Working Holiday Visas: How to Get a Job in Australia, Ireland or New Zealand

Australia/New Zealand/Pacific, Expats Abroad, Ireland, Passports & Visas, Working Abroad — By on December 6, 2010 at 6:00 am

By Candace Rardon
LG Correspondent

Ever dreamed about working in the world of Hobbiton? Hanging out with kangaroos and koalas on your day off? Or maybe grabbing a perfectly poured Guinness at the pub after a long day at the office? The choice is yours with New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland all offering year-long working holiday visas, open to Americans between the ages of 18 and 30. Although the idea of a “working holiday” might seem contradictory to some, the scheme is a perfect chance to supplement your travels and see a country in a new light.

Before you go: Three things to consider

1. Location: Think about the kind of traveling you’d like to do on a working holiday. Living in Ireland will put you in close proximity to many other countries, with budget airlines like RyanAir and AerLingus offering cheap flights to the UK and Europe. On the other hand, the distance between Australia and New Zealand and the rest of the world means expensive international flights even to Asia. If you choose an Australiasian destination, you’ll probably spend more time exploring those countries themselves, and maybe other Pacific islands like Fiji, Vanuatu, and Samoa.

2. Finances: Have a look at the current exchange rates before making your decision. Historically, the U.S. dollar has outweighed both the Australian and the New Zealand dollar, an attractive relationship when it comes to making sure you have the necessary amount of maintenance funds before departure. However, this has greatly changed in the past year, as has the U.S. dollar-Euro relationship. If you’re keen to keep adding to your savings account while on a working holiday, the relative value of the currency you earn will determine how much you can save.

3. Economy: It might also be useful to consider the current economic climate in each country. With Ireland’s recent request for an emergency bail-out from the IMF and the EU and Irish unemployment at a 16-year high, it might be harder to find a job there than in Australia or New Zealand, both which tend to stay a little more insulated from the recession’s effects.

Why to go: Three benefits to a working holiday

1. Allows you to earn money on the road: If you’ve often found yourself pinching pennies and sweating over expenses while traveling, doing a working holiday could be a great way to not only continue to see new places, but also to give your bank account a boost at the same time.

2. Looks great on your resume: The fact that you were able to move abroad and find a job will show future employers that you have a remarkable amount of initiative, organization skills, and the global awareness that is increasingly more important these days. And could you ask for a better conversation starter for future interviews?

3. Enhances your engagement with another culture: By taking up employment in another country—be it a pub job, agricultural work, or even in an office—you’re getting to see a totally different side to life there that you might miss if you were simply travelling through somewhere.

How to go: The facts

1. New Zealand

2. Australia

  • Australian immigration website
  • Visa fee: AUD$235
  • Maintenance funds required: AUD$5,000 (or equivalent), as well as a return or onward ticket or the funds needed
  • Application available online

3. Ireland

Final note: All of the working holiday visas outlined here are available directly through each country’s immigration department. You can also apply through an organization called BUNAC, but there is an additional program fee that covers things like orientation upon arrival, assistance (not guarantee of ) with finding accommodation and employment, and support services throughout the duration of your stay. This isn’t a mandatory route for these countries, but know it’s a route you can take if you feel you need more support!

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  • Nessie says:

    I am leaving for New Zealand in exactly 37 days with my Working Holiday Visa in hand! One of the reasons I chose New Zealand over Australia was the ease at which it took me to get my WHV. I was amazed at how easy and quick New Zealand’s immigration was. It took me about 15 minutes to fill out online and got my confirmation in 3 days!! and it was free! I simply printed out my WHV and put it in my passport. Yah New Zealand!

  • Candace says:

    That’s awesome, Nessie! I had pretty much the same experience with my NZ visa…couldn’t believe they told me it’d take four weeks, only to get the email within three days 🙂 It’s nice for something to go so smoothly for a change! Any idea where you’ll look for work once you get to NZ? I got back from a year there this April and definitely miss it–best of luck with the big move!

  • Nessie says:

    Candace –

    Thanks for the comment! I was actually reading your blog yesterday! I am interested in getting my MA in creative or travel writing…how do you like Kingston? That is really cool….I want to get my MA abroad!

    I do not know as of now where I will end up in NZ, but I guess its all part of the adventure! I would love to talk to you more about your time in NZ! Thanks!

  • Maggie P says:

    This information is soo helpful, as I am looking to do something like this and am open to locations (I recently posted about my failed attempt to do this in England)…My concern is how and where to look for jobs…and how easy it is to get one…I know that when my sister studied in Sydney, Australia she tried to look for a part time job and they were basically like “why would we hire you? we have plenty of citizens to hire instead…” so I just kinda worry about that…

    any thoughts??


  • Candace says:

    Hey Nessie,

    Kingston is great! My MA isn’t as travel-specific as I’d imagined, which was a little disappointing at first but I’m still reading and studying travel writing on the side. It’s essentially a creative writing programme in which I have the freedom to write about travel. Unfortunately none of my professors are actually travel writers, but they’re all published authors and as they say, good writing is good writing 🙂 It’s been helpful to focus on my writing as a whole, not just about travel! I definitely support getting your MA abroad…I’ve loved it so far.

    I’m excited to see where you end up in NZ. Do you keep a blog? I’d love to follow along your journey there! Please feel free to email me if you’d like at with any questions/just to talk about the move to NZ/Kingston/Creative writing MAs/etc. It’d be great to hear from you!

  • Candace says:

    Hi Maggie,

    I’m so glad to hear the information was helpful for you! I read your article about not being able to do the same in England…I’m so sorry it didn’t work out. UKBA couldn’t be any stricter–there’s definitely no messing around with them! I’ve had a couple of run-ins with them myself from the last time I was here on a special work visa through BUNAC and it’s never fun!

    Funnily enough, there will be a part two to this article up sometime later in the month on the top jobs to look into on a working holiday. Although it will be specific to New Zealand just because of my own experience, it should hopefully give you ideas if you choose Australia or Ireland as well. That’s strange to hear about what happened to your sister. I spent a year in NZ and held several different jobs and always had positive feedback from my bosses in terms of hiring “foreigners.” I definitely wouldn’t be discouraged or give up the idea! Ireland might not be the best idea just with all of the economic trouble they’re in, but I’ve always heard great things about NZ and Oz. But yes, in the next article , I’m including lots of links and pointers about where to look for jobs so I hope they’re helpful!

    My email is…please feel free to email with any other thoughts/questions if you want! I loved my working holiday experience and love to help others get all the info they need. 🙂

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  • Maggie P says:

    I cant wait for the follow up article…How was it finding a place to live?


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  • isamayou says:

    I would also like to see this article you’ve written. I support what Candace’s sister said though regarding difficulty in Australia–this is my third week of continuous job searching in Perth, and Melbourne, and all I’ve gotten are rejection letters for 3 reasons–
    “1: no experience,” which is usually (in fast food an excuse for)
    2: “We prefer a local” or
    3 “You’re on a WHV. I can’t hire someone who will be here for 6 months, its not worth my time sorry. Do you want to keep the resume, because otherwise I’ll just file it away?”

    Now I’m aware there are lucky ones, but I am not alone in losing at this lottery, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more people fail than suceed. I will soon leave Australia a few hundred poorer for the visa, and a couple thousand poorer for the living expenses and flight tickets.

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