Working Holiday Visas around the World

backpackers on a working holiday visa

For a couple of years during the pandemic, working holiday visa programs were among the first things to get scrapped and the last to return. However, with things looking brighter as we head into 2023, many countries are once again opening their doors to travellers looking for extended stays abroad involving some paid work. Below we’ll look at the topic of working holiday visas and explain how they function around the world.

The Lowdown on Working Holiday Visas

What is a working holiday visa?

Passport and working holiday visa

While it depends on your nationality and where you are going, many trips abroad solely for “tourism purposes” do not require any kind of visa. You simply jump on a plane, train or bus, show your passport at the border and you are able to stay in that country for a designated period of time – for example 30, 90 or 180 days.

However tourist visas and visa waiver programs like that, do not typically give you the right to work in a country. While in some cases it can be possible to find “cash in hand” jobs, this is technically illegal. Travellers wishing to work while they are abroad in a fully legal and structured fashion, need to seek out a special visa that allows them to do this.

There are various different kinds of visas for long-term employment but for those only interested in remaining in a country for a shorter period (for example 6 months or a year), working holiday visas are often the best solution and grant you the right to temporary employment. They can be very useful, particularly in an expensive country like Australia or New Zealand, where travel funds will quickly disappear without finding work as you travel.

Which countries have working holiday visas?

CountryStayCostAge Restrictions
Australia12 Months510 AUD (US$330)18-30 (18-35 for some countries)
New Zealand12 Months (23 Months for UK or Canadian citizens)NZ$420 (US$244)18-30 (18-35 for some countries)
USA4 Months (J-1 visa)US$16018-30 (Students only in UK, German, Austrian or Swiss universities)
UK2 Years (Youth Mobility Scheme)£259 + Healthcare Surcharge (£470 per year)18-30
Japan1 YearFree18-30
Canada2 YearsFrom CA$156 (US$115)18-35 (Limit of 29 or 30 for some countries)
Germany1 Year (Israeli & Argentine citizens can only work for 6 months)€7518-30 (18-34 for Canadians)

The above table highlights schemes in some of the best known and most popular working holiday visa countries, but there are many others. Programs are typically not open to all nationalities, but only citizens of certain eligible countries so you will need to check which ones you can apply for. Even if you are from an eligible nation, there may be caps in place limiting the numbers who can apply in any given year so it’s best to plan in advance if possible.

There are also usually additional restrictions on age (detailed above) and some proof of funds may also be necessary. Proof of vaccinations and medical checks may be required in some but not all cases.

If you’re not eligible to apply to any of these countries with working holiday visas, you may find other lesser known options. Visas in general tend to work on a reciprocal basis, so you may find your country has some kind of agreement in place with another friendly nation allowing you to travel and work there.

Information is accurate as of November 2022 but is subject to change as countries do regularly change the fees and terms of these programs. There may be additional fees depending on how and where you make your application.

Working Holiday Visa Australia

Australia sea view
Work your way around Australia.

Australia is accepting working holiday visas again, so you can make plans to work and travel in the country in 2023 and beyond. 

You can apply for an Australia working holiday visa if you are a citizen of any of the following countries: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay, UK, USA and Vietnam.

The scheme is perhaps the best known of its kind and enables anyone backpacking in Australia to take on temporary paid roles such as fruit picking or seasonal jobs in the tourism or hospitality sector. To be eligible, you need to be between 18 and 30 years old (18-35 for citizens of Canada, France or Ireland) and you can stay in the country for up to a year, although it is possible to apply for second and third working holiday visas in Australia, enabling you to stay for 3 years in total.

You can find further details about the scheme here

Working Holiday Visa New Zealand

Neighbouring New Zealand adopted a strict border policy during the pandemic which made it very difficult for outsiders to visit in any shape or form. In August 2022, the New Zealand government relaxed its rules significantly making it much easier for those looking to travel to the country for a working holiday.

Their scheme is open to citizens from a wide number of countries, although there are numerous caps in place meaning only a few hundred people from some countries can come each year. The scheme is outlined in greater detail here and also enables the holder the right to study in New Zealand or do another form of training course.

Working Holiday Visas in Europe

best cities to live in Germany
Live short-term in Berlin with Germany’s D-Visa.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that all EU citizens have the right to work and travel anywhere in the European Union for as long as they like. There is no need to apply for any kind of visa if you are an EU citizen looking to work in another EU country, although there may still be some formal documentation and registration procedures to go through. Your employer should help with that.

Non-EU citizens looking to work and travel in EU countries do have options with many nations offering working holiday programs or something similar. They typically work in similar ways to those described above and offer the holder the right to temporary work in that individual country as opposed to the whole bloc. 

Some of the most popular include Germany’s working holiday D-Visa which is open to citizens of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Uruguay. Spain has a similar program but it is only open to citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

The UK now runs a Youth Mobility Scheme visa which is open to 18-30 year olds from Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Iceland, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and British overseas territories. Citizens of Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan must first be selected in a ballot.

Do you need a visa for a work exchange?

Worldpackers Promo Code

Work exchange platforms such as Worldpackers and Workaway offer travellers the chance to secure free accommodation and meals in exchange for work. Given these roles don’t typically involve a salary, there is no requirement to obtain a work visa and you can do them whilst travelling on a regular travel visa or under a visa-waiver scheme.

There are many advantages to doing work exchanges, particularly if you are looking for a wide range of different experiences on your trip as many placements are for just a week or two. Consider getting started on Worldpackers or another work exchange platform before you travel abroad, even if you will also be travelling on a working holiday visa. This will give you the widest range of options for employment, be that paid or in the form of a work exchange.

We also have a separate post on the pros and cons of work exchanges which may help you decide whether they are a good option for you or whether other types of employment may be better.

This post on working holiday visas around the world was published in November 2022.

Featured Image via Garry Knight, CC BY 2.0

Working Holiday Visas around the World

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