Getting your Working Holiday Visa (417) when you have a diagnosed Mental Illness
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety 3 years ago. I have been on anti-depression medication for 2.5 years. I successfully got an Australian WHV and have lived in Australia now since April 2019. Having a mental illness should not stop you getting your visa granted, but the process will likely be different.
I wish I knew all I know now when I was applying for my 417 Working Holiday Visa for Australia. So hopefully this will help others who are wondering why the process will be slightly longer if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Applying for your 417 Working Holiday Visa
You start out the form like other application form; name, address, passport details etc. And then you will have to fill out a medical history form. You will be asked lots of questions including Tuberculosis (TB), HIV, operations, etc. the lot. And then you will come across No.19.
I was told by a lot of people to not admit anything about my mental illness and to just say nothing on the application form. Now, having watched Australian Border control, and hearing along the grapevine how strict they are with people coming in their country, my anxieties of lying and being found out was not worth it. I am also a strong believer in ‘things that are meant to be will be’ so my thoughts were, if i get rejected, then going to Australia was not meant to be for me.
My other thought was that I will obviously have to get my medication when I am in Australia. My nightmares included not admitting it on my form, and then got found out whilst I was out there and then I got deported. So again, I went down the truth route.
Anyway, I decided to enclose my mental illness when filling out my form. So to tell the truth, I chose Yes. This is now where the process will change for those of you who also choose to enclose your mental health problems.
Your application will be submitted and then you have to wait. Wait for the next information to come through (which came to me via email).
As I had ticked Yes to No.19 on the medical history form I was made to have a medical before I could get my visa granted. NOTE: This costs extra!!! And a couple of £s extra, so this is something to think about as this cost will be on top of the visa price!
It also means you will not get the instant confirmation of your Visa, which a lot of people I knew got within a couple of hours!
I followed the instructions emailed me too book an appointment for my medical. It is usually at a private hospital, with one of the ‘Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s panel physicians’.
Now me being very stubborn was confused as why I needed to attend a full medical (including a full chest x-ray!) when the problems I had were in my head and not my body! In my eyes, a letter from my Doc would have been fine – but obviously this is not how it works.
I saw a Doctor, who was lovely and was actually able to answer my questions for me.
She explained that the medical assessment was a standard medical for the Visa application, so it doesn’t matter which number question you ticked, or if you ticked yes to 1 or 17 of the questions, you would get the same standard medical. So this is why you will have your reflexes tested if you suffer from Depression….
I had an overall body MOT, literally was made to walk in a straight line, to read letters on the wall like at the opticians and had all my joints tested. Ps) girls will also have a pregnancy test!
I thought it was all very unnecessary and took a whole day up. I was also furious about having to have a chest x-ray (I am very stubborn with having to take out all my piercings out for something i deemed not necessary), but again, this is the protocol and my stubborness was ignored.
However, as the Doctor said, there is no harm (apart from the £s missing out my pocket) in an overall body check! She said at least I know my body is in optimum condition before I go travelling.
Talking about your Mental Health:
The Doctor then went through an assessment with me about my mental health.
Note: I do not advise anybody to lie on this assessment. I didn’t lie in this assessment, only twisted the truth slightly to make sure it all seemed less dramatic than it sounded. According to her I had never self harmed, and never had suicidal thoughts and that’s okay.
Anyway, she explained she just wanted to gain more information. They have to do this because it is that said Doctor who writes a summary of how they feel about you, which is what the Visa decision is based on. I made sure the Doctor knew I was very stable on my meds and that I felt my mental illness would not hinder me going to Australia.
She explained all the Visa people care about is if you are going to cost them a lot of money once you are in Australia and if you are going to cause any problems (take up hospital beds, be involved with the Police etc.) As she could see from what I had told her, I was not seen as a problem.
She could tell I was getting very anxious of the thought of being rejected due to my Mental Illness. She told me in her many years of doing these assessments, she does not know of anybody being rejected due to a Mental Illness. NOTE: These were her words from her experiences, this is not to say you definitely will get your Visa accepted!!
Before you leave the UK
Before you leave the UK, I was advised to get a copy of my prescription from my doctor, as proof to the doctors in Australia of the type and dosage of medication I was on.
It was useful when I went to see an Australian doctor, I wasn’t just sat there saying ‘I’ve been on Sertraline 100mg for the past 2 years’ because I could have said any type of drug, but with the prescription, they can actually see what I was taking at home.
The receptionist was able to get a copy of my prescription for me, without the need to see my Doctor, which saved me a lot of time.
I advise to photocopy your prescription, just in case you ever lose the original, you can still have a copy.
My doctor was reluctant to give me 6 months of Sertraline due to the higher dosage I was put on, but dependant on how long you’ve been on your medication and how stable you are, may be different.
After I explained I was going to Fiji first and it would be harder to get my medication there – he settled on 3 months.
If you know you are going on a long trip – say in the outbacks where you won’t be near a chemist in the first few months of your trip, explaining this to your Doctor may allow for a larger supply. This leads nicely on how to get your medication whilst in Australia!
Getting your medication in Australia
My first piece of advice would be to sign up and get your Medicare card. Now, this is an absolute faff, and they do not making signing up for Medicare easy when you’re in Aus. Only certain places do the sign up – Googling is the best suggestion for one near where you are – and they tell you to be there first thing when they open, because they have such a long queue and they only let so many people sign up a day!! So I turned up to the Medicare centre at 8am for 3 mornings before I was able to sign up. Take your passport with you!
Why all this bother? Well Medicare allows your visits to the Doctor for free (make sure that the Doctor does actually offer this before seeing them!)
- medically necessary care out of hospital
- medically necessary care as a public patient in a public hospital
- prescription medicines at a lower price – this is the general rate for drugs in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Seeing the Doctor:
Just like at home, they ask you how you’re feeling at the moment, whether you are stable, whether you think the medication is working, are you suicidal? So the questions they ask shouldn’t be anything new to someone who has been to a Doctor about their mental illness.
Medication and prescriptions:
I explained to my Doctor that I was on 3 month supplies at home but he told me it works different in Australia.
To get a repeat prescriptions here you are given a slip – which contains 6 (or however many they decide on) where each month you have to take the slip in and you will be given a months supply. Each time you get your months supply – the number on the slip goes down, telling you how many more times you can get that prescription. So after I have collected my months supply 6 times – i’ll have to go back to the Doctor. It is extra effort, and it makes me realise how quickly the months go by when i realise it’s time to go back to the chemist! But it’s how they work over here and there’s nothing we can do about it.
This makes things difficult when you’re travelling around, especially in the outbacks! This is where earlier I suggested to ask your Doctor at home to give you a bigger supply – if this is possible, save up those months you have been given from home for when you’re on the road, and use your repeat prescription for when you are in civilisation!
I hope this helps people who feel that they cannot work in Australia because of their mental health problems. If you have any more questions, feel free to contact me. If you have been through this process yourself and have any more advice then please let me know so I can add it in!