Now that your application is perfectly manicured and prepared, you can proceed with…
Step 4: Rock up to the Embassy
For some unknown bureaucratic reason, the Embassy in London only accepts Visa applications (which includes WHA applications), from 9:30am – midday on Monday to Friday. My advice would be to get there as early as you can.
I arrived at 9am and took a ticket that was about 30 people behind the most recently called ticket number. Eventually, my number was called at 12:45pm – so I am tentatively advising that in my experience, the midday deadline for lodging Visa applications is fluid, but I would absolutely not rely on this advice.
A representative at the Embassy took the documents that I had prepared and my passport. He filled out a few details for his own records (presumably), and then returned the passport only (which meant that I was able to travel freely whilst my application was being processed – major advantage because in London it almost costs money to even breathe).
I was then given the below yellow slip and told that I’d get an email (you had to provide your email on the application form) from the Embassy when my WHA was ready to be collected:
STEP 5: Wait
I submitted my application on 5 August 2016. The next communication I had in respect of the WHA was on 24 August 2016 (19 days later), when I received the below email from the London office (firstname.lastname@example.org) confirming that my WHA application had been approved:
Step 6: Pick up WHA
I flew back to London from Portugal (as mentioned, I did not have to post/surrender my passport as part of the application process, so was able to travel – this is obviously different if you submit your application via post in Australia) and presented myself at the London office to collect the physical WHA document.
You’ll see from the above email that the designated collection time for Visas/WHAs at the London embassy was from 2:30pm to 4:00 pm Monday to Friday. I arrived at 2:30pm on a Friday afternoon and was seen virtually immediately. I picked my WHA document up (it’s a laminated piece of paper about 15cm x 10cm and pictures of what it looks like appear below) and started googling the cheapest airfares to Ireland.
Read the fine print on the back: it states that ‘[t]he holder may work for a particular employer for a maximum of 6 months’. Worth taking note of if you don’t plan on getting kicked out!
Step 7: Plan your first few nights and book flight/ferry to Ireland
As I mentioned earlier, there was no need for me to have arranged any travel to Ireland when I applied for the WHA.
When I’d decided that I wanted to apply for this WHA, I’d made it my mission to ask the advice of every single Irish person that I encountered on which city to settle in based on my personality (I was single and travelling alone, 26, loved the outdoors and the ocean and didn’t know anybody in Ireland). Galway was a resounding victor.
I’d spent a night in Galway on my travels and had a fantastic time, so I decided that all these people couldn’t be wrong and Galway sounded pretty alright. On that one night out in Galway, I’d drunkenly befriended a local lad (I also literally cyber-befriended him, on Facebook), so I decided to make contact and tell him that I was coming back.
His advice: getting a house will be a nightmare, because there are far too many renters and far too few rooms. I can’t speak for the entirety of the rest of Ireland, but he was dead-right for Galway.
After I collected my WHA, I wanted to get to Ireland and start work as soon as possible, because my savings were torrentially exiting my bank account in London. It was a Saturday afternoon and I booked a flight to Dublin from London for the following Tuesday.
I then started looking for a place to stay for my first few nights. In my experience with renting, it’s nearly impossible to organise a permanent place to live before you first arrive in a city where you know nobody and have no job, so I set about finding some temporary accommodation for the first few days (caveat: two of my Australian friends found permanent rooms in Galway from Australia – one through friends here, and one on her own).
I teed up to Couchsurf with some Spanish girls for a couple of nights (otherwise I would’ve booked a hostel for a week, which is what almost all of the other WHA-ers I met had done), and turned my mind to trying to arrange viewings for places to live after I arrived. Galway has a Facebook group for all those looking to live in Galway, so I inboxed anyone who’d advertised a room for rent in the previous couple of weeks with a paragraph about who I was and when I was arriving, and requesting to check out the room. I also searched for shared accommodation on daft.ie and rent.ie (Irish property websites that Irish people had told me about during my travels) and sent emails to the contact persons on rooms I liked (with the same information as my Facebook inboxes). Rooms on the Facebook group are usually advertised by tenants at the properties (so that’s who you’ll have to impress), whereas the contact person for ads on daft.ie/rent.ie can be any of the tenant, landlord or an agent. Neither my Facebook inboxes nor my daft.ie/rent.ie emails succeeded in setting up any room viewings before I arrived, but I did have one enormous stroke of luck two days before I flew to Dublin – one landlord replied and whilst his room wasn’t available any more, he said that I sounded like a respectable tenant and offered his spare room to me for €50 per week for a few weeks until I sorted myself out.
A couple of days later, I was on a Ryanair flight from London to Dublin.