7 Things You Should Know About Working Holiday Visa Programs

Working Holiday Visa (WHV) programs allow you to visit a host country for up to 12 months and take on jobs to cover living expenses and help fund your travels in the country.

It's a relatively new concept for U.S. citizens. Agreements with Australia and Ireland weren't formed until about 10 years ago, though the concept of a Working Holiday has been around since at least the 1970s.

While the term "holiday" may suggest a period of rest and relaxation, a working holiday is an opportunity for professional and personal enrichment, and a chance to step back from the "grind" and recharge.

A working holiday can (and should!) be much more than seasonal work and travel, which leads me to the first of 7 things you should know about Working Holiday Visa programs:

Working Holiday Visa (WHV) programs allow you to visit a host country for up to 12 months and take on jobs to cover living expenses and help fund your travels in the country.

It's a relatively new concept for U.S. citizens. Agreements with Australia and Ireland weren't formed until about 10 years ago, though the concept of a Working Holiday has been around since at least the 1970s.

While the term "holiday" may suggest a period of rest and relaxation, a working holiday is an opportunity for professional and personal enrichment, and a chance to step back from the "grind" and recharge.

A working holiday can (and should!) be much more than seasonal work and travel, which leads me to the first of 7 things you should know about WHV programs:

#1: It's not just a directionless span of "time off."

A Working Holiday program doesn't have to be an unstructured time in which you pick up odd jobs here and there to pay the bills and fund your road trip along the Gold Coast. Everyone should take the time to travel and have an adventure with new friends, but there's a lot more you can gain from the program.

A WHV consists of an open work permit—that means you structure your time and experience how you want. You're not relegated to a specific field and you're free to move around the country for work, travel and other activities.

Feeding lambs in New Zealand

Image courtesy of IEP

Other experiences you can have abroad on a WHV program
Taking a class
  • Most WHVs allow you to take several months of courses, so you can keep learning abroad!
Volunteering
  • It's a great way to meet people and explore a new field.
WWOOFing
Networking
  • Use the time to learn more about a potential career field by asking for informational interviews with local professionals.
Students studying

Image courtesy of Unsplash

If you're a recent high school or college grad and you're not sure what you want to do next or you've been in the workforce for a few years and want a change — WHV programs are an opportunity to travel, make some money, and embark on meaningful experiences and reflect on what makes you tick.

Maybe "Work, Travel, Grow" would be a more fitting title for these programs, but that's a tad long and lacks panache.

#2: U.S. Citizens can do a WHV in six countries

Visas for Singapore are very limited and those wanting to travel to South Korea need a hefty amount of savings ($10,000 USD) and some job industries are restricted. Given this, this article focuses on the first four countries.

#3: You'll meet a ton of people.

Thousands of U.S. citizens participate in WHV programs each year. Here's a snapshot from 2016-2017:

7,792
  • The number of U.S. citizens granted a WHV to Australia
5,385
  • The number of U.S. citizens granted a WHV to New Zealand

Tons of travelers from other countries around the world also participate in WHV programs each year, so you'll have a global experience within one country!

Participants paddleboarding

Image courtesy of Work & Travel Company

#4: Almost all visas are granted for U.S. citizens.

As long as you meet the visa requirements, you're likely to receive it! Australian Immigration approved 99% of WHVs for U.S. citizens in 2016-2017; New Zealand approved over 90%.

#5: The visa application is fairly easy.

Especially for Australia and New Zealand. WHV applications for Canada and Ireland are a bit more involved, but still online. It's extremely rare to be asked to visit an embassy!

#6: Career-track jobs are possible!

Though seasonal, short-term jobs are the most common on WHV programs (employers know you're only there for up to one year, so some are hesitant to hire you for long-term positions), it's totally possible to land a more career-oriented role.

Past InterExchange participants on Work & Travel programs (which support working holiday visa-holders) have snagged marketing director, business specialist, hospital administrator, and other professional jobs abroad.

Participants paddleboarding

Image courtesy of Rijk Rietveld

Just like it's easier to get a casual, seasonal job than a more professional one in the U.S. – the same is true abroad. You can take on short-term, casual jobs while you're looking for more professional ones, or networking in your desired career field.

#7: It's a limited-time opportunity, so do it while you can!

Most countries set age caps at 30 or 35 for participation and often, you're only eligible for the visa once, so take advantage of this travel opportunity while you can!

Participants paddleboarding

Image Courtesy of Dream Au Pairs

Australia
  • Must be between 18-30 and you're only eligible once unless you work in tourism and hospitality or agriculture, forestry and fishing in northern Australia for at least 88 days on your first WHV
Canada
  • 18-35 and you can only participate twice
Ireland
  • No age cap, but you must be a current student of an accredited U.S. college or university, or a recent grad (within the past 12 months)
New Zealand
  • 18-30 and you're eligible only once

Ready to start your adventure? Check out How to Plan for a Working Holiday

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation