Earn money and see the world on a working holiday


Alex Webb

Alex Webb

Blog author Alex Webb

Alex Webb, founder of Take Risks Be Happy, is a freelance writer and author passionate about creativity, entrepreneurship, and international travel. He has co-authored or contributed to books published by National Geographic, the Financial Times, and Skyhorse.

Published August 9, 2017 | 4 min read

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Most people would love to drop everything and travel for six months, but let’s be realistic: almost nobody has that kind of money. Luckily, there are ways to travel and make money at the same time. One is a working holiday, and it’s an affordable way to see the world, build your resume, and experience new things, all at once.

##What is a working holiday? A working holiday is exactly what it sounds like—an extended vacation where you work while traveling.

When you enter a foreign country as a tourist, you aren’t allowed to work, but a working holiday visa gives you the flexibility to legally work while you’re abroad. Instead of saving up a boatload of cash to spend a few weeks in a foreign country, you can instead spend a year abroad, earning cash to pay for your trip as you go.

##What’s it really like to do a working holiday? Trynce Brandt is an American freelance photographer and barista on working holiday in Sydney, Australia. He was fresh out of university and wanted to see the world, but like most of us, didn’t have unlimited funds to travel. So instead, he took a working holiday.

“My experience here so far has been mind blowing,” he tells us. “I love the city that I live in and even more so the people. All the friends that I have already made in this short time have just been life changing.”

Even if a working holiday sounds great, you might be worried about complicated visa requirements. But according to Trynce, for Australia at least, it’s easy. “The application was very straightforward. Before applying I made sure I had everything and met all of the qualifications so I could do it all at once. It took me about 30 minutes to submit it all and I heard back from them the same day!”

##Can you earn enough to survive? You can actually earn quite a bit of money, even in an entry-level job. Minimum wage in Australia is around $14 USD and in New Zealand it is over $11 USD. The minimum wage in South Korea is quite low, but if you teach English, you can generally earn a comfortable salary.

Singapore, Seoul, and major cities in Australia and New Zealand all have world-class transportation networks, making it affordable and easy to rent a cheap apartment in the suburbs and commute to work in the city.

One American with working holiday experience told me how he worked as a cook in the Australian Outback, where wages were high and living costs were low, allowing him to save about $3,400 USD per month after taxes and living expenses.

##How Americans can apply for a working holiday visa American passport holders can apply for working holidays in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Ireland. If you hold a foreign passport, you may be able to apply to work in other countries and regions like Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, France, or more.

Eligible nations and working holiday visa requirements are always changing, so be sure to check with immigration departments of respective countries for the latest information. As of August 2017, here are the basic steps you need to take for each eligible country:

###Australia Application fee: $440 AUD (approx. $350 USD)


  • 18-31 years old

  • You cannot bring dependent children

  • You usually must switch employers after six months

You can stay in Australia for 12 months, but you can apply for a second year if you work in specific agricultural fields, work in Northern Australia, or meet other requirements. See the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection website for more information.

###Ireland Application fee: approx. $360 USD


  • Over 18 years old

  • Currently a university student, or graduated from university within the past 12 months

  • Must present a return air ticket and buy health insurance for the duration of your time in Ireland

With a working holiday visa, you can live and work in Ireland for 12 months. See the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website for more information.

###New Zealand Application fee: Free


  • 18-30 years old

  • You cannot bring dependent children

You can stay in New Zealand for up to 12 months. While in New Zealand you can also study for up to six months. Immigration officials may ask you to provide evidence of a return flight out of the country. You also must be able to prove that you have at least $4,200 NZD ($3,100 USD) to live on while there. See the New Zealand Immigration website for more information.

###South Korea Application fee: $45 USD


  • 18-30 years old

  • You cannot bring dependent children

You can stay in South Korea for up to 18 months. You are also allowed to undertake language study while there. You are prohibited from taking jobs in certain fields like medicine, legal professions, or religious fields. See the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in New York website for more information.

###Singapore Application fee: $150 SGD ($110 USD)


  • 18-25 years old

  • You cannot bring dependent children

  • You must be a current undergraduate student or recent graduate

You can stay and work in Singapore for six months with a working holiday visa. There are no work category restrictions, but you will need to comply with Singaporean law to work in certain fields like law or dentistry. See the Singaporean Ministry of Manpower website for more information.

##Take the plunge Travel is expensive, but a tight budget doesn’t have to put your travel dreams out of reach. A working holiday can allow you to see the world, make new friends, and earn money. Americans have several options around the world to work. No matter where you go, you’ll broaden your skillset and make new friends – without sacrificing money.