Working Holiday Visas: A Beginner’s Guide


What is a Working Holiday Visa?


A working holiday visa is a visa that is designed to give young people from other countries the opportunity to stay in the host country for a longer period than a tourist visa and allow them to work to support further travel. It is basically a work permit for travelers. It is different from a standard work permit in that you don’t have to have a job lined up before arriving in the country or have a particular employer sponsor your visa.

Many working holiday visa holders pick up odd jobs, temporary hospitality or labor jobs, and short-term minimum wage positions that just give them a small influx of income to keep traveling longer. This isn’t always the case, as most working holiday visas allow travelers to take any job they can get, but it is the general idea for which they are designed.

They let young people experience living and working abroad, fill out those menial positions, and bring in money to the economy. For travelers, they are an amazing opportunity to travel long-term and really get into the lifestyle of a place, all without having to worry about using up (or running out of) their savings.

I had a working holiday visa in New Zealand and lived there for nine months. I worked mostly in youth hostels and motels. I bought a car and drove all over both islands, seeing as much of that stunningly beautiful country as possible. I did the tourist thing for a month or so, then found a place I really liked and took a job for a few months, then repeated the cycle.

It was a fantastic way to supplement the costs of travel, travel longer, and to really get to know New Zealand culture and people better. I definitely had a positive experience on my working holiday and encourage others to try it, be it in New Zealand or anywhere else the program is offered. 


So how do you go about getting a working holiday visa? Here are the basics:

Visa Requirements


In order to apply for a working holiday visa, you must meet some basic requirements. These vary from country to country, though there are a few that are almost universal and some other very common ones.




* Working holiday visas are designed for young people. Most require applicants to fall between the ages of 18 and 30 at the time of application.


* Many working holiday visas are reciprocal, meaning only citizens of countries offering similar programs to the host nation’s citizens are eligible to apply. Thus you must hold a passport from an eligible country to get a working holiday visa, though this list may be different from country to country. Your passport must be valid for the entire length of your possible stay.


* Typically, working holiday visas require an application fee. This can range from around 50 to several hundred US dollars, so you will need to spend some money for the opportunity to make money while traveling.


Also Possible:


* You may have to show you have a certain amount of money saved up to support yourself until you find a job or in case you don’t find a job.


* Some countries require you to prove you have medical insurance for the duration of your stay and no serious ongoing medical conditions.



* If you have any criminal convictions, you may need to disclose this and it may prevent you from being approved depending on the circumstances.


* Some countries stipulate that you cannot have any dependent children accompanying you.


* There may be an education requirement. This can vary from being a high school graduate, a current university student, or having graduated university recently.



If you fit the requirements of the particular country to are trying to obtain a working holiday visa to, it is usually a very fast and easy process. I applied for my working holiday visa to New Zealand online and was approved 24 hours later. They sent me a visa and tax number by email and that was all I needed to enter the country and for the legal paperwork when I took a job.

Typical Benefits


So what does your working holiday visa allow you to do? Again, this can vary from country to country, but there are some very common benefits.


* It’s in the name itself: a working holiday visa allows the holder to legally work in the country. Sometimes this applies to any job they can get and sometimes there are restrictions such as the amount of time visa holders are allowed to work for one company or what kind of jobs they can apply for.



* A working holiday visa is most often valid for one year. Some may be only six months, or up to two years, but not longer. Even if you don’t work at all, it allows you to stay in one country for more time than a tourist visa.


* Some working holiday visas include a study aspect, allowing you to attend certain types of short-term courses.


Countries with WHV Programs


There are actually 60 countries and territories around the world offering working holiday visas. Because of reciprocity agreements, the countries whose citizens are eligible to apply for each of these are often very few.

Australia and New Zealand welcome the most nationalities and therefore their citizens have by far the most opportunities for working holiday visas around the world. Check out your government’s website or skim through Wikipedia’s entry to find where you can get a working holiday visa. For Americans like me, the choices are actually fairly limited.


WHVs Open to American Citizens:


  • 18 to 30-year-olds (though they are currently considering raising the top age to 35).
  • Valid 1 year with the opportunity to apply for a second.
  • Apply online here.


New Zealand 
  • 18 to 30-year-olds.
  • Valid 1 year with the opportunity to apply for 3 more months if you work 3 months in an agriculture or horticulture related job.
  • Apply online here.


  • 18 to 35-year-olds.
  • Full-time students currently or in the past 9 months.
  • Apply through the intermediary organization SWAP.


  • No age restriction.
  • Must be a current full-time student or graduated in the past 12 months.
  • Apply in person or by mail at your nearest Irish consulate or embassy.


  • 18 to 25-year-olds.
  • Valid 6 months.
  • Must be a current student or graduate in the past 12 months of a university in the top 200 for academic performance.
  • Apply online here.


South Korea 
  • 18 to 30-year-olds
  • Valid 1 year.
  • Only 2000 visas granted annually to US citizens.
  • Apply in person or by mail at your nearest Korean consulate or embassy.


Working holiday visas are a fantastic opportunity to travel and work abroad while you’re young. If you are at all interested, check out the various opportunities and decide if any of them will work for you. Australia and New Zealand are probably the easiest options to obtain a visa and to find work once you’re there, but any of these available options are worth considering. From personal experience, I highly recommend it!


*This post includes one or more affiliate links. I earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) if you purchase a product or service through one of these links. Find out more here.*


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