Working holiday overseas


Where can you work and travel outside of Australia?

Paying your way to travel the globe


Each year, around 4000 young Australians embark on the adventure of an overseas working holiday.

The Australian Government has reciprocal working holiday programs with over 30 countries for Australians aged between 18 and 30. Each program has some minimum requirements you'll need to meet, such as having a current Australian passport, no dependent children and successfully completing health and character checks. However, as each arrangement is negotiated separately, the additional requirements may vary depending on where you want to go.

We take a look at what you need to know about the top five working holiday destinations for young Australians:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. United States
  3. Canada
  4. New Zealand
  5. Japan

And we'll take you through general tips and tricks on working holidays, such as:

Looking at a stint overseas? You'll want travel insurance. Check out our free and independent review for the best travel insurance.

1. United Kingdom

It's no surprise the UK is the number one destination for Australians taking working holidays, as it's one of the easiest places for Australians to secure a working visa.

Australians aged 18 to 30 can apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa, which allows you to work for up to two years with few restrictions on the type of work, provided you have £1890 (A$3152) in savings and have no dependents.

To look for work either before you go or once you arrive, try these job sites: The Guardian Jobs, Reed, Monster and Universal Jobmatch (for public sector jobs).

Australia has a reciprocal health care arrangement with the United Kingdom, which enables you to use subsidised health care services provided under the National Health Service (NHS). Under this arrangement you'll be covered for medical treatment from doctors who provide treatment under the NHS, inpatient and outpatient care in an NHS hospital, NHS prescription medicine, and ambulance travel to and from or between NHS facilities such as hospitals. You won't, however, be covered for the cost of being evacuated to Australia should you need to be. If you are going to be working in the UK for more than six months, in addition to your application fee (£230/A$384), you'll also need to pay the health care surcharge (£300/A$500 for two years or £150/A$250 for one).

2. United States

Since 2007, Australian students (those beyond high school) of any age who've completed their first year of tertiary study, including those who've graduated from post-secondary studies in the previous 12 months and those who are enrolled in post-secondary study but have deferred, are eligible to apply to work and travel in the US for up to 12 months under the Student Work and Travel Pilot Program. The program is part of the US exchange visitor program, which is designed to help people experience American society and culture.

The pilot program for Australians, however, is less restrictive on the type of work you can do and is more generous time-wise than the four-month Summer Work Travel visa which is offered to participants from most other countries. Australian participants are able to look for their own work, and are able to take on professional-level positions or internships, however there are some restrictions. You can't, for example, deliver patient care (e.g. dentist or doctor) or work as a domestic employee in US homes. Despite relatively few restrictions most participants usually work in unskilled positions in hotels and restaurants.

In order to apply for the visa, participants need an approved sponsor (this will be a third-party organisation rather than an employer), a list of which can be found on the US exchange visitor program website. You may find it easier to Google sponsors that specialise in the Australian program, as many sponsors work with Australian representatives. Some sponsors may offer packages including job placements, while others will simply offer sponsorship and let you find your own job. It's advisable to speak with a number of sponsors and ask about (and compare) the services they offer and the fees for service.

For those who haven't found employment prior to going to the US, sponsors are required to provide pre-departure information which helps explain how to find employment, as well as make reasonable efforts to help you secure a job if you still haven't found one a week after arriving. The visa application costs US$160 (A$212) and fees for sponsorship will vary.

3. Canada

Australians aged between 18 and 30 are able to enjoy a working holiday in Canada for up to 24 months through one of three streams – Working Holidays, Young Professionals and Internships – under the International Experience Canada Program.

The Working Holidays stream allows Australians to find temporary work for up to 24 months, usually in the tourism and hospitality sectors. You don't need to have a job before you apply. However, if you're looking to gain professional work experience, the Young Professionals program allows Australians (particularly those who have graduated tertiary education) to gain professional work experience for up to 24 months provided they have a signed letter of offer for a position. Alternatively, current tertiary students are able to apply for a visa for an internship for up to 12 months – again you'll need an offer before applying.

Eligible applicants will first need to submit their profile to a pool online. Before you can apply for a work permit, you'll need to wait to receive an invitation to apply. There is, however, an unlimited quota for Australians. It is also a condition of entry for each of these visas that you take out health insurance for your entire trip and that you have an equivalent of CAD$2,500 (A$2444) to help cover expenses on your trip.

All participants will need to pay a fee of CAD$126 (A$123) to participate in the program. Working holiday applicants will need to pay a further CAD$100 (A$98) for an open work permit, while those in the Young Professionals and Internship programs will need their employers to pay a CAD$230 (A$225) compliance fee. 

