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6 Working Holiday Visas for Americans

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I’ve been living abroad and traveling for over a decade, and doing my working holiday visa as an American has been, hands down, one of my best experiences!

One of the number one questions people ask me is how. How can I afford to travel so much? How can I move abroad as an American? How can I get a visa?

There are seriously so many options, but one of the best and most simple ways to get abroad, and have money to do it, is to get a working holiday visa!

There are several working holiday visas for Americans to choose from, and I’ll break them all down for you and answer your burning questions in this post.

I don’t want to exaggerate, but the info in this article will potentially be life-changing for you. It was for me!

What is a Working Holiday Visa?

If you’re unfamiliar, a working holiday visa is a temporary visa that allows citizens of different countries to live and work in certain countries for an allotted amount of time (usually 12 months).

In my opinion, this is the perfect way to move abroad and experience a new culture and country without going broke. The jobs you get abroad will likely be pretty basic (think retail and service industry), but that didn’t stop me from saving over $20,000 USD on my WHV in Australia!

Pai. Huay Dimi Lake in Thailand.
I wouldn’t be sitting at this lake in Thailand if it wasn’t for me taking advantage of my work abroad opportunities as an American. PS – I LIVED down the road from here.

Now, the goal isn’t to become a millionaire in a year, and most people who get a working holiday visa use the opportunity to travel as much as possible.

The actual working part of a working holiday visa is mostly optional, but you’ll likely need some sort of income if you want to fund your adventures (especially in Australia, it’s not cheap).

Who Can Get a Working Holiday Visa?

The requirements for working holiday visas for US citizens vary by country, but there are a few things most WHVs have in common.

This type of visa aims to attract younger workers, so you’ll most likely need to be 30 or younger by the time you enter the country or, at the least, get accepted before turning 30. (If that’s not you, don’t worry. I’ve included some other options for my “older” readers below as well.)

Person in a field, on a working holiday holiday visa.
This visa could be your ticket abroad!

You’ll also need to have a decent savings account, enough to pay the visa fee, and proof of onward travel (aka a ticket out of the country), and health insurance.

Some countries have other specific requirements that you’ll need to look into, but I’ve done my best to include details for each working holiday visa for Americans below.

Working Holiday Visas for Americans


Below you’ll find seven different opportunities for working holiday visas for Americans from six different countries. Do note that they all have some different requirements, but all have age requirements.

Don’t worry, though! If you’re aged out of these opportunities, keep reading, I have a few more to share with you that don’t have an age limit.

1. New Zealand Working Holiday Visa

The land of sheep and kiwis needs people like you to come over and work! How incredible would it be to live in New Zealand? This country is still so new, there are more sheep than people. No joke. The landscape is indescribable, and you’d be one lucky ducky to live here.

  • Age: 18-30
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Cost: $420 NZD ($250 USD)
  • Savings required: $4,200 NZD ($2500 USD)
  • Official website
New Zealand has a great working holiday visa for Americans, here I am standing on a mountain with a rainbow.
DON’T miss out on your working holiday visa in New Zealand like I did. I was too old 🙁 But it didn’t stop me from visiting… (This is at Mount Cook National Park)

BUNAC –  New Zealand Working Holiday Visa

Don’t worry, “oldies” can still go live and work in New Zealand. With this alternative working holiday visa for Americans, people who are older than 30 and under 35 can still get this visa.

  • Age: 18-35
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Cost: $400+ USD (Please read my guide below for more info regarding fees)
  • Savings required: $4,200 NZD ($2500 USD)
  • Official website

RELATED: Guide to the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa

2. Australia Working Holiday Visa

Work in Australia! Hello! How cool would that be? This is perfect for those who want to dip their toe into travel without much culture shock (same for New Zealand too).

I was lucky enough to slide into Australia a few months before my 30th birthday so I was lucky enough to get this visa, and it was certainly life-changing for me!

Working in Australia was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I will never forget. Maybe it’s because I happened to save thousands of dollars during my year there. Here’s all my info on living and working in Australia.

Melbourne mural and me standing in front of it.
Me living in Melbourne on my working holiday visa
  • Age: 18-30
  • Duration: 12 months (restrictions apply, but possible for a second year)
  • Cost: Around $400 AUD ($250 USD)
  • Savings required: $5000 AUD ($3,000 USD)
  • Official website

READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide to The Australian Working Holiday Visa

3. South Korea Working Holiday Visa

A tiny place with a HUGE beating heart and vibrant soul, South Korea would be an insanely cool place to work and live, and you can!

