Taking a gap year before starting college or after graduation is a truly exciting decision, but there are important considerations of working holidays abroad that you need to take into account if this is your ambition. Although working holidays abroad have some cross over with foreign travel for pleasure, there are some unique factors and some extra things to think about and plan for.
1. Do You Need a Working Holiday Visa?
Working holidays abroad are not a simple case of turning up in the country of choice, finding a job and getting on with it. For countries where a visa is required for a visit, you will need a working holiday visa (and not all countries offer these). WHV are generally intended for young travelers and often are restricted by age – usually between 18 and 30. There are restrictions on employment period (usually a maximum of 12 months) and what work can be done.
2. Do I Need to Have a Job Waiting for Me?
No. The WHV allows you find work when you arrive. But, it is important to check the regulations for the countries you want to visit. Although there are reciprocal agreements on the general features of WHV, countries have their own individual tweaks and nuances. Your home country will provide information about the requirements of how to apply for a WHV and may also have details on the necessities for other countries, but destination countries will provide the most up to date info, so a simple Internet search will tell you what you need.
3. What Money do I Need to Take with Me?
It would be foolhardy for anyone considering working vacations in a foreign country to think they can pack a suitcase and empty their piggy bank to arrive in their chosen destination with minimal funds and the blind hope they’ll get a job immediately, or even at all. You wouldn’t go on vacation without funds, so you shouldn’t think otherwise for working holidays. Indeed, some countries usually have entry requirements regarding funding before they will let you in. For example, to be allowed into Australia on a WHV, the terms are that you need to have funds to sustain you ($5,000) and the means to buy a ticket home (or already have one).
4. Do I Need Insurance?
It is more than advisable to ensure that you can obtain healthcare in your destination. In some cases there may be reciprocal agreements where public healthcare is made available to you – such as if you are citizen of an EU country and have an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card). Even then, check that you do not require any additional cover.
5. How do I Find a Job and What Happens if I Don’t?
Finding a job in another country follows the same principles as at home. You find vacancies and apply for them. Be proactive and use every avenue you can think of. There are also organizations that help. Good working abroad programs include bunac.org, swap.ca and workingholidaystore.com, but there are no guarantees they can secure you a position. The issue of not finding a job is a tricky one because of the time limitations of Working Holiday Visas and granting of multiple WHV. Second WHV are only usually granted on having met a minimum amount of working time on the first WHV. One option, depending on the funds you have available, is to make the most of your visit and be a tourist. Another is to stick it out as long as funds allow, and make a real effort to find a job.
6. Where Will I Live and What do I Pack?
Unless you are being bank-rolled, you need to maximize your budget on working holidays abroad. Lodge in the cheapest place possible until you land a job and then find the best deal you can. It is often better to choose a hostel for when you first arrive, because not only is it cheaper, but it allows you the flexibility when looking for work. It will be an easier decision on where to live, if you know where you are going to be working. As for packing, being sensible is the name of the game. This is not the time for a steamer trunk to pack your whole wardrobe, your skis, hiking boots and roller blades. Pack the essentials and the minimum. When you find your feet, a job and somewhere to live, you can make wardrobe decisions and buy the extra stuff you need.
7. What Other Things do I Need to Consider?
Everything discussed so far has been of a planning and organizational nature, but there are emotional and practical aspects of working holidays in a foreign country too. Things like do I need to learn the lingo? What about taxes? How will I stay in touch with the folks back home? Am I ready to deal with culture shock? Will I get homesick? Knowing some of the answers to these will better prepare you for what’s ahead.
There are so many fabulous opportunities in working holidays abroad and as long as you plan everything and prepare properly, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be pressing send on that “submit visa application” button today. Is this something you could ever see yourself doing? Or, maybe you’ve done so and have a story to share?