Do you dream of working abroad, living in another culture and leaving the USA for more than just a holiday?
Many young Americans are not aware that there are some great programs set up specifically for them to be able to work and travel abroad. There are work permits that will allow you to stay in another country for between 6-18 months, get a job, get an apartment and work to sustain your travel adventures. You’ll be able to settle in for a while, experience the local culture, make some connections and really take your time enjoying your destination.
These programs are called Working Holiday Visas and they are agreements between certain countries in order to encourage cultural exchange. They are reciprocal – which means for example that since young Americans are able to work in Ireland on this type of visa, young people from Ireland will be able to do the same in the USA.
These visas are intended for travellers below the age of 30 and they usually have an age restriction (although not all do). Also, there are also sometimes limits on the type of employment you will be able to take and the length of time you can stay. Each visa is different, so once you have decided where you want to go you will need to figure out the specific requirements of that country.
If you are wondering what to do on your gap year or you have the urge to experience what life is like outside of the USA, these working abroad opportunities might just be perfect for you. Below we have compiled a list of the five countries where Americans can get working holiday visas, with helpful links for each one.
Perks of a Working Holiday Visa
- You can stay for longer in the country, giving you a chance to get to know the culture and form friendships with locals.
- You can take up employment, which will help to supplement your travel experiences and sustainably fund your trip.
- You will have more time to travel to more destinations.
- Experience working abroad will look great on your resume, as it shows that you have initiative and that you are capable of adapting to different situations.
- It’s usually cheaper and simpler than going on an expensive university exchange program.
- You don’t need to save up for an entire year of travel before you go. Most visas just require that you show proof of a basic amount of funds to cover you until you find a job – then you can sustain yourself from there.
- It offers you the opportunity to try your hand at a few different types of jobs that you might not experience in the USA.
- When you take up employment, you will make much more local friends and you will become part of the community.
- If you think you might move abroad one day, a Working Holiday Visa allows you to give a country a test run to assess whether you might like to immigrate there permanently.
Which Countries Offer Working Holiday Visas for Americans?
There are five countries in the world that offer Working Holiday Visas for US citizens – Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Korea and Ireland. Each of these countries has its own visa requirements and will offer you a very different travel experience.
Below we have included all five countries, with details about the visa, links to where to apply and other helpful links for planning your trip. The info here is current as of May 2016 when this post was written, but these requirements are subject to change so make sure you check the official website before you apply.
If you have any questions about working abroad or applying for visas, please leave them in the comments below.
If you want to work abroad somewhere that is naturally stunning, multi-cultural, diverse and offers plenty of culture, nightlife, activities and opportunities – consider heading Down Under. Sip wine in the sunshine at a barbeque while everyone back in the States is suffering through winter weather. Check out the cool coffee shop scene and art galleries in Melbourne, breathe in the tropical humidity of Darwin, experience the nightlife and culture of Sydney or even take a road trip in a campervan to explore some of Australia’s national parks.
Australia is enormous – there is so much in this great southern land to explore that it would take you years to see it all. On your Working Holiday you will want to pick a few regions to cover in depth, rather than trying to see the entire thing.
Applying for the Australia Working Holiday Visa is quite easy, because you can do it online. You will need to fill out quite a bit of personal background info and you might also be asked for proof that you have sufficient funds. The Australian government doesn’t always check that you have the right funds on arrival, but it is still very important to have them.
This visa will allow you to work for up to 12 months, but you will only be able to stay with each employer for up to six months. Also, you will not be allowed to engage in any study or training for more than 4 months. If you are going to Australia to work in one specific field you might need to send out a lot of resumes, but if you are planning to base yourself in one of the big cities you should be able to land yourself a job. If you are not picky about the type of job you take, you will find opportunities all over the country.
12 Months Max
18-30 Years Old
$440 AUS (Approx $340 USD)
Proof of at least $5,000 AUS in funds
Official Info: Australian Government Website
Jobs in Australia on BackpackerJobBoard.com.au
Jobs in Australia on GoAbroad Job Board
Everything You Need to Know About a Working Holiday in Australia by the Little Backpacker
Working Holiday Australia Backpacker’s Bible by HostelBookers.com
We visited Ireland earlier this year and I can definitely say that it would be an amazing place to do a Working Holiday. The rolling green hills and coastal landscapes are stunning, the historic castles and ruins are fascinating and the people are down to earth, funny and know how to have a good time. Living in Ireland for a year would give you the opportunity to learn so much history, enjoy so many festivals, hike through gorgeous countryside and spend many nights listening to live music in welcoming local pubs. You might not want to leave!
The Working Holiday agreement between Ireland and the USA allows US citizens to work and travel in Ireland for a maximum of 12 months. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade this program reflects the “close historical and cultural links” between Ireland and the USA.
The great thing about the Ireland Working Holiday Visa is that there is no upper age limit. It doesn’t matter how old you are – it matters whether you are currently studying or recently graduated. So, if you are past the age limit for other Working Holiday Visas but you are a mature student who has gone back to school, this could be an option for you.
In order to qualify you must be currently in full time post secondary education – it doesn’t count if you are studying part time or online. Or, you must have graduated from your programme of study within the 12 months before your application is received. You will need to submit evidence of this, such as your diploma, official transcripts or a letter from your university.
Also, you will need to show a bank statement that reveals that you have access to at least $4,000. When you arrive in Ireland you will need to register with the Garda Naturalisation and Immigration Bureau in Dublin or the nearest Garda station within 90 days. At the time of writing this there is a €300 charge for registration.
12 Months Max
Current Post-secondary student or graduated within the past year
Approximately $350-360 USD depending on which region of the USA you are applying from.
Proof of $4,000 in funds.
Official Info: Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Information for Americans Living in Ireland by the Dublin US Embassy
Coming to Work in Ireland by Citizens Information
Although Korea is known as the “Land of the Morning Calm” – tranquility is the last thing you will find on the non-stop bustling streets of Seoul. This constantly-in-motion metropolis is the hub of cuisine, culture, technology, art and history in South Korea. You’ll find yourself swept up in an exciting whirlwind of everything from traditional night markets to futuristic technology shops to ancient temples.
Seoul might be where you start your journey and will have the highest density of jobs, but make sure that you go beyond the capital and explore some of the other regions. Jeonju is a spiritual centre filled with ancient buddhist temples, historical monuments and museums. Check out the tea plantations of Boseong, taste the delicious seafood in the port city of Yeosu and hike the mountain range of Seoraksan National Park. The Korea Working Holiday Visa allows you to stay in the country for 18 months, giving you plenty of time to explore.
One of the things to keep in mind about the Korea Working Holiday Visa is that there will be some restriction on the types of jobs you can get. You will not be able to work in journalism, law or medicine and if you are a foreign language instructor you will need to apply for a different via – the E-2.
You will need to be able to prove that you are currently a student or that you have graduated within the past year. You will also need to be able to prove that you have enough funds to financially support yourself in Korea for up to three months. Also, you will often have to provide a schedule and plan for your trip and let them know where you plan to live and travel during your time in the country.
You will need to apply for the Working Holiday Visa at the Korean embassy in your home country, you are not able to apply for it when you are abroad.
18 months max
18-30 years old, current post-secondary student or graduated within past year
Official Info: Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in New York
New Zealand is a fantastic place to work abroad. From the geothermal pools of Rotorua to the Art Deco architecture of Napier to the vineyards of Marlborough and the snow capped peaks of Queenstown, it has such an incredible array of landscapes packed into a small island country. If you love hiking, camping and the great outdoors there are so many adventures to look forward to here.
If you are willing to go anywhere and take any type of job, there will be a lot of opportunities for you in New Zealand. There are plenty of temporary backpacker jobs available. You’ll find a lot of jobs in agriculture, as New Zealand has plenty of sheep farms, vineyards and fruit orchards looking for workers. You could make your way around the country picking fruit, harvesting vegetables and pruning vines. Also, tourism is a huge part of the New Zealand economy so you will find a lot of jobs in that industry, such as in hotels, hostels, bars, restaurants and cafes.
Kiwis are incredibly laid back, friendly and welcoming and they will go above and beyond to ensure that you have a great time. Lee and I made many amazing friends during our Working Holiday in New Zealand that we still keep in touch with nearly 7 years later.
12 months max, 18 months for those working in agriculture and horticulture
18-30 years old
If you are applying from outside New Zealand, there is no application fee.
Proof of NZ $4,200 (approximately $2,700 USD)
Official Info: New Zealand Immigration
New Zealand Working Holiday Visa FAQs by NewZealand.com
Trademe New Zealand Classifieds (For finding jobs, a place to live and more)
BackpackerBoard.co.nz (For finding jobs)
Getting a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand by Living in Another Language
A Dummies Guide to Working in New Zealand by STA Travel
Singapore is hot, energetic and multicultural and has a little bit of everything. You can stuff your face with curry in Little India, watch the lights of coloured lanterns glow in Chinatown, visit ancient temples and soak in infinity pools atop gleaming skyscrapers. You can shop in modern malls or peruse dusty antiques in heritage shophouses. You can sip cocktails and world class cuisine at a swanky restaurant or slurp delicious noodles at a plastic table in a hawker market.
Working in Singapore will be an amazing opportunity to immerse yourself in this fascinating Asian culture. There are a lot of job opportunities available there, especially in growth industry sectors such as healthcare, oil and gas, interactive and digital media, biomedical sciences and electronics.
The Working Holiday visa for Singapore is a little bit different than some of the others, as it requires you to be currently studying or to have graduated within the past year. Also, you can’t just be attending any university or college – it has to be one that is well ranked. You will need to send in proof of your academic standing. To find out whether your University ranks within the top 200, you can check out the ranking lists here, here and here.
There is a capacity of 2,000 places at any one time, so make sure that you send in your application as early as possible so that you can have the best chance of getting accepted. Also, this is the shortest of the visas at only 6 months maximum.
6 months max
18-25 years old, currently enrolled at a top 200 university or graduated within the past year
$150 for the Working Holiday Visa and $30 for a Multiple Journey Visa (if applicable)
Official Info: Singapore Government Ministry of Manpower