A Gap Year Abroad For Americans
It's becoming increasingly popular to take a Gap Year in the States, something that's been very common in Europe for years. Whether you've just graduated college, or need an adult sabbatical, there are ways to travel and work abroad through what's called a Working Holiday Visa. It's allowed me a very budget-friendly and unique way to have adventures while also working in both London and Wellington.
I'm not sure why it's not widely known that certain countries offer this visa, but I'm here to tell you that they exist and to take advantage of them while you can. Most options are for 18 to 30 year-olds, but some go up to 35. Here's what I've done...
After graduating college, my first working holiday was a 6-month visa in the UK through a company called Bunac. They are helpful, organized, clear, and I loved using them for my UK and NZ adventures. I found a flat and office job in Zone 1 through Bunac's office and networking with fellow participants in London.
I had the same good experience in New Zealand last year for my adult sabbatical. It was my last opportunity to use this type of visa, and quitting my job to take advantage of it was the best decision I could have made!
***Rules change year-to-year as to which countries offer this visa, and there are a limited amount offered. Be sure to check back with their site as well as immigration pages regarding possible restrictions, including age limits. ***
They currently offer 4 work-abroad programs...
For Americans, they offer work in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland. They also offer a 6-month internship program in Britain.
For Australians, they offer work in Canada, USA, and the UK.
For Canadians, they offer an internship in Britain.
Respective immigration pages offer working holiday visas, and may charge far less than Bunac for the visa. Again, checking age restrictions is key. For example, I was eligible for the NZ visa through Bunac (because the age cap was 35), but I had aged out of the NZ Immigration offer (which had a cap of 30). Bunac quickly became my only option.
Current offers for Americans to work abroad via immigration pages:
The advantage of using an immigration site for a working holiday visa: It's much cheaper if you fit within the age range and offers several more locations. Disadvantage: No resources for additional support concerning paperwork, taxes, lodging, or work ideas.
The advantage of using Bunac: Excellent customer service, step-by-step help from start to finish, a community of people to help find work and accommodation upon arrival, and broader age restrictions. Disadvantage: They don't offer visas to all countries listed above and involve significant cost for the service.
If you've aged out or want an alternative, check out international recruitment agencies. Let them place your specific skills all over the world! To get you started on the search, check out DropUrPin.
Living in a new country has broadened my perspective, allowed me to experience other cultures, and offered integration into life outside of the States. I highly recommend this experience to anyone interested in travel.
I only wish that I had continued to check back for updated offers before turning 30. You don't have to stay the entire length of the visa, and it can be a great launching pad for further travel. After 4 months of working in London, I backpacked through Europe, and after 9 months in New Zealand, I traveled through Thailand.
For an overview of my New Zealand experience, check out this page.
(Here I am at one of many temp. jobs in NZ, found through a Wellington recruitment agency. More info here.)
Where would you like to use a working holiday visa?