Visa Advice for Key Gap Year Destinations
- New Zealand
- Republic of South Africa
- United States of America
- Further Information
What visa do I need? When will my visa run out? Where can I cross the border? Why do I need a visa? How much is it going to cost?
What, when, where, why, how.
These are all questions we’ve heard before. Wherever you’re going, you're going to need to know about visas.
You need to get the right visas for your trip: if you don't, you can be turned back before you start or be chucked out just as you're starting to enjoy yourself. Some countries are impossible to visit unless you get a visa months in advance. Others allow you to sort out visas in no time at all.
Check out our advice, which cuts through the information overload to give you just what you need.
There are three main types visa for Australia:
1. Tourist Visas
Up to three months - If you’re visiting purely as a tourist for three months or less, an Electronic Travel Authority or ETA is the easy alternative to a visa. It doesn’t cost much, only a AU$20 (£12.50) administration fee - your travel agent or airline can sort one out for you.
If you decide once you're there that you want to stay a bit longer, you should be able to extend your ETA to last you an extra three months. To do this, go to an immigration office in Australia.
Three to six months - If you want to go for three to six months, you'll need to apply for a long-term tourist visa. To do this, you'll have to download and fill in a form, and send it to your nearest Australian High Commission. You'll also need to pay AU$50 (£30), and send various documents, including proof that you can support yourself in Oz (for example, a bank statement, letters from a bank concerning your financial position, air tickets that have been purchased).
2. Working Holiday Visas
The UK and many other countries have reciprocal agreements with Australia so any citizen aged 18 to 30 can get a working holiday visa. They cost AU$235 (£145) and allow you to work for 12 months from the date you arrive in Australia. You can extend that and obtain a second-year working holiday visa if you can provide evidence that you undertook 88 days of agricultural work (for example, fruit picking) in Australia during your first year. However, you can’t work for the same employer for more than six months. Australian authorities check every one in four visa applications, so don’t run the risk of applying in the hope of being overlooked.
To be issued a working holiday visa you need proof that you can support yourself - AU$5,000 (£3,115) is advised by the Australian Government. You can apply online for a working holiday visa and it only takes a couple of hours to complete.
You can leave and re-enter Australia using this visa as many times as you like during your year. However, if you permanently leave Australia without staying for the full 12 months you cannot go back, say, a year later and use the remaining months of your visa.
Once your visa has been approved you will be told what you need to do. Basically, your passport will be stamped when you arrive and you'll have a year before you have to leave. Simple really. Everything is tagged electronically so there's no paper-work to worry about.
3. Student Visas
If you want to study (where better to do marine biology than on the Great Barrier Reef?), the Australian government operates an overseas student programme (OSP) that allows people who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents to study in Australia.
Anyone who is not an Australian resident may apply to study in Australia under the OSP. If you want to study under this programme, you’ll first need a student visa. You can only get one of these if you wish to undertake a registered course or part of a registered course on a full-time basis.
You can’t go out to Oz and then look around for courses. Before you apply for an Australian student visa, you’ll need a letter of acceptance or electronic confirmation of enrolment from your education provider. Types and prices of student visas vary, and there are various requirements you’ll need to fill (including being of 'good character’).
The visa is easy to apply for and can be done online. Student visas last for two to four years and cost AU$480 (£300). You can work on a student visa too, but you need to be in education for at least four months of the year. Also, many UK universities offer placement years in Australia.
Citizens of the US, most Western European and Commonwealth countries, as well as Mexico, Japan, South Korea and Israel don’t need visas to enter Canada for stays of up to 180 days. US permanent residents are also exempt.
Nationals of around 150 other countries including South Africa and China need to apply to the Canadian visa office in their home country for a temporary resident visa. For full details visit Citizenship & Immigration Canada. A separate visa is required if you plan to study or work in Canada.
Single-entry Temporary Resident Visas are usually valid for a maximum stay of six months from the date of arrival in Canada and cost approximately CA$80 (£50). Multiple-entry visas allow you to enter Canada from all other countries multiple times while the visa is valid (usually two to three years provided no single stay lasts for longer than six months) and costs approximately CA$160 (£100).
You may be required to show immigration officials that you have return or onward tickets and adequate means of support and accommodation upon entering Canada, as well as satisfy an immigration officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your visit. Also if you have committed or been convicted of a criminal offense, you may not be allowed to enter Canada.
As entry requirements may change from time to time it is strongly advised that you check with the department of foreign affairs or your local consulate or embassy for the current requirements.
Unless you're an Australian citizen, you'll need some sort of visa to set foot in New Zealand. Fortunately, we've made things simple for you. You'll typically be looking for one of the three choices below. Make sure you understand the difference between a visa and a permit - a visa is applied for while overseas, while a permit is applied for once you're within the NZ borders.
1. Tourist Visas
A visitor visa for New Zealand is pleasantly easy to sort out if you're a permanent UK resident. Just turn up at the airport in Christchurch, Auckland or Wellington and hand over your passport, and you'll get a six-month visitor visa absolutely free! No forms, no hassle, no worries.
The same applies for a number of other countries, except you will only be entitled to a three-month visitor visa. If you've had no troubles with entering countries before, then it is likely you'll be allowed into New Zealand.
It's also possible to extend the length of your stay in New Zealand to up to nine months by contacting the New Zealand Immigration services. This can also be done online, although you will need a valid VISA or Mastercard to pay the NZ$80 (£40) fee for the extension. They will also require proof of onward travel at the end of your ninth months.
