Dream of going abroad but worried about the money?
We have a solution: Get a working holiday visa!
Working holiday visa (WHV) programs combine a job with vacationing. As the Australian Government of Home Affairs states, WHV positions suit young adults who want an extended holiday. To fund their holiday, visa recipients can work in the host country.
A relatively new concept for US citizens, working holiday visa programs are quite common in other countries, like Ireland and New Zealand. The experience has become much more popular in recent years, with more than 60 countries now offering some kind of working holiday visa program.
So, is a working holiday visa right for you?
To find out, discover more about temporary work visas in this guide. You’ll learn all about working holiday visas, including requirements and opportunities across countries, as well as how to find and choose a job.
What Exactly Is a Working Holiday Visa?
A working holiday visa is a residence permit allowing foreign visitors to legally live and work in a country. Typically available to young adults (18 to 30 or 35 years old), working holiday visa stays typically last up to 12 months, but can be longer.
A WHV program is a cost-effective and immersive way to experience life in another country. By getting involved in the local economy, you can go beyond the common tourist experience, make lasting relationships with locals, and gain a deeper understanding of the culture.
Just remember: While the term “holiday” may have you thinking about rest and relaxation, a working holiday visa does involve working abroad. Yes, it’s fun and a break from the grind. However, you’ll be working too!
Why Should You Get a Working Holiday Visa?
First, a working holiday visa trip costs a lot less than just traveling abroad. Obtaining a working holiday visa generally takes much less time and resources than finding work sponsorship. In comparison to a study abroad program, which can cost more than $30,000 for a semester, a WHV program can save you a substantial amount of money.
Furthermore, many recent college graduates, especially those with student loans, may feel they can’t go abroad because of their financial obligations at home. If you have those concerns, know a WHV program allows you to travel abroad on a low budget and make money to pay your bills back home.
Second, participating in a working holiday visa program can bring you many professional benefits. WHV programs can easily fit into your career path, so don’t feel like you have to sacrifice anything. As an article in GoAbroad notes, working holiday visas offer “young students, recent graduates, and young adults the incredible opportunity to venture out from their homes and explore new countries, all while earning a living wage! This experience looks good on a resume for future employers or educational institutions.”
Finally, traveling abroad leads to personal growth. The experience can expand your worldview and offers you the chance to define your future goals. It can also be a time for spiritual exploration and recharging yourself mentally. So, take advantage while you can.
What Countries Offer Working Holiday Visas?
Most countries that offer working holiday visas have reciprocal agreements with other countries. This encourages travel and cultural exchange between the two nations. Like Immigration New Zealand lists on their website, they have working holiday visa schemes with 45 countries (as of 2019), including the USA, Canada, and Australia.
So, your choice of destinations depends on your home country’s agreements with other nations.
For example, if you’re a US citizen, you can get a working holiday visa to these six countries (as of 2019):
- Australia – Subclass 462 visa
- New Zealand – USA Working Holiday Visa
- Canada – International Experience Canada (IEC) Work Permit: The U.S. doesn’t technically have a working holiday agreement with Canada, but Americans can obtain this work permit through recognized organizations (RO). such as GO International and the University of British Columbia (who offers internships).
- Korea – H-1 Visa
- Ireland – US-Ireland Working Holiday Agreement
- Singapore – Working Holiday Pass
EU nationals generally can work anywhere in the EU without a work permit. For EU nationals hoping to travel outside the continent, where you can go on a temporary work visa depends on your country’s agreements with other countries. For UK citizens, the Youth Mobility Scheme visa (tier 5) allows young adults the chance to live and work in the following countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, and Taiwan.
For New Zealanders, options for working holidays overseas abound (as mentioned previously). New Zealand has working holiday visa schemes with countries across the globe, from Peru to Italy to Thailand. See the full list on the government website!
Australians enjoy a similar amount of choices as New Zealanders. Australia has two kinds of reciprocal agreements:
- Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417): For this arrangement, Australia has schemes with many places in Europe, including France, Denmark, Sweden, and Germany, as well as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan (subclass 417). Click here to read the full list!
- Work and Holiday Visa (subclass 462): For this arrangement, Australia has schemes with countries around the globe, such as Uruguay, Spain, Hungary, China, and Vietnam. Click here to check the full list!
Hail from Canada? Know you have more than 30 choices thanks to the International Experience Canada work permit scheme. You could earn money and explore nature in Costa Rica, wander through history as you work in Greece, and gain new skills as you dive into life in Korea. Click here for all the details on the IEC program!
Check on your government’s immigration or department of foreign affairs website for accurate information. Keep in mind temporary work visa schemes and policies constantly change, so stay updated.
Additionally, check the host country’s website for details on how to apply for a working holiday visa. The process differs a little with each nation.
What Are the Most Popular Destinations for Working Holiday Visas?
To make deciding where to go for temporary work abroad easier, look for the following:
- Countries that have a WHV scheme agreement with your country. Such countries will most likely approve your visa, as long as you meet requirements.
- Countries with work opportunities in your field of study or work. You can gain valuable international experience!