4. New Zealand

Australians looking to work in New Zealand don't need a visa to do so provided they are of good character. Australians are permitted to work under the same conditions as New Zealanders, so it's really just a matter of finding a job. Some suggested job search sites include Trade Me, Careers New Zealand, New Zealand Government Jobs Online, and Seek.

Australia has a reciprocal health care arrangement with New Zealand, which gives you limited access to subsidised health care across the ditch. The agreement only covers urgent medical treatment, such as inpatient treatment in a public hospital, which means you'll still have to pay the full cost of all other medical treatment, including doctor visits, prescription medicine and ambulance costs. If you're planning to live in New Zealand for two years or more, you can register with a Primary Health Organisation (PHO) to receive subsidised prescriptions as well as visits to doctors and other health professionals.

5. Japan

Australians aged between 18 and 30 are eligible to apply for a six-month working holiday visa in Japan (with the possibility of extension). Applicants must apply from Australia and should move around every three months once they are there. The visa is designed to promote mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries, and as such the primary purpose of the trip should be holidaying, with the work component designed to supplement travel costs. Visa holders are restricted from working in nightclubs, bars and cabarets, casinos and gambling venues (such as Pachinko parlours) and dance halls.

Applicants are not required to speak Japanese (although it is desirable) and they must be able to demonstrate they have A$2,500 in savings to cover costs. The visa is free of charge.

General advice for people going on working holidays

Travel insurance

Contrary to what you may think, when you're overseas, the Australian government won't help in a medical emergency – which means that unless you have some form of insurance, you'll be responsible for covering the costs of any medical bills and evacuation to Australia should it be required.

Contrary to what you may think, when you're overseas, the Australian government won't help in a medical emergency.

Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with a number of countries including: Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. What these agreements cover varies from country to country, but they'll usually only cover emergency treatment that would be unreasonable to delay until you return to Australia. However, they're not a substitute for travel insurance as they won't, for example, cover you if a doctor recommends medical evacuation back to Australia.

It's recommended you take out travel insurance, although it's worth checking with any potential employers if they provide cover.

When looking for insurance, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) recommends you ensure you're covered for:

  • medical expenses for both injury and illness
  • theft of valuables
  • damage to baggage
  • delays and cancellations to flight plans.

Once you've decided on your preferred insurance provider (our free and independent travel insurance reviews can help), you'll want to read the Product Disclosure Statement to make sure the policy suits your situation and that it will cover you the whole time you're overseas.

Not all insurance policies will cover you while working overseas, as coverage may depend on the type of visa you have. Unfortunately, this isn't a feature we have included in our comparisons, so you'll have to select your preferred policies and then check with the insurer if they'll cover you. 

Some travel insurers will also have restrictions on the maximum time their policy can provide cover for, so you'll want to check if they can cover you for your entire trip. If you're staying for a long period of time, you may want to consider local private health insurance as opposed to long-term travel insurance.

Tax

If you're considering a stint overseas, it's worth contacting a tax agent for advice. Even if you're working overseas, it's likely you'll still need to submit a tax return in Australia and declare any income made while overseas. You might be required to pay tax both overseas and in Australia (although if you pay tax in another country you might be entitled to claim a foreign income tax offset so as to avoid paying double tax). You may also want to consider making contributions to your superannuation account if you plan to be gone for an extended period of time. 

Even if you're working overseas, it's likely you'll still need to submit a tax return in Australia and declare any income made while overseas.

If you have a HELP debt you're still required to pay it off, even if you're overseas, so long as you're earning above the threshold. If you're planning to be overseas for six months or more, you should notify the Australian Tax Office (ATO) by updating your contact details on the myGov website. 

Voting

Should an election be called while you're overseas, there's a number of options available to you. It's advisable to subscribe to the mailing lists of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) and your state's Electoral Commission to be updated if an election is called. You can choose to vote from overseas, or you can fill out an Overseas Notification Form to notify the AEC that you are/will be overseas and may not be able to vote.

Checklist

  • Update your contact information with the ATO.
  • Let your bank know you'll be overseas.
  • Register with Smartraveller (DFAT) before you travel, and subscribe to receive travel advice updates.
  • Make sure your passport has sufficient validity for your stay. You should have six months' validity beyond your planned date of return.
  • Check to see if you need any vaccinations, and if you're travelling with medications make sure they're legal in your destination country.
  • Subscribe to the AEC and your state-based Electoral Commission's mailing lists to be notified of elections. Advise the AEC you intend to be overseas.  


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