The working holiday visa (WHV) scheme is an innovative set of agreements between participating countries that offers you the freedom to travel around a country, give you the possibility to work to cover your expenses and provides many opportunities to live a unique experience. Still at home? Here are 16 unique perks of the WHV that should convince you to pick a destination right now!
1. Easy-to-Meet Admissibility Requirements
The WHV is a very inclusive program. You don’t need a specific training, degree or work experience to apply—all backgrounds are welcome! It’s probably the easier temporary work visa to get: pretty much anyone between 18 and 30 (or even 35 for some countries) can apply regardless of background or current situation (student, intern, job-seeker, recent graduate, etc.). However, don’t forget to get complete information on eligibility requirements for each country before you apply.
One caveat: you need to have some money saved (sufficient funds in your bank account) to cover your expenses at the beginning of your trip. That said, saving for a couple of months or even for an entire year before applying for a WHV is doable if you set your mind to it!
2. A Straightforward Application Process (With Some Fine Print)
For most destinations, applying for a WHV is very straightforward. For example, for Australia and New Zealand, two countries where no quota is in place (except for some countries), the application process is done online and visas are usually issued in a matter of days, if not hours. Other participating countries do have annual quotas which are never reached or are only reached at the very end of the calendar year: Argentina, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Colombia…
The one and only exception is Canada. As many know, for this country, demand exceeds supply. It used to be easier to obtain but it got harder over the year and now, there is a lottery system in place.
Note: Current or past major health issues or legal problems could affect your ability to apply for a WHV. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, so it’s worth giving it a shot.
Only apply for a WHV through official websites to avoid scams.
3. A Way to Cover the Cost of Your Travel Adventures
This is the core of the program and this is why it was really well thought out! Most travellers have enough savings to cover their first expenses at arrival, but few can finance a one-year trip without working. The idea of the WHV isn’t to work for twelve months straight but to find paid employment when you need funds. Find out more about your destination of choice and employment rules and restrictions. Japan and South Korea, for example, forbid WHV holders to seek employment in certain fields. In Australia or in Hong Kong, you can’t work for the same employer for longer than 6 months. As for South Korea, you can only work up to 25 hours per week with a WHV status.
4. Plenty of time to plan your trip
Once the visa is issued, you have 3, 6 or even 12 months (depending on your destination) to land.
After you arrive, you have 12 full months of complete freedom ahead of you. You can travel for a year without working—hitchhiking and CouchSurfing, anyone? You can have a by-the-book WHV experience combining travel and work, or you can focus solely on the “W” of WHV and gain work experience abroad for 12 months. You can settle in a city or a village, travel around, and change your mind a thousand times. It’s your gap year, your freedom to enjoy!
Go with the flow and grab opportunities when they arise. After a certain routine home, either at school or at work, you can finally seize the days—a refreshing, exhilarating way of living.
5. It’s a unique opportunity to discover a country
Sure, Discovery Channel and other travel shows take you around the world from your couch but nothing beats a first-hand experience.
Going on a two-week summer holiday isn’t nearly enough to soak up a culture, an atmosphere or adopt a new way of life. This is why the WHV is an excellent opportunity for young people—with the visa in your passport, you can roam around freely in a country for a year, no strings attached!
Suddenly, everything is possible: following in the footsteps of Frodo in New Zealand, singing K-Pop in Seoul for a year, exploring Canada’s Great White North, taking a road trip in the Australian Outback or reaching the end of the world in Ushuaia, Argentina. To each his own, every experience is unique. This is why the WHV is perfect—your dreams can actually come true.
6. Don’t Just Learn a Language, Speak It
A year spent abroad is a great opportunity to practise a foreign language. Several hundred of WHV holders head to Argentina to speak Spanish, to Japan to read Kanji, to Hong Kong to speak Cantonese (or English!), to South Korea to speak Korean. And soon, they will be able to improve their Portuguese in Brazil! (the agreement has yet to be confirmed).
Landing in a country without knowing the language can be an awkward experience, but true linguistic immersion gets results because you have to learn dozens of words and expressions on a daily basis.
The challenge can be an issue if you’re planning to work. In this case, consider signing up for language classes upon arrival, participating in conversation exchanges (30 minutes of English conversation for 30 minutes in the local language, for example), or joining activities you are familiar to meet people and improve your language skills socially.
And of course, you can volunteer in exchange for free lodging and meals through organizations like WWOOF, WorkAway or HelpX, just to get some language 101. Besides, this work experience can also help you later during your job hunt.
7. A mind-opening journey
Going abroad for a few months and up to a year, far from everything and everyone you know, sometimes on your own, and at a very young age without mastering the national language is a major challenge!
Some may say a gap year is like a long vacation and that you’re wasting your time—wrong! You’re jumping into the unknown and no one knows how this year will turn out to be. Each experience is unique. The WHV is your ticket to a year of discoveries, social interactions, travels, work experiences, ups and downs, surprises, disappointments, challenges, etc., which can only better you as a person. You’re embarking on a mind-opening journey where stereotypes shattered and a new interest grows for a country and a culture. You constantly learn and adjust. You try new things and live a thousand lives.
Younger participants learn to be self-sufficient, to manage a budget and overcome shyness. Those in their late twenties can fulfill a dream, pause at a crossroad or put their life on hold for a while to reconsider priorities.
Remember: as a WHV holder, you are free. You have access to a country for an entire year. How you use your time is up to you. You’ll soon realize that the application process isn’t as complicated as it seems, even though dealing with paperwork is always a chore, at home or abroad. The program is popular because spending a year abroad is a deeply enriching and exciting experience.
For some participants, the WHV is a great way to switch perspective and see your home country—strengths and weaknesses included—under a new light, and maybe to come back as a new person, full of energy. Those who were fed up with life back home might feel homesick while some daring souls might fall in love with their host country and stay longer than planned.
8. No Job Offer Required Before Arrival
Looking for work abroad is often easier when you are already in the country. The WHV doesn’t require you to get a job offer before landing—in fact, you don’t even have to work if you don’t want to. The key idea of the program is to be able to travel for a year and have the option to work if needed or desired.
Some people work through the entire year or for several months only. Frugal participants rely on their savings, volunteering opportunities through WWOOF or HelpX, camping and CouchSurfing.
There’s no guarantee a WHV holder will find paid employment. However, for job seekers, perseverance usually pays off. Australia attracts the most WHV holders from all over the world and competition is high. Don’t give up! A combination of planning and patience will lead to a successful WHV experience.
This article doesn’t “sell” the WHV program as an easy experience. It does require preparation and efforts! There will be ups and downs on the road, but you can still travel far and enjoy it.
9. A Way to Gain Valuable Professional Experience
Some hesitate to participate in the program because they’re afraid of the “gap year stigma” on their resume.
Some WHV holders end up in jobs they had never considered before, developing new skills and gaining new knowledge.
10. A Door Open to a New Corner of the World
WHV holders in Australia often take the opportunity to explore New Zealand or Southeast Asia. Those heading to Canada can cross the border to visit the United States. The WHV is a multi-entry visa—you can leave and reenter the country—so you’re not only enjoying your destination of choice but also discover an entire new corner of the world.
Don’t forget that many airlines offer free stopovers (in Bangkok, Hong Kong or Dubai for example) so you can add even more stamps to your passport!
11. A lifetime of memories
This is probably what all WHV participants agree on: people, places, anecdotes, feelings, atmospheres, sounds and smells will linger long after your year abroad. Some people find it difficult to return home because it marks the end of an intense experience and the beginning of something new.
Most travellers need time to process the transition. Two, five, seven years later, some details will be forgotten, core memories are still very vivid.
Nostalgia is a bittersweet feeling. It’s tempting to cherish the past and wish you’d be there again, living the adventure. This gap year will stay with you forever.
12. A Chance to Meet Great People
There will be people to meet along the way and like they say, people are what makes it all worthwhile. What would you pick: an average place with amazing people or an empty paradise? Alright, both probably have merits but still, meeting the world is priceless, whether it’s for a day when you share a dorm or spend the night on a couch, for a few weeks at work or for a lifetime with that amazing friend you met on the road. All these people are part of your trip and many will be hard to forget.
If you’re shy, this is the time to step up and speak out because you will meet a lot of travellers just as shy as you who have plenty to say if given the opportunity. This is true for destinations such as Argentina, Australia or New Zealand and many other countries.
13. An Opportunity to Travel With Relatives
Parents and relatives of WHV holders will sure want to visit and take the opportunity to discover a country they might never have thought to set foot in before. This experience with them at the other end of the world generally creates unforgettable, long-lasting memories.
For many relatives, it’s their first time abroad or their first trip far away from home and it’s rewarding to see your loved ones discover your host city or country, show them around your new environment (like I did with my mother in Tasmania) and make them experience your way of travelling—for example, driving around in a small car making a constant squeaky sound not knowing yet where you will spend the night!
14. A chance to get to know yourself better
Cliché, but oh so true! It may be hard to believe before you leave, but months spent away from home, far from friends, relatives and everything you know is a real learning experience. This is an opportunity to test your ability to adapt to a new language, culture, environment and to different customs.
You have to build a network from scratch and throw yourself into the unknown—no wonder you’ll get to know yourself better! What you are able to accomplish may surprise you. You’ll test your limits and push yourself beyond, whether you choose to go skydiving or simply go for more mundane activities, like meeting new people in a new city.
You’ll become a bolder and more daring person abroad because you’ll try your best to make this experience an amazing one. A sense of optimistic and the power of the word “yes!” will make your WHV experience an outstanding one.
After such an eventful year, you’ll feel proud of yourself—proud of the chances you’ve taken, of the challenges you’ve overcome—and then you’ll appreciate how much you changed.
And those who only stayed a few months abroad because they felt homesick, out of place or because they ran out of money have nothing to be ashamed of. The only mistake you could make is to be afraid to join the WHV program and regret it afterwards. Sure, it can be disappointing if the experience doesn’t meet your expectations but no matter what, you’ll learn something.
15. A Chance to Test the Waters Before Starting an Immigration Process
The WHV program is a way to discover a country, its atmosphere and its culture for a liberal amount of time—enough to decide if a long-term move is possible. You’ll have a better idea of the local job market and available opportunities when you investigate in person, and you’ll be able to make an informed decision.
16. A way to celebrate your twenties (hurry up before you turn 30 or 35!)
Our Facebook fans like to remind everyone that the WHV opportunity won’t always be available—indeed, the age limit to apply is 30 for most destinations and 35 for a few. Then, no matter how young and fresh you look, you won’t be eligible anymore.
We often read messages from thirty-somethings who wish they could apply, so if you are in the right age range, grasp the opportunity!
So, what are you waiting for?
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