- Countries with welcoming policies toward temporary, seasonal, and/or foreign workers (especially if you’re looking for another type of work visa).
Now, let’s look at some top destinations:
Australia, from the vast Outback to bustling Sydney, delights with its unique beauty, energy, and culture. You can see koalas, surf in the ocean, eat barbecue prawns, tour major cities, and traverse through serene nature all in one trip! Also, the economy provides a lot of work opportunities.
Through their subclass 417 and subclass 462 working holiday visas, Australia welcomed more than 218,000 visitors in 2018 (see the full government dataset here). Main countries of origin include the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Korea, and Taiwan for subclass 417, and China, the USA, Chile, and Spain for subclass 462.
For full details on Australia’s working holiday visa program, click here for subclass 417 or click here for subclass 417!
Note: New Zealanders and Australians are free to travel between countries to live and work. Just bring your passport. Visas are granted upon arrival.
A nature lover’s paradise, New Zealand is mellow yet action-packed. Explore the richness of MÄori culture, sight-see in cities like Wellington and Auckland, enjoy world-class skiing, and visit national parks. New Zealand has a wide variety of seasonal jobs available, including in agriculture, hospitality, and retail.
In 2018, New Zealand approved more than 70,000 working holiday visas, according to New Zealand Immigration. The majority of recipients came from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, United States, Korea, Japan, and Canada.
For full details on New Zealand’s working holiday visa program, click here!
Feeling lucky? With breathtaking scenery, epic history, and quaint cities, Ireland will have you feeling good at every turn. From the cobbled streets of Dublin to the seaside villages on the Ring of Kerry, Ireland inspires. No wonder so many working holiday-makers and seasonal workers choose Ireland.
Ireland has working holiday agreements with numerous countries and territories outside Europe. Ireland’s Working Holiday Authorisation scheme doesn’t impose any restrictions on type of employment, so you can use the time to gain work experience in your field. Note working holiday visas are limited. Apply in advance!
For full details on Ireland’s working holiday visa program, click here!
Singapore has become one of Asia’s most popular destinations, with a melting pot of cultures, tranquil green spaces, and world-class shopping and dining. Walk along Orchard Road, go on a night safari at the Singapore Zoo, explore Chinatown, and more. Proximity to other Southeast Asian nations, such as Malaysia and Cambodia, make travel during free time quite convenient.
Singapore’s thriving economy means many opportunities for temporary workers to gain professional international experience. The Work Holiday Pass is competitive, as Singapore has a quota of 2,000 visa recipients at any one time. Before applying, make sure there are vacancies. You must be from Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, or the United States. Your university must be ranked in the top 200 globally for academic performance.
For full details on Singapore’s working holiday visa program, click here!
What Are the Requirements for a Working Holiday Visa?
WHV requirements vary by country, but pay attention to the following:
- Age: You generally must be between 18-30 years old. Some countries place the age limit at 35 or older, like Canada.
- Savings: Countries usually ask for proof you have funds to support yourself and fly back home. For instance, Americans traveling to New Zealand on a working holiday visa must have $4,200 in the bank.
- Citizenship: Check to see if you’re eligible. For example, if you want to get a working holiday visa to Ireland, you must be from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, or the USA.
- Time Period: You can typically stay up to 12 months, but some countries have exceptions. In New Zealand, you can even stay for up to 23 months if you’re from the UK or Canada. Australia allows a second year if you work in specialist industries or rural areas.
- Job Type Restrictions: Take note of what jobs you can’t get as a foreign temporary worker. South Korea, a popular destination for WHV travelers, doesn’t give working holiday visas to dancers, singers, acrobats, and musicians, and you also can’t work in law, medicine, or journalism.
- Education: Most countries require you be a college student or graduate. Some countries even have more specific requirements, like Ireland does for American working holiday-makers. Americans going to Ireland must be enrolled full-time in post-secondary education or have graduated within the last 12 months.
- Application Fees: These range from less than $50 to several hundred dollars. Australia charges $450 AUD to apply for their Subclass 462 visa.
- Language Skills: Some countries may require a certain level of fluency in English or a local language.
- Health or Travel Insurance: Consider World Nomads if you need travel insurance for your belongings and emergency medical and dental care. They offer competitive pricing for 150+ countries.
- Dependents: Nearly every country doesn’t allow you to bring children or other dependents.
Working Holiday Visa Jobs: What You Need to Know
While enjoying life abroad should be your primary goal, take advantage of the work opportunity. International work experience shows you possess cross-cultural competency, have initiative, and can adapt to different environments. You can try new things and learn new skills too, like the ability to speak another language.
Let’s go over the common types of WHV jobs, as well as how to find a working holiday visa job and how much you’ll get paid.
Types of Working Holiday Visa Jobs
A working holiday visa gives you the right to work in a country, which means you can apply to all sorts of jobs (though countries do have restrictions). Since you can’t accept a permanent position through a WHV program, many job offers are for seasonal work in fields like:
- Hospitality and Tourism: If you work at a hostel or resort, you may be able to stay at the lodging! Jobs at ski resorts are common in places like Japan and New Zealand.
- Agriculture: Countries like Australia have friendly WHV programs for temporary farm workers, as there is a large need for agricultural labor. Ready to get your hands dirty?
- Food and Beverage: Many restaurants, cafes, and bars in large cities and tourist destinations host international staff during the busy season.
- Au Pair: Interested in childcare? Plenty of countries need your help. An au pair position is a good way to experience family life and live like a local.
- Construction and Skilled Labor: It’s not the easiest of jobs, but construction positions are readily available across the world. Given the shortage of skilled labor in some countries, you can find work in manufacturing, logistics (think truck driving), automotive maintenance, electrical work, etc.
- Professional Work: Common work includes administrative support, customer service, marketing, and sales. Gaining experience in your field could enhance your CV!
Working Holiday Visa Salaries
Pay depends largely on location and type of employment. Obviously, you’ll make at least minimum wage, which will give you enough to support yourself. Here are a few examples of the minimum wage in top WHV destinations:
- Australia: $18.93 AUD per hour
- Ireland: €9.80 per hour
- Canada: ranges from ~$11-$14 CAD across provinces
You can easily find non-skilled positions at hotels, stores, and restaurants that pay more than minimum wage. If you’re doing intensive physical labor (like farm work), you’ll likely make a bit more than you would in the service industries. For example, according to a Lonely Planet article, working holiday-makers at a fish factory near Sydney received $21 AUD per hour in 2014.
Have specialized skills? Put them to use and earn more money. For instance, a job in carpentry in New Zealand will yield you $26 NZD per hour on average, according to PayScale. That’s $8 more per hour than the adult minimum wage.
If you take on a professional role in your area of expertise, you can earn much more money as well. Major in finance? Consider Singapore, where the average base pay for finance workers is $70,000 SGD (Glassdoor data). Or did you study software engineering? Companies in London will pay you around £55,000 per year.
Remember to factor in the cost of living. If your job provides lodging and/or meals, that will cut out a huge portion of your expenses. If you choose your job wisely and budget well, you’ll be able to save money while working abroad in a WHV program, even if the pay isn’t exceptional.
How to Find A Working Holiday Visa Job
First, let’s clarify something: As Global Goose, a popular travel blog, notes, you usually don’t need a job before traveling to your host country. This goes for Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and other popular WHV destinations. You can get the visa, fly to the country, and find a job after getting settled. This may be best if you want to get acclimated first.
Before looking for jobs, do your research to learn about requirements and what the experience is like. Then, utilize a variety of resources, including your own personal network, to find a solid WHV job.
Start your job search on major job sites, like Indeed and LinkedIn. You can directly search for working holiday visa jobs. This will give you a feel of what’s available.
Also, check job sites more focused on your industry or destination. Harvest Trail is great for finding backpacker work and agricultural jobs in Australia. And Jobs.ie allows you to quickly search for seasonal jobs in Ireland by sector.
You can also get placed in a job through a volunteer travel program. Frontier, an organization that’s placed more than 103,000 people abroad, can help you secure paid work through their Outback Ranch Work project in Australia. After project completion, you can get paid work through a partner agency!
Another option is to use an internship organization. The Intern Group, through their internships in Canada, helps international students and young professionals take part in the International Experience Canada (IEC) program. The Asia Internship Program enables you to get a working holiday visa to Korea through their international internships.
Alternatives to Working Holiday Visas
You don’t have to get a working holiday visa to live and work in another country. Consider these options:
- Intern Abroad Programs: Organizations like Intern Abroad HQ, a leader in professional international internships, offer affordable placements across the world, from Peru to Greece to Bali. Fields include finance, marketing, law, marine conservation, and more. GoEco, a top ecotourism company, has a wonderful hospitality internship in Barcelona that costs just $350 for 12 weeks.
- English Language Exchange: Through Angloville, you can explore countries in Europe like Poland and Hungary. You’ll teach a local student English and get free lodging during your stay.
- ESL Teaching Jobs: You can get your TEFL certificate online through organizations like Plan My Gap Year and Maximo Nivel, and then find paid English teaching jobs abroad in countries like China and Thailand.
- Volunteer Abroad Programs: Check reputable volunteer abroad organizations such as International Volunteer HQ and Love Volunteers. They have affordable, high-quality volunteer projects all around the world. See all the great places you can volunteer abroad here!
Making the Most of Your Working Holiday Visa
It’s time to take action. Figure out where you want to go, start looking for employment, apply for a working holiday visa, and book your ticket. And let your once-in-a-lifetime trip begin!
In addition to reading this article, look over government resources for accurate information (many of which we’ve linked to in this article). Also, check out the resources below for tips on finding work, saving money, and traveling abroad. Best of luck on your working holiday adventure!
Nick Callos · Writer
With a BA in English Literature & Writing from Boston College, Nick researches and writes about volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs worldwide. He has studied abroad and taught English in Chengdu, China, and aims to help fellow travelers make a lasting impact on the communities they visit.