  • Age: 18-30
  • Duration: 18 months
  • Cost: $45 USD application fee
  • Savings required: 3,000,000 KRW ($2300 USD)
  • Official Website
Hyeopjae, Jeju, South Korea beach scene.
Me on Jeju Island in South Korea

4. Ireland Working Holiday Visa

If you’re in school (or if you graduated in the last 12 months), you’re in luck! You can get a working holiday visa for Ireland!

  • Age: over 18
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Special requirement: Must be enrolled in school full time or have recently graduated.
  • Cost: About $360 USD
  • Savings required: 4,000 USD
  • Official website

RELATED: How to Get a Job in Europe as an American

5. Singapore Working Holiday Visa

Check out Singapore in the best possible way! By living and working there. This tiny island packs a lot of punch. It’s not the cheapest place though, so save some cash before heading over.

Singapore street on a rainy day, people are holding umbrellas.
Singapore
  • Age: 18-25
  • Duration: 6 months
  • Special requirement: You must be a graduate or undergraduate of a top 200 university.
  • Cost: $175 SGD ($130 USD)
  • Official website

RELATED: The Longest Tourist Visas for U.S.A. Citizens, How to Extend Visas, and More.

6. Canada Working Holiday Visa

You don’t have to go too far from home to have an amazing experience living and working in another country. Canada has a working holiday program available for Americans who want to live and work there.

Vancouver skyline.
Vancouver, Canada skyline
  • Age: 18-35
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Special requirement: U.S. citizens need the support of a Recognized Organization to be approved for this visa.
  • Cost: $1395 CAD ($1000 USD)
  • Savings required: $2,500 CAD ($1800 USD)
  • Official website

READ MORE:
What’s It Like Living and Working in Canada?
How to Move From The US to Canada

FAQ on Working Holiday Visas for Americans

You have more questions, I know it! Here’s what else you need to know…

What type of jobs can I get?

As I mentioned above, most jobs you can get on a working holiday visa are pretty basic, and that’s because you’re young and you aren’t going to be staying for long. Hence the age requirement for these visas.

Common jobs on working holiday visas for US citizens include:

  • Bartender, waitress, barista, other service industry gigs
  • Retail
  • Hotel or hostel staff
  • Tour guide
  • Agriculture and farming
worker in coffee shop, a popular working holiday visa job.
Popular jobs for foreigners include working in coffee shops.

Finding a job may take some time, but don’t freak out if you can’t find something right away. There’s a reason you had to have that backup savings before you arrived!

To avoid wasting time job searching, do some research into the country you’ll be living in. You may want to show up a few months before a big holiday to snag a seasonal job, or wait until summer if you want to work at a cool surf shack on the beach.

RELATED: 73 Travel Jobs—How to Make Money While Traveling!

How much money can I make?

This really depends on you! Most of the countries that offer working holiday visas for Americans have a great standard of living, with minimum wages higher than what we’re used to back home (cries in American).

That being said, you probably won’t be working full time, and cash from those part-time gigs will likely go to paying rent, eating, and, of course, traveling.

I managed to save over $20,000 USD when I was in Australia, so it’s definitely possible to make money AND travel on your WHV.

READ MORE: How I Saved Over $20k USD in 10 Months Living in Australia

How do I find accommodation?

If you want to have all your ducks in a row before you show up, you can search community boards for flats or shared living accommodations in the city you want to settle in. You could also book a week or two in a hostel if you want to be sure you’ll be able to find a job in the area.

My studio apartment, a small room with couch and bed, in Melbourne Australia
My shoebox, I mean… My apartment in Melbourne, Australia (I actually loved it!)

Once you have a job, it will be easier to estimate how much you’ll be able to afford in rent. It will also give you the opportunity to meet other people who might be able to give you leads on jobs, rentals, or even potential roomies!

Just keep in mind that you’ll be eating into your savings, so don’t get too friendly and comfortable and accidentally fall into “vacation mode” Get a job secured, and THEN you can play a bit. Of course, if you have a hefty savings coming along, do whatever you want, I guess!

