What is a Working Holiday Visa and am I eligible?

Published 2019-07-18 14:02

Want some good news? Australia, which has a working holiday visa agreements with a plethora of countries, has just rolled back the age limit for applying for working holiday visas to 35 years. Indeed, most countries offering WHVs target young people aged 18 to 30 years old. This means that more people can benefit from this avenue of expatriation. But what even is a WHV?

The WHV boom

The WHV is a one-year non-renewable visa which, as the name suggests, allows the beneficiary to work in a country- provided there is an agreement between his or her home country and the host country- while travelling and discovering the country.

Three States are among the top destinations for people seeking working holiday visas: Australia (by far the number 1), New Zealand, and Canada.

These destinations all offer incredible preserved areas and beautiful sceneries. These destinations also offer a particular type of dolce vita. On the practical side, it is also relatively easy to find work in these countries, if one speaks English of course.

The best countries for WHV

With this new development, Australia intends to maintain its leading position as a WHV destination. What makes this country already so popular? It is not just about the idyllic landscapes. One could definitely argue that it might because it is much harder to obtain a WHV for Canada, which was initially the most sought after country. But the International Experience Canada is very difficult to obtain. Pre-registration, invitation from Canadian authorities, submission of visa application, waitlist, draw… it is definitely not for the faint of heart. Australia also does not impose quotas or binding procedures.

Thus, in 2018, the country granted 23,217 PVT. Far behind, New Zealand comes in second, with 10,025 visas issued. Still further behind is Canada with 7900 visas issues a year while the country gets around 14, 000 applications each year.

Other countries are also gaining popularity. Amongst them, Asian countries, Japan leading this trend. It is the 4th favorite destination of French nationals seeking WHVs.

But the Korean neighbor does intend to put up a fight. South Korea is the 6th most popular destination for French nationals seeking WHVs. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of French nationals seeking WHVs in South Korea has doubles. And everything suggests that the ascension continues, carried, in particular, by the "hallyu", the "Korean wave". Far from being a mere fad, the hallyu is a government policy aimed at spreading Korean culture.

How about America? Countries found in Central and South America are doing pretty well although they only register a small number of candidates compared to other countries. In 2018, Chile issued 298 PVT (out of the 400 available ones). Mexico granted 237 out of 300, and Brazil, 223out of 500. The main reason being that these countries have only just entered the WHV market. 

Here again,working holiday visa holders seek a change of scenery. The perfect countries to be tourists: beach, beautiful landscapes, nature. They are also dynamic territories, in constant evolution, in particular, on the economic level. 

What happens after?

The WHV is the chance to discover a country, more deeply than a tourist and not quite like a permanent resident. For a year, one gets the chance to try out the expat life.

One could think of the WHV as a longer-term project: an experiment, to see if we could live in a particular country. Be careful though to keep in mind the spirit WHV: work a little, travel as much as possible. Because the WHV is not a work visa. It lasts a single year, is non-renewable, with the obligation to leave the territory (do not exceed the date on your visa). If your goal is to settle in the territory, be sure not to include it in your file (in case a letter of motivation would be required). The WHV is a unique experience: “We are happy to welcome you. We are just as happy to see you leave.”

Of course, the WHV can lead, subsequently, to obtaining a work visa. If a company sponsors you, you can return to the country as an expatriate. But the WHV can also lead to another WHV in other countries if one is interested.

How to apply for a WHV?

First, check that you meet the first condition: do not exceed the required age limit! It is fixed for the majority of countries at 30 years old except for Australia, Canada and Argentina where one can apply for a WHV until the age of 35 years old. 

All countries will ask you to complete a file (online process). Civil status, professional situation etc. Go directly to the websites of the relevant Embassies for more details.

Your host country is certainly happy to open its doors, but wants to ensure that you have the resources to live, especially the first months (before having a small job). You will be required to provide an official banking document certifying your financial resources.

You may also be asked for a program, a CV and a cover letter. If the last two documents are not of paramount importance, the program is to be carefully established: the authorities want to know what you intend to do, to check that you respect the agreement of the WHV. A program involving only professional activities, without leisure or tourism, is very far from the spirit of the WHV!

Note that depending on the country, the visa application can be free or paid.