Every time I tell someone that I spent two years in New Zealand and one year in Australia, they always ask me how. And I always say “I used the Working Holiday Visa.” And they say, “What’s that?” And this ping-pong conversation goes on and on for a while; me telling them about the visa and how it’s FREE (in NZ) to apply and use and that every person aged 18-30 in the states should be taking advantage of this incredible opportunity. And I’m met with a “Oh, that sounds cool. I HEARD it’s super expensive. I can’t afford that right now.” And just like that, they immediately dismiss an opportunity of a lifetime because of something they heard rather than experienced.
I’m not going to lie, this frustrates me more than anything. Excuses frustrate me in general, but speaking out of context really grinds my gears. This started to happen so regularly, I partnered with a friend I met in New Zealand and we created a company called Travel Hooligan. We took a year and a half to create comprehensive guides about the Working Holiday Visa in Australia and New Zealand. We realized while we were conversing with Americans about the visa, they just had no idea it was available. And that made us terribly upset. Why doesn’t every American know they can work abroad? I have my theories, but the point is that there was a need. So we ventured out to inspire others to work and travel in Australia and New Zealand.
I’ve decided to give you all some insider tips on using the visa as well as some more info on what is it and how you can use it in one or both countries.
What is a Working Holiday Visa?
First off, ‘holiday’ means vacation in Australia and New Zealand. You’ll need to know that if you get the visa and go. (You’re welcome.) This visa is intended for those wanting to supplement their travels with working along the way. There are different stipulations for both countries involving work restrictions and I’ve laid them out below:
Australia: Any U.S. citizen aged 18-30 (you can still apply at 30) can live and work in Australia for one year. You can work for one employer for 6 months at a time. They take this pretty seriously so you will only be working for 6-month contracts.
New Zealand: Any U.S citizen aged 18-30 (you can still apply at 30) can live and work in New Zealand for one year. You can work for an employer for the entirety of the year, no restrictions.
What kind of work can I do?
Both countries allow you to work in any industry you’d like. While majority of the jobs are in the general labor, hospitality and retail sectors, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a job in your area of expertise. I’ve known many people to work in admin, hospitals, childcare, graphic design/media and many more.
I worked a variety of jobs including serving at a French bakery, 5-star restaurant, coffee shop, brewery, and sold rainbow-colored stationary to children. I even got a grown-up job as a Marketing Manager towards the end of my visa and was sponsored to stay another year. (That’s how I got to stay for two years instead of just one.)
Is it hard to get a job?
If you’re willing to work, it’s not hard to get a job. With that said, many parts of both countries are seasonal, meaning that if you’re looking for a job in March in a small town, you might be out of luck as hiring doesn’t start until May for the winter season. Bigger cities have more jobs but are more expensive. I worked in both a big city and small resort town and I would choose a smaller town over the city any day.
If you have your resume and cover letter printed out and ready to hand in, you’re already ahead of the rest. Active job searching means you’re actually looking for a job, not sending one resume online and calling it quits. Remember, you’re there for a year and that the jobs available might not be permanent positions. If you’re willing to work in a tasting room at winery, take reservations for a ski resort, or be a host on a cruise boat, you have a huge chance of getting hired.
Should I look for a job before I leave?
I’m actually in this position at the moment, as I’m weeks away from moving back to New Zealand on a work visa. I’ve looked up positions online and have sent out my resume and cover letter informing them of my arrival. But majority of jobs will not hire you until you are physically there. It’s a waste of time for them to hire someone out of the country for a serving position, knowing that you could change your mind at a moment’s notice.
Do I have to go for the entire year?
Not at all. You could go for two months if you wanted. But I recommend sticking it out. Both countries are incredible and worth staying to explore. Plus, you’ll be meeting loads of new people from all over the world, creating new friendships and possibly a new relationship too!
How do I apply?
You need to apply online at the country’s designated immigration website. You will need to create a login and password and have your passport ready. Both applications take around 30 minutes to fill out if you have all the appropriate documents handy.
• To visit Australia’s immigration website, click here
• To visit New Zealand’s immigration website, click here
What happens when I apply?
When you apply and get accepted (they have no limits on the amount of visas available for U.S. citizens), you have an entire YEAR to get over there. That means, you can save for an entire year before you actually use your visa. This is why the ‘it’s too expensive’ and ‘I don’t have any money to go’ excuses really upset me. If you did a little research, you would find out that you don’t need to have a lot of money to apply. Your visa is usually granted in less than a week, and will be e-mailed to you with your visa confirmation.
How much money should I save?
It completely depends. Immigration states you need to have at least $4,000 (AUD/NZD) saved in your account before you enter the country. In reality, they don’t care or check. I moved to Australia with $700. And if you look at current rates, our currency is kicking both of their asses! So $4,000 is really $2,700-3,000. And like I stated above, you have an ENTIRE YEAR to save that. It’s completely doable.
I’m not from the states. Are there Working Holiday Visas for other countries?
Oh yes! Both Australia and New Zealand have a long list of countries that are allowed to apply for the visa. If you’re interested in knowing if your country is on the list, check out their immigration websites by clicking on links above.
I’m interested. Where can I get more information?
Glad you asked! You can head over to my other site Travel Hooligan and check out our info available including testimonials for both Australia and New Zealand.
If you want to purchase our extensive Guide to the Working Holiday Visa (over 100 pages worth of valuable information), use the code ‘WORKABROAD’ at checkout to get our downloadable guides for just $9.99 USD-that’s over 65% off!!!
The guide was created to help you from start to finish-from getting a passport to find a job to setting up a tax number, phone and bank account. We even throw in a FREE example of a resume and cover letter we used to land jobs. I hope this gives you a little more information on the visa and peaks your interest in taking your life in your own hands and have an experience you’ll never forget. Hell, you might even create a career out of it! 🙂
About the author:
Jen Heuett is the creator of Travel + Trust & Wanderlust, an online community to educate, empower and inspire women to travel solo. Her words can also be found on Huffington Post, Mind Body Green, and Travel Hooligan, her first travel company that inspires young adults to utilize the Working Holiday Visa in Australia and New Zealand. When she’s not traveling the world, she’s enjoying the Pacific Northwest and her mom’s tacos.