if you are way out of the city.

Toronto had more choices, but the one main item that I couldn’t wrap my head around until I arrived was the concept of the GTA, or the Greater Toronto Area.  

My rental experience in Canada was not the same as before.  It was more a reflection of my thought process rather than a comment on the state of the rental market in Toronto.  I decided not to live nearer to the downtown area and opted for living in a house way out in the suburbs and it has been years since I last lived in the suburbs.  If I were to repeat this process, I would have done a bit more research into all the different areas in Toronto and I would have stuck with characteristics that makes a place turn into a ‘home’ to me.

In terms of culture, Toronto is a multi-cultural city and I was exposed to completely new cultural groups such as the Caribbean, Central and South American influences.   In contrast, you get the suburban Walmarts and the plaza malls.

In terms of Toronto and Vancouver proving its livability (as promoted by those Top Cities To Live In guides), there were some glimmers of it.  But, for the majority of the time, I didn’t really experience it in the same depth as something like London.  This was especially pertinent during the Toronto winters when, at some stage, the temperatures had gone down to -26C.

On the other hand, there are other absolutely beautiful areas outside the major cities.  For example, you have the absolutely beautiful Kelowna region in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.  If circumstances permit, I would opt to be in these regions.

Now on to Dublin and Ireland!

The last time I was in Dublin was in 2012 for a three week trip from late May to early June.  Something close to Primrose Hill or St John’s Wood would be the most ideal!

Signing up to ExpatGenius


Since 2012, I have been involved with the expat online communities and blogging about the process on this website.  For me, I generally like to publish blog posts – allows me to write things out, while at the same time help others.  Much of it has been to the side in my free time, but I have been thinking about how I can monetize this.

The first idea was some sort of international recruitment type of agency but with a focus on the youth work visa arrangements. Then, I had another that was more of a concierge type of service for highly specific items like getting a VIP invite to an art fair, or finding a tax accountant with knowledge of bilateral agreements.

However in one of the LinkedIn groups that I belong to, I came across a startup that has been launched very recently called Expat Genius. It is a peer-to-peer marketplace and network connecting expats with locals.  It’s currently in early beta stage right now and I decided to try out what being an ‘Expat Genius’ entails so you can read my profile here.  Since it’s beta stage, they are soon releasing a few other features which I’m excited to learn more about!  Setting up the profile is quiet streamlined.

Ever since I posted my profile and offering my services aimed at expats/relocations in Canada, Britain and Australia I have had several responses and questions back – however these responses were outside of the platform and occurred on third-party sites.  The thing here is that a few of these want migration and visa consultancy services and is something that I am not registered to do as it involves answering legal questions that is specific to them.  ExpatGenius does offer legal and tax services but these are only reserved exclusively to professional lawyers and tax accountants.  What I do when I get a response back outside the platform is that I get them to seek out legal counsel for their own situation and once they get to the stage where their visas/immigration is all sorted out, that is when I or an ExpatGenius can come in. However, there may be the opportunity to come in the early stages – for example, if someone requires advice adjusting their profile to the target country market.

Another item that I have in mind is the blur between doing something that is ‘contained’.  For example, if I am assisting someone with their CV or developing their online profile, it does not necessarily mean that I recommend them.  I’m not sure if this is going to be a big deal, since the times where I have helped someone with their CV or profile, I would usually also recommend them since I would already know that person.

KYC (Know Your Client)

Another reason why I decided to go with a platform is that it helps decrease the potential risk of running into anyone wanting to commit migration/visa fraud.  There is an underbelly in that there are scams operating around the whole visa industry especially around high-value countries like the UK and Australia.  In an earlier post, I wrote about being in the cross-roads of a college doing visa fraud as a witness. I don’t want to run into those willing or encouraging to take part in fraud and there are also those that exploit out of greed.  The migration/border security folks do as much as they can to stamp it out, as is the case with this college, but some can fall through the cracks.  Therefore, I’m only working with those that are verifiable and is the reason why I’d prefer a platform like ExpatGenius. I am also sure that across the whole process of them obtaining their visas (if they have not done so already) it would nonetheless help clean up the stream for the aspiring expat.

I will give this a try, then I may end up switching to being a customer of their service!  It looks like they require people to either be the Expat (one who needs the service) or a Genius (one who offers the service).

Improving the Australian Working Holiday Visa

Earlier this year, news about the muru-D startup graduate, Disrupt was making its rounds due to one of their business partners being deported for not fulfilling a visa obligation. I won’t rehash what happened here, and instead urge you to read the original LinkedIn post posted by the founder.

I am very familiar with the visa programs that Chris is on which is the working holiday programs. These are essentially bilateral agreements between two countries allowing young people under 30 to live and work under certain conditions. These agreements are generally for the short-term, since your main reason to work is to supplement income while you travel in and around these regions.

As an Australian, I’ve had the opportunity to work in the UK and in Canada under these bilateral agreements. While the UK tightened its policies when I was living there (I was planning to go to Tier 2 but I was not successful), Canada currently has a very good process. You can graduate from the Canadian working holiday program and into the pool for an invitation for permanent residency in as little as a year.

Australia needs an overhaul

The Australian working holiday visa agreement (subclass 417) has some lessons to learn from Canada’s International Experience Canada visa and the UK’s Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa.


The current limitations are as follows:

1. Only being able to live for up to 12 months.

2. Only being able to work for up to 6 months.

3. For the first visa, only being able to apply while outside of Australia.

4. For the second visa (to apply upon the completion of the first), only being able to apply after completing three months of specified work in regional Australia.

Here’s my proposal – a two-year working holiday visa

Australia should match both the UK and Canada in its working holiday visa conditions. That means an open-work permit to live and work in the country 2 years.

Australia should have an ‘applicant stream’ available to graduate into another visa class should one decide to live and work in the country for longer. The visa class can either be a longer option that is still temporary but can lead to permanent residency. Or it can be a direct stream into a permanent residency application.

I agree with the motivation behind doing three months of specified work in regional Australia. I lived in and grew up in regional Australia. I believe this requirement should instead be optional. However, applicants that do meet this requirement should be rewarded with additional ‘visa points’ if they decide to graduate into another visa class in Australia.

What’s in it for candidates and Australian businesses?

Businesses have the opportunity to tap into a more global talent pool. They can do this without having to touch the red tape associated with the standard visa sponsorship pathways.

One of the red tape that I have in mind is businesses sponsoring a worker under the Temporary Work (Skilled) subclass 457 visa. Earlier, I was posting a comment to an Australian-based recruiter and also to a job-seeker about a post concerning sponsoring a potential candidate.

This visa subclass provides candidates the freedom of working for that business for up to four years. Which is great. However, the burden of proof is either on the candidate to convince a business to sponsor them or on the candidate to completely follow through with the sponsorship path from start to finish.

If a candidate decides to forego the sponsorship opportunity, or if the business payoff to sponsor ended up being disappointing, then the business will probably be less inclined to consider future sponsorship opportunities with others.

The benefit of a two-year working holiday visa, already available in Canada and the UK, is that it opens up the doors for young, emerging talent in the countries that have these bilateral agreements to work for Australian businesses.

Instead of being restricted to 12 months, I propose that young people should instead have 2 years to build up their global and professional skill while contributing to the Australian economy. It will also give them the opportunity to travel in and around Australia, New Zealand and the nearby Asia-Pacific regions.

The Australian Government to review the Working Holiday Visa program

Recently, the Australian Government issued out a call of submissions to stakeholders in regards to this visa program. You can read all the submissions here from a variety of companies such as Fragomen, Cotton Australia, YHA and the NSW Business Chambers.  Free text comments from other individuals, organizations and businesses can be read here. The submissions must also address the issue of exploitation and protections for vulnerable workers. The submissions also address a 2015-2016 Budget proposal in regards to changing in the tax status for those under this arrangement.

Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and the creative industries


The walk after we arrived at the Toronto Central Station was possibly the best that I’ve ever had.  It’s a bit surreal having spent the last few days in the Prairies in a train carriage and the following morning walking in the busy financial district in Canada’s largest city.  The bagel and cream cheese that I had was heaven as well… Continue reading Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and the creative industries

#BF10 Day 8 Part 1: Pointe to Pointe, Douglas Kirkland: A Life In Pictures, Nostalgia, Smudged

September 11 was the first Festival Conversations event, Pointe to Pointe, with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (choreographer of Sutra) and Rafael Bonachela (choreographer of Danza Contemporanea de Cuba). Here we delve into the minds of the two choreographers – what is the landscape like for their pieces (socio-political), what inspires them personally and artistically, what was their personal journey in the creation of their works? Continue reading #BF10 Day 8 Part 1: Pointe to Pointe, Douglas Kirkland: A Life In Pictures, Nostalgia, Smudged

BF10 Day 4: Baroque Tarantella

Me, a Critical Mass blogger Toby and many of his friends/colleagues attended Baroque Tarantella, a special performance by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and L’Arpeggiata from Paris.  Had a brief chat with Toby before the performance and he was very excited to see the event – well, considering that he runs and owns a business called Simply for Strings (a full service violin shop!).  I have not seen ABO perform by themselves before and it has been 2-3 years since I last saw an orchestra at QPAC.  Actually the last event that I want to in that venue was Brisbane Festival’s Mariza and enjoyed my first taste of fado. Continue reading BF10 Day 4: Baroque Tarantella