Yesterday I was joined by FF reader and world traveler SA on The Foreigner’s Finances Podcast to discuss a variety of travel stories and tips. Today, SA was kind enough to expand on the topic on the topic of working holiday visas and how to use a temp agency while you’re abroad to find work.
If you’ve ever thought about working abroad, you might consider a working holiday visa. This type of visa is a restricted work visa generally aimed at people between the ages of 18-30, with some limits on the type of employment you may seek and often other nation-specific restrictions as well.
For Americans who want to travel abroad, twenty-eight separate countries offer working holiday visas for varying lengths of time (generally between four to twelve months), including nations that can be otherwise difficult to gain medium-term access too–such as the United Kingdom, Japan, or France.
Finding My Visa
I took the opportunity to do a combined set of visas to Ireland and the United Kingdom in 2006-2007, primarily because that visa is even further restricted: it is frequently only offered to recent university graduates. I had thought initially that I might seek out the Australian visa or the New Zealand visa, because they were longer-term, but the limits on the already-restrictive UK visa made it seem like a once in a lifetime offer that I just couldn’t refuse.
I had already visited Ireland, in 2004, and had spent six months that same year in the United Kingdom; so I had enough familiarity with my destination to make me comfortable, but enough unknown to make it exciting! I decided to live in Dublin, the largest city in the Republic of Ireland, and started looking for a flat and a job almost as soon as I got off the plane.
I used the BUNAC program for my visa application, largely because it was the one recommended and available through my university’s international center. It was a perfectly fine program at a reasonable cost, and in Dublin they had a very active jobs center that was at least an initial touchstone for new arrivals in the country. However, I quickly learned that employers–especially in Ireland and the UK, who encounter immigrants frequently–know exactly what your visa means, how long it will allow you to be in the country, and what restrictions are placed on you as a visa holder.
The Hidden Gem of Working Abroad: The Temp Agency
Here’s the most important thing I can tell you: do not pass go, do not collect €200, head straight for the temporary employment agency.
Now, I knew some people who worked under the table at restaurants or nightclubs or the like, and didn’t have any problem at all. But those were the rare cases. The thing
is, you’re competing with every other 18-30 year old out there for roughly the same jobs: decent income, decent hours, and enough free time or flexibility to run off every weekend to explore the country you’re in. Once you bear that in mind, heading straight for the temporary agency is a little more attractive.
I had a great experience with Julia Ross Hot in Dublin, and with La Creme when I moved to Manchester, England. Both times I was placed within a week of being with the agency, and those placements were as hospital administrative staff. The hourly pay was competitive, the agency handled all the paperwork, and best of all, I had enough pocket money left over after bills to do a great deal of traveling.
The reality is that a work holiday visa is both a letdown and an awesome tool. If you go in wanting to find a great job that helps your career and nets you an impressive salary, you’re going to be disappointed–the key word on this visa is restriction. But if you go in working for the weekend, or to go out on the town or visit other parts of the region you’re in, there’s a lot to be said for the experience.
Other Outlets For Work
This trick may only work if you’re an English-speaker going to an English-speaking nation. But I encourage you to take a strong administrative CV with you, grab a list of temp agencies on Google, and see what they can do for you. It may be more challenging now that we’re in a recession–I went to Ireland as the fabled Celtic tiger was still roaring–but if you have a good working background you’d be surprised what they’ll find for you.
Other options include working for hostels, of which there are many and who are generally used to itinerant staff; working at a branch of an international chain you’ve already trained with, like Starbucks; or putting yourself further out of the city centers, and making contacts in less populated areas.
Work holiday visas are a great option for younger people looking to get some experience with living abroad without breaking the bank. And they’re a good testing option if you’re considering living abroad on a more long-term basis. Be prepared to do your research before you go, however, and set the right expectations for your time there.
For more information on SA, check out her online business card.