What type of paperwork do I need to do when I arrive?

Even with your visa in hand, there is a bit of paperwork to do once you touch down. Be sure to carve out time (and mental space) to take care of things like getting a local phone number, signing up for a bank account, getting a tax ID number, and registering with the local immigration office.

You’ll be able to find info about everything you need to complete on the government website while you’re applying for your visa, and it’s never a bad thing to be overly prepared when it comes to bureaucracy. Sigh.

Don’t let any of this stop or deter you, it’s not that bad and definitely worth it.

Can I use my American credit and debit cards?

Yes and no.

While your handy dandy debit card will technically work for withdrawing cash and making purchases, you’ll likely ring up hefty charges each time you swipe your American cards.

Card in ATM.
You’ll want cards that are good for traveling along with your local bank card that you’ll get when you land abroad.

I’d do some research on credit cards before you leave and get a debit card from your new local bank when you arrive and set up an account. This will save you annoying international fees and having to sign every time you buy something.

You’ll want to read my guide on bringing the best cards to travel with before you take off.

READ MORE: The Best Travel Cards (For Any Traveler) That Save and Earn You Money!

Should I apply for a Working Holiday Visa for Americans?

YES.

Seriously just do it. It’s a huge leap, yes. But what’s the worst that could happen? This will be an experience you look back on forever, whether you continue traveling or head back home to your “normal” life once your year abroad is up.

What if I’m “Too Old” For a Working Holiday Visa?

If a working holiday visa doesn’t feel like a good fit, or if you missed that age cut-off, there are plenty of other ways to move out of the USA and get a similar experience. You could:

We hope this helped you choose which Working Holiday Visa for Americans you can get!

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24 Comments

  1. Thanks Patricia! Luckily age doesn’t matter for teaching abroad OR online for that matter. I’d definitely start there and if you have skills that can translate to any other job online, that’s another avenue to explore (of course, learning new skills for a job online is still an option too!). There are lots of jobs that can be done online nowadays and teaching abroad/online is a great “in” bc it’s pretty easy to get into. Start there and see what else you can find online along the way! Def look at my other posts for more ideas on keeping costs down etc like you could also do housesitting for example! And yes, Thailand and Cambodia are great countries to start in bc they are cheap! And Portugal is the cheapest of the western European countries to start in too! So good job with your country selections! Best of luck 🙂

  2. Hello Nina,,
    So happy I found you!! My concern is I am 63 ( such a beautiful age ) worked 30 plus years some college… I want to travel, teach, learn .. basically live abroad.. Thailand/Cambodia/Portugal Options!!!????
    Enrolled in the 120 hours program.
    You are awesome person, thank you for your knowledge

    Patricia
    USA – Texas

  3. I absolutely love this post. We’re definitely on the same wavelength. Americans need to travel more and learn more about the world. See what’s outside of the U.S. This planet is HUUUGE and incredibly interesting! No many different cultures to experience. I’m an international traveller. I’m not big on travel in the States. And also, I’m of the opinion that the U.S. is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. But a lot of Americans have the nerve to say don’t go there or there because it’s really dangerous. Well have you been there? And look at all the atrocities that are going on RIGHT HERE!

  4. Hi Nina, i’ve been reading you a lot these days.
    I’m 49. this fall my two kids will be attending university out of town.
    I already saved for their education.
    I want to study, travel and work, like you do. (I had enough of 9-5 office work)
    Do you have any options for “older” people like me? who wants to “reborn” again?
    thanks in advance
    Luiser

  5. Yes but that only goes for international schools and for certain countries. Overall, esp for American, teaching English is extremely easy “to fall into” as almost literally no experience is needed—as I’ve outlined in detail in my teaching abroad posts. Glad you’re enjoying the teaching and traveling life!

  6. In the category of “jobs you don’t just fall into”, I’d like to add teaching in an international school– any subject. These jobs are competitive; you need to be a qualified teacher in your home country and have a few years of experience under your belt, but they are an awesome way to see the world. The teaching schedule is pretty rigid and you’ll be expected to put your job first, but the quality of life abroad as a teacher is far beyond what I had in the states. I’ve been working as an Expat Teacher in Switzerland for 4 years and I’ve travelled all around the world on my holidays. I started a blog to chronicle my adventures and will soon be moving on to an even bigger one. I agree that most Americans don’t think to do something like this and people definitely think I’m breaking the mould. I don’t care. I’m happy, my life and career are fulfilling and I can take care of myself. What more could I want?

