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A Working Holiday Gap Year

Written by: Macca Sherifi

Working holidays are all about working abroad, earning good money, and travelling around. But not only that, you’ll also further your career. Working holidays can be anywhere, for any length of time, doing anything you want.
You can be a ski instructor in Austria, work behind a bar in Brazil, teach English as a foreign language in Japan or become a dive master in South Africa. A working holiday really is whatever you want it to be. All you have to do is decide where you want to work and what you want to do. Easy, right?

The basics of working abroad

You can work abroad for any amount of time but usually it’s somewhere between one month and a year.
And it’s not just fun and games. Working holidays are a great way to earn experience and improve your CV. One recent survey of Human Resource Managers in the UK showed the following:

  • 85% said that relevant work experience was more valuable to a job-seeker than an average non-vocational degree
  • 63% said a constructive gap year spent volunteering or gaining work experience overseas made a job application stand out
  • 51% said young people taking a constructive gap year or working abroad tended to get better value out of subsequent education

A constructive gap year involving independent travel, volunteering or working abroad makes a big difference to potential employers. The survey showed that a working holiday isn’t just about working abroad in another country but about improving your own skills and experience. And most importantly, gap years and working abroad are about positive life-changing experiences, so make sure you enjoy it!
You can work as a waiter abroad

Working holiday visas

A working holiday visa is a travel permit which allows backpackers and travellers to work in the country issuing the visa. For example, a working holiday visa in Australia allows backpackers and travellers to work in the country for up to a year.
Most backpacks and travellers use working holiday visas as a way to gain experience and to further supplement their travels. It’s not uncommon to work for a six months and travel for six months.
The majority of working holiday visas are offered under reciprocal agreements between certain countries to encourage travel and cultural exchange. For example, there’s reciprocal agreement between the UK and New Zealand that allows residents from one country to work in the other.
Working holiday visas are usually:

  • For people aged 18-30 (sometimes up to 35)
  • Limited to one year (though you can apply for a second working holiday visa in a number of countries)
  • Limited to certain jobs and for certain lengths of time (usually working in the same job for a maximum of six months)

Is working abroad for me?

Working on your gap year allows you to experience living in a foreign country while learning more about that country’s culture and society. It’s an opportunity to really expand your horizons and to gain life-experience. And on top of it all, you’re getting paid for it too! What more could you want?
You really get to know a country while working abroad and travel around isn’t a major expense as you’re earning good money.
Also, if you work abroad aged 18 then you’ll be much better equipped when applying for jobs either in the UK or elsewhere. Post-graduates often find it so hard to get a job in the UK due to lack of experience, so why not get that experience in another country? Just a thought…

How do I apply for a working holiday visa?

There are a number of countries that offer WHVs. These are:

  • Asia – Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Republic of China (Taiwan),Singapore, Thailand
  • America – Argentina, Canada, Chile, Uruguay
  • Europe – Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom
  • Australasia – Australia, New Zealand

You have to decide which country you want to work in and apply specifically for a WHV. Most visas can be applied for online and vary in cost. For example, a WHV for New Zealand costs approximately £120.
If you’re a resident in a country that is part of the European Union (EU) or part of the European Economic Area (EEA) then you can move around and work in any other reciprocal country.
Become a ski instructor in Canada

Typical working holiday jobs

  • One of the most popular jobs abroad is fruit picking in Australia. This work can be done all-year-round though the majority of people work for around three months. There’s a real sense of community and everyone’s in it together. Once people have earned enough money they use their funds to travel around the country seeing all the sites and activities that Australia has to offer. In Australia if you work for 88 days in agriculture then you can apply for a second working holiday visa. One of the attractions to working in Australia is the money – minimum wage is about £12 per hour…
  • Teaching English in Japan is a really popular job, especially if you don’t speak Japanese! More often than not you don’t even need a TEFL or TESL certificate (though obviously it helps to have one). There are a number of programmes that recruit teachers from abroad and most will also sort out a work visa for you. The downside to these is that you will be contracted to the school for a specific period of time.
  • A slightly alternative working holiday job is becoming a ski instructor in Canada. There’s loads of work in chalets and ski resorts, especially in British Colombia (that’s on the west coast of Canada). At the end of a hard day you’ll get to chill in the bar and shred the slopes the next day.

Find out more about working abroad

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