Which work visas have a maximum age limit?

  • young man holding passport
Published on 2022-11-14 at 10:00 by Ameerah Arjanee
Some work visas explicitly target younger applicants in their 20s and 30s. Some visas with age cutoffs are working holiday visas, Australian permanent skilled work visas, and work permits in Gulf countries. Canadian points-based immigration systems also grant more points to younger applicants.

Working Holiday Visas (WHV) are meant for travelers between 18-35

Working holiday visas are short-term exchange programs that allow young people to take a gap year to travel and work in a new country. To fund their stay and gain work experience, they can do jobs of a short-term nature (e.g., waiter, tour guide, retail worker).

The United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Argentina all offer a 12-month WHV program. These programs are not open to all young people worldwide: only a select list of nationalities are eligible. For example, only citizens of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea are allowed to apply for a Danish WHV. This means that an American or Indian citizen cannot apply for the program. 

The age limit of applicants varies between 30 and 35. In South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Israel and Austria, the cutoff is 30 years old for everyone. In the other countries, the age limit differs according to the applicant's nationality, i.e., depending on any special bilateral agreement existing between their home country and the host country. For example, Portuguese applicants for an Australian WHV can be 31, while Canadian, French or Italian applicants can be as old as 35. 

To cite another example, Uruguayan, Canadian, Slovak, Czech and Finnish applicants for New Zealand's WHV have a higher cutoff age of 35, as compared to the lower age limit of 30 for citizens of the other 40 eligible countries. A Malaysian, Belgian or Brazilian applicant, while eligible, must not be older than 30. The length of stay can also be exceptionally longer for select citizens. For instance, British and Canadian WHV-holders can stay in New Zealand for 23 instead of the standard 12 months.

Permanent work visas in Australia have an age limit of 45

Australia has an aging population. Currently, around 16% of all residents are older than 65. It's logical that the country wants to prioritize the immigration of young, working-age people instead of those who will retire in a few years and might put pressure on public services (pension, health services). Younger workers are also more likely to have children in Australia, which helps the country's birth rate. 

This is why no expat older than 45 can apply for these skilled, permanent work visas: the Employer Nomination Scheme (Subclass 186), the Skilled Nominated Visa (Subclass 190) and the Skilled Independent Visa (Subclass 189). Subclass 186 and Subclass 190 are for expats who already have a job offer, while Subclass 189 is for those who don't have a job offer yet but have sought-after skills and experience. The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (Subclass 187), through which an expat can be nominated by an employer in a specific Australian province, also has the same age limit.

Furthermore, the Subclass 190 visa is subject to a points-based test. Applicants need to score at least 65 points to get the visa. Age is a criterion. 25–35-year-olds get the highest points for age: 30 points. Applicants between 18-25 and 35-40 earn 25 age points. Meanwhile, those between 40-45 get only 15 age points: half the points of the preferred age group.

The pathways to enter Australia after the age of 45 are very limited. Over-45s can apply for business innovation and investment visas, which have no age limit, given that their main criteria is financial ability. This Subclass 188 visa has various streams: Business Innovation, Investor, and Significant Investor. The applicant must have at least 1.5 Australian dollars to invest or be able to start or take over a business. 

The Global Talent Visa (Subclass 858) also has no age limit. It is for individuals with rare technical skills (in fields such as defense, energy, fintech, or Agri-tech) or who have outstanding achievements in a field (e.g., Olympic athletes, film stars, etc.). However, the selection process for those over 55 is still more stringent. The applicants need to truly prove that their talent will contribute a lot to Australia.

Parent visas also allow older expats to enter the country if their child is an Australian citizen or permanent resident. One of these parent visas, the Contributory Parent Visa (Subclass 143), is a permanent visa that, among other things, gives the older expat the right to work in Australia. This visa also has a temporary version called the Subclass 173 Contributory Parent (Temporary) Visa. It allows the older expat to work for a nonrenewable 2 years. After 2 years, they need to apply for Subclass 143.

Age limit of 50-60 for first work permits in the Gulf

The age limit to enter Gulf countries as an expat worker varies, but in general, it's difficult to obtain a first work permit after the age of 50 or 60. In Qatar, the cutoff age for most jobs, especially manual ones, is at the lower end: 50 years old. That is the minimum age of retirement in most Gulf countries, including Qatar. Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, expats usually need to be under 60 to get a first work visa. There is no official age limit in the UAE, but it's harder to get approved for a first work permit after 65. 

In the UAE, expats who already have a work permit can have it renewed quite normally until the age of 65. However, between 60 and 65, they need to renew it every single year. In exceptional cases, the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation can grant a work permit to an expat over 65. However, the fee for over-65s is very high: 5,000 AED, or about 1,400 USD, every 2 years to keep using the permit.

The policy for permit renewals is quite similar in other Gulf countries. For instance, as of early 2022, expats over 60 in Kuwait are allowed to renew their work permit, but they are subject to higher processing fees. It's the employer who files their application. In Bahrain, for instance, employers need to use the online platform of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority to request a permit renewal for their 60-plus expat employees.

Age is an important factor in Canadian points-based immigration

Back in 1967, Canada became the first country ever to create a points-based immigration system. The Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) judges applicants on their age, qualifications, work experience, English and French proficiency, previous experience living or working in Canada (considered as cultural adaptability skills), number of relatives already living in Canada, and any job offer in the country. 

The maximum score on the CRS is 1200, and applicants need at least 400 points to be prioritized for Express Entry. A maximum of 110 points for age can be granted to a single applicant, while the maximum for someone applying alongside their spouse/common-law partner is 100. People in their 20s get the highest age points. Those between 20-29 score 100 (married) to 110 (single) points for age. Applicants who are 18, 19, 30, or 31 also get a fairly high score: between 90 and 105. 

With each passing year, the age score in the CRS goes down by 5-6 points. For instance, an unmarried 38-year-old applicant gets 55 age points, while an unmarried 37-year-old gets 60 points. In this decreasing scale, applicants who are 45 or older score zero age points. They can still qualify for Express Entry if they score very high on other criteria, especially work experience and educational qualifications. A doctoral degree would give them 140-150 points, which might be enough to compensate for the lack of age points. 

The CRS is not the only points-based selection system in Canada. There also exists the 100-point system of the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW). CSR is for entry, but FSW is for permanent residence. Here, applicants need to score 67 out of 100. A maximum of 12 points can be granted for age. Those aged 18 to 35 receive full age points, while these points decrease by 1 with each passing year from the age of 36. As compared to the CRS system, applicants aged 45 and 46 do receive a few age points: 2 points and 1 point, respectively. It's from the age of 47 that age points become zero. It is also zero for applicants who are minors.

Why is age a criterion? Like Australia, Canada has an aging population. The Canadian Institute for Health Information predicts that the country's population of seniors will grow by 68% over the next 20 years. The country also has a low birth rate of around 1.4 births per woman. It needs an inflow of young immigrants who will be able to work for many years as well as raise families in the country. This is why foreign workers in their 20s and early 30s are preferred.