  7. I want to do BUNAC so bad! However, I am on the brink of being too old! I totally agree with all your points about the US, not enough vacation days, the world is scary, people being ridden with student loan debt with crappy paying jobs out of college that want you to miraculously have 10 years of experience to even get the job. Besides all of that don’t get me started on health care costs. Being in the US is a money trap. I would love to try another temp year or so job in another country. Teaching english in Korea was godsend for saving money.

  8. The working holiday visa seems like so much fun, Nina! I especially love freelancing as it is a great way to travel and work at the same time!

  9. Also- have you thought of asking if you can go remote with your job? No idea what you do, but a lot of companies are becoming more open to it! Could be something to start hinting towards? Or maybe apply to another company in your field who is moving in that direction, at least you’ll be stuck behind a desk in any country you choose…? 🙂 that way you don’t give up that steady pay check and get to travel. You get to have your cake and eat it too. Isn’t that what we all want? Cake!! (Jk,kinda) :-p

  10. Thanks Thomas! And seriously, don’t even worry about age. I’ve seen families with their six year old who have been to more countries than me to people in their sixties carrying their life in their backpacks. Travel and working abroad has no age cap. Go for it! TEFL would be wise as it’s always going to be needed (teaching English that is). I even taught online after getting experience under my belt and you can get some good gigs paying pretty decent! Not six figures but certainly enough to pay for a great life nearly anywhere in the world. Age is not going to be a problem and there are plenty of people doing it 🙂 hope that makes you feel better.

  11. Just found this blog today- amazing. Question though- I’m a late bloomer, I’ll explain, I’m currently 37, have a high paying job with a great company and climbed up the corp ladder, but this is not the life for me. I know I need to travel, live and eventually work abroad. I understand I will make much less, but that’s ok.

    Anyway- since I’m “old” at 37, I plan to save more to have at least 3-4 years of living expenses in the bank to give me the opp to travel w/o worrying about money for a year +. All these travel blog authors are mid twenties and I guess for lack of a better term “don’t have much to lose” when I quit, I’m quitting a 6 figure income job and money that’s going into my 401k so a bit more riskier. Since you’re out and about, is it rare to see someone like me out there and job searching. I’ll be close to 40 when I make the move, but wondering about the opportunities for guys like me. I think before I make the plunge I’ll get my TEFL just incase. Or maybe just take the class in Thailand. Any feedback would be appreciated.

    PS. Have no idea where my home base will be, after the year of travel should have a better idea where I want to look for work. I know it will be SE asia, including S Korea, HK, phills and potentially Saudi Arabi

    Thanks and sorry for the long question. Will continue to follow your blog with interest.

  12. Well, came up with your webiste, its amazing to find someone who have the same hobbies. Traveling all the way to wonders and still do not fade up with the world, its an amazing experience. I am going through your blog and i hope it will give me a new inspiration to find new places. I will keep you posted with my experience as well. Cheers

  13. This is great, as a fellow American just getting started in the world of travel it can be pretty scary at times to take a leap especially when society is telling you to get a 9-5 job, acquire things and property, etc etc. It’s nice to see there are people rejecting that old way and embracing living & working abroad.

    Thanks for the list of places & visas, it opened my eyes up to a few places I hadn’t even thought about before!

  14. Thanks so much James!!! Well, that specific info doesn’t really get discussed lol. I’m sure there are and I’ve probably met a few but I never asked if they are on a w2 or 1099. CM is a great community to start in, def join some of those Facebook groups and I’m sure you’ll find your own little community.

  15. Great article Nina! Have you come across anyone in your travels who is a W-2 employee at a U.S corporation but is a “digital nomad”? I have heard Chiang Mai is a hub for digital nomads in the IT/dev community because of the strong wifi. I currently work as a W-2 in IT/computer area for a corporation that allows you to work virtual/telecommuting and I’m trying to find some people in similar situation who are true digital nomads. The Vast majority I have come across are 1099 independent contractors. I love your blog! Thanks for all the cool tips

  16. Thanks so much for this post. An awesome collection of such very useful info in addition to those points which are all spot on.