Working Holiday Visas – Work and Play Combined

Working Holiday Visa
Stunning Mt Maunganui, New Zealand, where many travelers find work in the hospitality trade

Traveling the world is a dream for many, none more so than young adults. However, the romantic ideal of strapping on a backpack, heading off to unknown places and unknown cultures can seem just that…a dream. What many don’t know, though, is that this dream can easily become reality, and that is what most countries’ Working Holiday Visa Program is all about.

What are Work/Holiday Visas?

Work/Holiday Visas are residence permits that allow travellers to be employed in various participating countries worldwide. Working while touring not only aids the traveler in supplementing their travel funds, but also provides a country’s small businesses and seasonal employers a continuous pool of workers. Basically, a win-win situation!

A number of countries offer seasonal employment not only to travelers but also to immigrants. For instance, seasonal employment in Canada (emploi saisonnier au Canada) is a great option if you are an immigrant and are interested in getting a temporary job in agriculture, landscaping, fishing, seafood processing, or related fields.

Who is Granted Work/Holiday Visas?

Work/Holiday Visa permits are generally offered to individuals between 18 and 30 years of age, with some countries now expanding the age limit to 35. Requirements vary country to country. You can read more about work/holiday visas here.

Are There Any Restrictions?

Most Working Holiday Visas are offered under reciprocal agreements between countries in effort to encourage travel and cultural exchange.  It is important, however, to note the following:

  • Some restrictions are imposed regarding the type of employment one can take, or the length of time the traveller can stay within the country. Usually, no more than 12 months.
  • The visa holder is expected to have sufficient funds to live within the country, while employment is being sought. A set amount for this is stated by each given country.
  • Travel insurance covering the time period is usually also necessary. Thus, you’ll likely need to purchase travel insurance on your own.

Words From Someone Who Worked Abroad

Working Holiday Visa
Laurel, on her 2015 Working Holiday adventure

Laurel, from the US state of Oregon, completed a working holiday in New Zealand in 2015. She was 24 years old at the time, and spent a total of 9 months in the country.

Here are some of her insights:

What would you consider to be the greatest benefit of your Working Holiday Visa experience?

For me, the most rewarding thing was being able to make new friends from all around the world. Most, like me, were also in the country on Working Holiday Visas. Being able to share our experiences together as travelers was amazing.

What are some of your suggestions to someone thinking of undertaking a Working Holiday Visa?

You’ll find that there are a lot of other people in the same shoes as you: traveling in a new place, meeting many new people. Get to know them. Take the time to communicate. Your new friendships will take you further than your pre-scheduled and planned tour trips will.

Working Holiday Visa
Not always working

Try to see and do as much as you can, but don’t stress about everything to the point that you’re not enjoying yourself. Take each day as it comes. If a friend you’ve made is taking a trip, and has an extra seat in their vehicle, join them! I didn’t use my visa to utilize a degree/career path that I earned in college. I used my visa to see, to learn and to grow.

What  did you find most challenging about your experience?

That would have to be all of the coordination and planning whilst I was traveling and working within New Zealand. You’ll likely find that while you’re working at one site, you’ll actually be considering what your next destination, and workplace, will be. Thankfully, there are a number of online resources one can use to help in the logistics.

Working Holiday Visa
Some unique accommodations can be had

Prior to my arrival in the country, I contacted WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), which helped me a lot with accommodation and work opportunities throughout New Zealand. I chose organic farming because it is something I am passionate about. However, there are many, many other work opportunities to be had, especially in the tourism and hospitality industries.  I even worked as an au pair for a Kiwi family for 3 months!

In Sum:

Laurel’s Working Holiday experience gave her some unique work skills, but more importantly, she met like-minded fellow travelers that have surely become lifelong friends.

Working Holiday Visa
Travelers enjoying a shared meal

Whether you choose New Zealand, like Laurel, or any of the more than sixty other countries involved in the Working Holiday Visa Program, you’ll be well on your way to making your travel dreams a reality.

What Do You Think?

Have you ever obtained a work/holiday visa? What was your experience like? Do you have some advice/insights to offer? Are you thinking of obtaining one yourself, and do you have some questions you’d like to ask? Whatever the case may be, leave us a comment below, and we’ll get back to you in a flash!

Sheri Marr is an American expat, living abroad for more than 30 years in Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, & New Zealand. You can learn more about her travels and experiences at Mom Off Grid.

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