When it comes to taking the leap and moving abroad for a work and travel program, it helps to have a game plan and a few key logistics worked out ahead of time. Here are some pointers to keep in mind before you embark.
What does a Working Holiday let me do?
First off, you’ll want to make sure you understand what you’re allowed to do and how long you can stay in the country you’ll be traveling to. In many cases a working holiday visa allows you to stay in a country for a year or less, with an open work permit (a work permit that’s not tied to a specific job). Popular industries include agriculture, food/beverage, retail, office temping, manual labor, travel/tourism, hospitality, etc. Most jobs are entry level and don’t require a lot of expertise. However, you are welcome to seek out jobs related to your field of interest.
Some participants pick up seasonal work while hunting for more career-specific jobs. Even if you don't land a career track position, you can get out there and network: set up informational visits or interviews and learn how the industry works in a new country. Volunteering is also possible!
For a more general overview of the working holiday visas for U.S. citizens check out our article What is a Working Holiday?
Which visa do I need and how do I get it?
Each country has their own visa program and their own visa with different requirements, so make sure you’re applying for the right one. For example the working holiday visas for Australia and New Zealand require that you’re 18-30, and have pretty simple online visa applications. For the International Experience Canada program (IEC), U.S. citizens must work with a private recognized organization like the InterExchange partner organization in Canada, and must be 18-35 years of age. For the Ireland Working Holiday Authorization, you must be a current or recent full-time student (within 12 months).
Know how much you’ll need to budget upfront
Every country has its own visa fees, which range from free (New Zealand) to AUD $440 (Australia), and usually the application will require you to agree that you have some means to support yourself financially and funds to purchase to a return flight or other transportation out of the country when your program ends. Here is a list of typical expenses:
- Accommodation at beginning of program
- Any travel at the beginning of program
- Support funds
- Visa fees
- Travel medical insurance
You'll be able to earn money once you arrive, but it's important to have some savings to get yourself started!
Have an idea of where you’ll be staying
Know where you'll be staying for the first couple of weeks in the country, whether you plan to stay in the arrival city, or travel on elsewhere. You have a range of accommodation types, so put some thought into what would make you most comfortable.
Have a few job ideas in mind
Have retail experience? Love making coffee? Want to work at a resort? While you should remain as flexible and open minded as possible about the type of work you take, having a goal in mind can help you stay focused on the job hunt. Sometimes you can pick up very short-term positions to get you by for a few days or weeks while you hunt for something else.
InterExchange offers working holiday job search guidance so make sure you let your coordinators know what you have in mind for work.
Know your legal obligations when you arrive
Just like in the U.S., you will be required to pay taxes as you work your way through the country. In some cases, you will be entitled to a tax refund. Regardless, you will have to register for a tax ID number. You will also want to open a domestic bank account in the country you’re traveling in so you can be paid directly and have better access to your money.
Have a plan for meeting new people early in your program
Say hello to everyone you meet! In the elevator at the hostel, at the pub after work, even at work! Lots of young people on their working holidays are looking for friends to hang out and travel with, so it won’t be too hard to meet like-minded people. You can also join a number of Facebook and other social media groups for working holiday participants.
Make a bucket list of your travel plans
List a few things you’d like to do and see on your exchange. This can help you budget your money as well as structure your time. You’ll definitely hear about awesome hot spots from your new friends, so stay flexible and go where the wind takes you!
Make copies of documents
To be safe, it’s always a good idea to keep copies of important documents with you while you travel. You can keep these in a folder stashed away in your backpack, and you may even want to snap some photos on your phone for further safekeeping. Some examples of what you want to keep on you include:
- Visa approval
- Emergency contact list
- Address for accommodations upon arrival
- Flight itineraries
- Travel medical insurance card and policy
Planning in advance will help you make the most of your working holiday. This is just a start, so be sure to send us your questions so we can help you shape your own plans and adventures! If you're ready to take the next step, you can read about all of the Work and Travel programs available through InterExchange.
Melissa worked with InterExchange between 2016 and 2019, helping U.S. citizens planning to travel abroad. She traveled to Spain and Ghana before moving to Japan for three years. She now lives in the almost-foreign country of New York City.