Go the distance on a working holiday visa

Back in June, my best friend Laurel and I were talking with a visiting friend about our many goals for 2011. Among them: to move out of the country, one way or another. Our friend, an experienced globe-trotter from France, told us about something that seemed like our ticket out: Working Holiday Visas, visas where young people (usually between 18 and 30) can go live and work in another country for six months to a year. It’s a combo pass of sorts that gives you longer abroad than a tourist visa (which get you three to four months) and is a whole lot easier to get than a work visa. The point of the thing? To travel and experience life, earn a living and hang around long enough to pretend you’re a native.

So Laurel and I looked into the possibility, and a few things became clear: First, working holiday visas aren’t a global phenomenon. Only a handful of countries offer them (to Americans, anyway). And, each country has its own set of general requirements (though for all, you must have sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay).

Still, we were sold on the idea. This was a way to get far away, actually spend some meaningful time there and survive like a normal working adult. On a slightly spur-of-the-moment decision, Laurel and I picked New Zealand to be our special year-long 20-something delay of adulthood.

Here’s what it takes to get a working holiday visa—for the land of the Kiwis and for a few other countries that offer the chance. Keep in mind, this is just a starter guide to what’s required.

New Zealand
It’s relatively easy to get a Working Holiday Visa for New Zealand. You just got to their immigration page and fill out the necessary forms. The visa approval process was relatively quick and the visa lasts for one year. Here are the requirements:

  • Be between the ages of 18 and 30
  • Be a permanent resident of the U.S.
  • Have a passport that doesn’t expire until three months after you plan to leave NZ
  • Have a return ticket or the funds to purchase one
  • Have a minimum of $4,200 NZ to support you (around $3,100 American)
  • Be of good health and not be a felon or terrorist
  • Have medical and hospitalization insurance while you stay
  • Be a first-timer to the working holiday in NZ
  • Not be a prostitute or a pimp

For Ireland, you must either be enrolled in post-secondary education or have graduated in the last 12 months. Also, you can’t apply for the visa online. Instead, you must print and fill out the form and bring it to the Irish Consulate General in New York, meeting the following requirements:

  • Have a valid U.S. passport
  • Have two recent identical passport photographs with your name on the back
  • Have a current curriculum vitae (or resume) with references
  • Have an original bank statement showing that you have access to €1,500 (around $2,042 American) plus a return ticket; or €3,000 (around $4,082 American)
  • Have originals of any qualifications obtained or letter from school/college/university (where applicable)
  • Pay  the €250 (around $340 US) visa application fee

If you are able to provide all of the above, your application will be approved. From there, the Working Holiday Authorization will be issued once you provide these few more documents (and spend more cash):

  • Return airline tickets
  • Certificate of medical/travel  insurance valid for the duration of the trip (based on dates on tickets)
  • Valid U. S. passport that is valid for the entirety of the trip to Ireland

To enter Singapore, you must be a student—either in undergraduate or graduate studies—or at least be accepted at a university. Or… you can be a graduate. Basically, you have to have attended some kind of institution of higher education. The visa lasts up to six months. Other requirements are below, copied from their website:

  • Must be between the ages of 17 and 30
  • Must provide a letter from the University/College stating your matriculation (proof that you’re a student), name, nationality, gender and date of birth
  • Must have a copy of the degree certificate or transcripts (for graduates only)
  • Must have a copy of the personal particulars page of the your passport/travel document
  • Pay $40 fee for the visa

Ahh, Australia. Not as easy to get into as its neighboring country, but still gorgeous. The Work and Holiday (462) visa lasts for one year, and you can apply through their website. These are the requirements:

  • Pay $235 Australian (approximately $230 US) visa application fee
  • Be between the ages of 18 and 30
  • You cannot work for the same employer (there) for more than six months
  • Must have a U.S. Passport
  • Have $5,000 Australian dollars (approximately $4,375 US) and proof of it
  • Must meet character and health requirements
  • Must agree that you will respect Australian values and obey the laws
  • Be a Work and Holiday visa first-timer
  • Be a high school graduate

So there’s how to have a working holiday in a far away land. You’ll hear from me next… from somewhere around here.


  1. Kevin Tosi

    I’m confused about the letter from my university for Singapore holiday pass. I’m a graduate, should I contact the university and literally have them send me a letter saying that I graduated with my info? Or what is this exactly? Thank you!

Leave a Reply