A lot of Americans, especially the ones still in college, are totally hung up on Europe. What is it about our country that everyone has the dream to live and work in London? I’ll admit, I have been there, but after a summer bumming around, I am kind of off the continent and UK. It’s expensive and crowded! And in regards to working, the rules have changed to make it nearly next to impossible to do without having sponsorship. But you don’t speak another language and want to go somewhere they speak english? Oddly enough, it’s about as hard to get into Canada with no job as it is to go to Ireland. I think because of the map we see on everyday basis, we think Australia and New Zealand are soooo far away! But, at least from the West Coast, mentally, they are actually closer then Europe. And both countries have very open work visa requirements for the 18-30 (and in NZ, 35) set.
The point of the Working Holiday Visa (WHV) is to earn money in a country to be used for traveling within said country, so the money just gets poured back in. Don’t go expecting to earn your fortune. If that is your goal, this scheme is not for you. The dollar in both countries is weaker then the US and the goal for everyone should be to break even, to leave with no foreign money.
Why every American doesn’t take advantage of this work visa is beyond me. It’s open to all Americans ages 18-30 (if you are 31-35, you can get the same thing via BUNAC for a fee) as long as you answer some questions, there is an unlimited supply and the visa is FREE. That’s right. All you do is register your deets on the New Zealand Immigration website and if there are no black flags on you, almost everyone is approved within a day or so. I was approved within 24 hours. You then have 12 months to enter New Zealand and you are stamped with the permit on arrival which the immigration agent hand writes in the expiration date for another 12 months. And did I say that all this was FREE?! You are allowed to take any job for any length of time for the duration of your permit but don’t forget to budget in travel time as this is included on the permit because what is the point of traveling all this way and not seeing anything? New Zealand has tons to see, so there is no excuse. You only get one WHV in your life, so apply and travel wisely.
Up until fairly recently Americans were only limited to a 4 month WHV and it really encouraged fruit picking. Yeah, that really isn’t for me. When I got my final work assignment in New Zealand and started looking at traveling to Australia, I found out that Australia finally opened up the WHV scheme to Americans for 12 months! I nearly fell out of my chair when I read that. And not only do you not need to go through some sort of service, but like the New Zealand visa, can be applied for directly on the Australia immigration homepage. Because we are not part of the commonwealth, technically we are on something called the Work and Holiday visa, which is essentially the same thing. We are roped in with a couple of other random countries (like Turkey) but since we speak english and have a fairly decent university system, we are exempt from a lot of the requirements to get this visa. When I got the visa, the cost was AU$190, you needed to enter within 3 months and you needed to be in university or have graduated. I went to Australia on holiday and the moment I returned to New Zealand, I applied for my WHV so I could return in a month and was approved in like 5 hours. I even spent money and got my college transcript, but they never asked for it. I know now the price has gone up, you have 12 months from approval to enter and I think they took away the uni requirement. Check out the immigration website for all the latest details. The two downsides of the Aussie visa (v. the NZ one) is that this one costs (but still really cheap) and you are only allowed to stay with the same employer for 6 months (hardly a hardship when the point of the visa is to earn a little cash to travel around Australia!), Unlike our Commonwealth counterparts, we are not eligible for a 2nd year. When you enter Australia all they do is stamp you with an entry stamp. I would recommend heading to the nearest immigration house and getting an official sticker popped in your passport, so you have something to show your job, though it’s not required. I had a lot of entry (and exit) stamps in my passport, so it was handy. Plus, it’s a little souvenir for you!
Moral: Unless you have a really good reason to come back home after you finished one visa, you might as well do both! My one year away “accidentally” turned into 2 years and 2 weeks (Whoops!) and actually could have been longer, but that is another story for another day.