2. Working Holiday Visa
To apply for a New Zealand working holiday visa, there are several requirements that you'll need to meet. New Zealand Immigration will only grant visas to childless tourists over 18 and under 30, and you must have a return ticket (or funds with which to buy one). They also ask that you have at least NZ$350 (£170) per month to support yourself, and that you meet various health and character requirements, so make sure you're on your best behaviour!
If you are already in New Zealand on a valid permit or visa, you can apply for a working holiday visa by using the online service supplied by NZ Immigration, or by contacting them directly. An online permit/visa is a print-out that you need to keep with you at all times, while the offline working visa is a label stuck inside your passport.
As of November 2005, you are able to choose either a 12-month or 23-month stay in New Zealand, although additional paperwork is needed if you're planning on the 23-month trip, including a medical chest and x-ray certificate (to supply with your visa application). Bear in mind that applicants requiring on-going medical care, such as dialysis, or with conditions like TB, are likely to have their applications declined (although to be fair, if you've got TB, it's unlikely you're looking for a holiday right now anyway).
Conveniently, your working holiday visa comes with multiple entry visas - the Kiwi government don't mind if you leave New Zealand and come back, as long as it's within the length of time specified by your work permit/visa. Time you spend abroad, unfortunately, won't be added to the length of time you're allowed to work. Once you hit the 12-month limit, that's your lot.
3. Student Visas
Before applying for a student visa or permit, you'll need to have a placement offer from a New Zealand education provider. This must include the name and location of the course, proof that the course is available to international students, and the fees (if any) that you are required to pay.
The length of your course is also an important factor in whether or not your visa or permit will be granted. If your course is less than three months, as a British resident you'll be able to study under the standard free visitor visa (see above). However, if your course is between three and nine months, you can either try to extend your visitor visa or you can apply for a student visa.
If you'll be studying for nine months, you'll need to provide NZ Immigration with proof you'll have access to NZ$1,000 (£480) per month, and an additional NZ$400 (£195) per month to pay for accommodation, or proof your accommodation has already been paid for. A course that lasts longer than nine months requires proof of NZ$10,000 (£4,825) per year to cover living costs.
The student visa granted by the NZ government lasts for a year, but as many courses will last longer than this the visa is renewable. Currently, the student visa costs NZ$230 (£110) - make sure to arrange your visa at least two months before your course is due to start, as it can take over a month to process.
Bear in mind that the student visa is not a working visa. You will be required to show you are attending your place of education, and that you are passing your course - so no slacking! You are allowed to gain part-time employment while studying full-time, however. This can take the form of practical work experience for your course, over the Christmas period if you are in full-time education, and up to 20 hours a week if you're at university and your course is longer than 2 years.
If you're coming from a major international country, such as Europe, Canada / UK, Oz / Nz, then you're entitled to a 90 day free visa. You just rock up and you're all good to go. Very easy. The only noticeable countries that aren't entitled to a 90 day visa are Poland, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey and a few South American countries.
However, it's not all bad news as most other countries are entitled to a 30 day free visa.
To enter into South Africa you'll need the following:
- A valid passport
- A valid visa (if required)
- Sufficient funds
- A return or onward ticket
- At least two blank pages in your passport
- Yellow fever certificates are required if the journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America
If you want more information you can call the Home Affairs Contact Centre on +27 11 461 9252 or you can apply for a visa online.
Dependent on length of stay requested. Permits may be extended if done so 30 days prior to expiry of original permit.
Residents of many countries may enter the US without a visa for stays of up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). These countries include Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland and Japan among others. Visitors travelling to the US under the VWP must also have Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to entry. This can be applied for online. Effective September 8, 2010, all Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) registration applications or renewals on or after that date will require a US$14 fee payment by credit or debit card.
Passports for citizens of VWP participating countries issued on or after October 26, 2006 must be an electronic passport (ePassport) with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner.
Passports must be valid for 6 months after the nominated exit date. Any traveller intending to stay longer than 90 days will need a visa.
If you enter the country through any land port of entry, ie Canada or Mexico, you will be requiredto pay a small land border fee.
Travellers from VWP countries may also need to fill out an I-94 form before going through US immigration. This form is often supplied by the travel organizer / agent but it is also available on arrival in the US. The form is stapled to your passport upon entry to the US and must be returned to immigration officials when leaving the country. Failure to do so will result in immigration thinking you are still in the US and may may affect your ability to visit again. If you fail to return the form upon departure you should contact your local US consulate or embassy to arrange for its return and ensure your exit details are properly updated. (nb the US Dept of Homeland Security is planning to phase out the paper form in the near future so it is wise to check this requirement with your local US consulate).
Citizens from countries not covered by the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) will need to obtain a visa from their local US embassy or consulate prior to travelling.
All travellers may be required to show immigration officials that you have return or onward tickets, proof you intend to leave the country within 90 days and adequate means of support and accommodation upon entering the US. Also if you have committed or been convicted of a criminal offense, you may not be allowed to enter the US.
Due to frequent changes in US foreign policy it is very important to confirm current entry requirements to the US prior to making travel arrangements.
- Most countries you visit will require you have a passport that is valid for a minimum of six months from the date you enter the country.
- Most visas require you to have at least two blank pages in your passport.
- You should always have at least two passport photos on you for border crossing and visa applications.
- For border crossings, make sure you have plenty of US$ - it is easier and cheaper to pay in US$ than local currency (hence why all prices are quoted in US$).
- A lot of countries will not allow entry if you don’t have a yellow fever vaccination certificate – check first.
- A lot of countries will not allow entry if you don’t have an onward or return air ticket.
- £1 = US$0.61 (at time of writing)
- British Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- New Zealand
- Republic of South Africa
- United States of America
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