Get paid to see the world! The essentials of a working holiday visa

By Natasha Culzac

Thinking of buggering off abroad to work for a bit? Here’s our quick guide to the 'working holiday visa' sitch

A British passport is a passport to the world - for now at least. Got dreams of travelling the world, earning money as you go? Whether you want to work a ski season in Canada or try pearl farming in Australia, there are loads of fun and exciting working holidays to choose from.

Not only will it be good crack, but it could also give your CV a well-deserved lift. As mentioned on, 63% of British HR managers believed that “a constructive gap year spent volunteering or gaining work experience overseas made a job application stand out”. Showing willingness to expand your horizons and a resolve in bettering your financial situation appears to give you a million gold stars with employers back home.

What are the basics?

Currently, you don’t need a visa to work in any of the EU member states, but a lot may change in the next couple of years - hello, Brexit - so if you’ve got your eye on Austria, France, or Spain, then you might want to get your skates on and do it before 2019.

For the rest of the world, the visa situation can vary wildly from country to country. You will generally need to arrange, and pay for, a visa beforehand. Generally, you’ll be expected to abide by the following rules and requirements:

- Be under 35 (or 30 or even 25 in some countries)

- Be in the country for a set amount of time - never overstaying your visa! This could be anything between six months to two years

- Give proof that you have enough initial cash to support you until you find work. Each country has its own demands (see below for specifics) but you may be asked to provide copies of your bank or credit card statements showing your balance or limit.

- Have a return flight booked

- Have adequate private medical and travel insurance

- You won’t be able to take a child with you

Before you apply

You’ll need to prepare your personal documents for the application process:

- Is your passport valid for the length of your intended stay? If not, renew it.

- Has your name legally changed recently? Do all your documents reflect this?

- Do you have enough money to pay for the visa processing fee? And enough to pay for a return flight if asked to provide evidence of having one?

- Importantly, have you saved enough money/can you beg a family member/use a credit card, to meet the ‘sufficient funds’ requirement of most working holiday visas?

What jobs can I do?

Don’t settle for call centre work! There are some really inspiring and bats**t crazy jobs out there for you to do. What about one of these:

- Get your face in the next Hollywood fantasy blockbuster and become a movie extra in New Zealand

- Adrenaline junkies can work for a white water rafting company in Canada

- Teach football to plucky little kids in America (see more about this below!)

- As mentioned in Travel Nation, be a hostess on a boat in the stunning Whitsundays

Visa specifics for popular destinations:


This visa is for those aged 18-30 and it costs roughly £270 to get. You’ll need a return flight and private healthcare insurance, as well as access to (and proof of having) at least £3,000 to support you while you’re there. You can get a visa to work for 12 months, but you must not work for more than six months for any one company. If you want to extend your visa for another year, you’ll need to complete three months’ specified work in regional Australia. Often this is fruit picking, but it could also be mining, fishing, construction or tree farming. More info here.


New Zealand

Apply for either a 12 or 23-month visa, both of which allow you to work for a maximum of 12 months. Like Australia, you must be aged 18-30. You cannot accept a permanent job and if you choose a 12-month visa but decide at a later date to extend it, you can. You’ll need to also show that you have $350NZD to cover you for every month that you’re there - that’s roughly £2,300 for a year. More info here.


It’s quite complicated in Canada. You have to enter a ‘pool’ of candidates and then, when the government opens up a round of applications, be invited to apply for the visa.

How the pool works: You’ll fill out your profile and enter the pools that you’re eligible for - for Brits this sadly means just one pool out of three: the working holiday one. It’s essentially a lottery. On a couple of occasions throughout the year, the government will randomly select candidates from the pool to invite. Everyone has an equal chance of being invited to apply for a visa, but you could be sat in the pool for weeks or even months - and some may not be invited at all this season. Be warned, only 7,000 visas are going to be issued to Brits throughout 2017. Being invited to apply for a visa does not guarantee acceptance - you will still need to fulfil the visa requirements. You must be aged 18-30 and have roughly £1,500 ($2,500 Canadian Dollars) in available funds for your trip. The pool is open for further applications. It allows you to have temporary paid employment for up to 24 months. More info here.


The US has a reputation for practically being Fort-bloody-Knox when it comes to working in the country. However, it’s possible to do some very short-term working in the country, if you go with an established operator such as BUNAC. Work and travel experts BUNAC help thousands of young people achieve their working holiday dream every year - the organisation assists you as early as the visa application stage and will also help you get your accommodation and job sorted. It offers a full support package and has either a BUNAC office or partner organisation in every destination. BUNAC doesn’t just arrange trips to the US, but also other working holiday adventures worldwide.

Here are BUNAC’s available US opportunities:

- Work America: University students can do seasonal work in the US for four months during the summer break.

- Summer Camp USA: This is open to all ages whether you’re a student or not and offers 8-10 weeks instructing at a youth summer camp.

- Soccer Coaching USA: 18-30-year-olds with some experience of football coaching can teach kids for 6-12 weeks in the summer.


University students or graduates up to the age of 25 can apply for a working holiday visa with a maximum six-month validity. You can work in any capacity, but obviously those who want to work in law or medicine, for example, will still need to meet the skills and registration requirements. More info here.


Hong Kong

You must be aged 18-30 at the time of applying and you must not work for longer than 12 months. You’ll need to show that you have roughly £2,100 in the bank (22,000 Hong Kong Dollars). Available jobs are varied, from designing to customer services and labouring. More info here.

Other destinations

For countries that are harder to access, such as China or Latin America, there are lots of opportunities for those willing to teach English. The visa situation is slightly different, as are the requirements. These aren’t ‘working holidays’ per se, as you’ll generally have to agree to go and work with one employer for a set period of time and only as a teacher. For China you don’t need to know Mandarin, but for Latin America or French-speaking Canada you’ll need to have a basic knowledge of the local language. More info here.

Top takeaway

Jetting off to faraway lands to explore, experience and educate is perhaps one of the best ways to spend a year or two of your twenties. Trust me, your twenties will FLY BY and seeing as we’ll probably have to work until we’re 80, you might as well have an adventure while you’re fit and free to do so.

Author bio: Thanks to a journalistic career history and a childhood at Sylvia Young Theatre School, Natasha has her fingers in a few professional pies, doing her best impression of a model and actor as well as personal finance writer. Outside of work she compulsively watches BBC period dramas and constantly lies to herself that this year will be the year she learns French, once and for all.

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