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What Are The Best Working Visas?

British Passport

Dear Essential Travel

I am 24 years old and in my final year at university. I would love to work abroad for a while once I graduate, as I think it's the best way to learn about a new culture. Many of my friends have done it and they've come back with an entirely new outlook on life. The problem is, I'm not quite sure where I would like to go and I'm unsure of what the visa application procedure entails. Am I limited to certain countries? How long does it take to get a visa and what are the best working visas to get? Some advice would be really helpful!

Kate Lindsay, Edinburgh

Our Answer

Hi Kate. Thanks so much for your question. I went through a similar experience when I completed my studies, so I completely understand your predicament and I'm sure there are many people who are confused with the working visa process and exactly what their options are. Firstly, speaking from experience, I'll say that you're absolutely right - working in a foreign country is definitely one of the best ways to explore the world and immerse yourself in a new culture. You have the opportunity to make new friends, learn some of the language and experience a different way of life. In theory, and in an ideal world, you should be able to work anywhere, but it isn't always that easy. It is very important to take the employment market into account when making your decision. If the country has few jobs or lots of able graduates, it may be more difficult to find work. It also depends on whether you want a permanent or temporary job. Some countries also have stricter work permit requirements. Let’s look at a few countries British citizens can definitely work in, and the visas required.

Filling in a visa applicationStart filling in your visa application early

Europe

Working and living in Europe can be expensive, so there aren't many opportunities to save, but the experience is certainly worth it. There are so many diverse countries and cultures to choose from in a relatively small space. And it’s a chance to finally extend your vocabulary and start learning that language you've always been fascinated by. The best part is, when you get homesick you're only a short flight away from your friends and family.

Because of the European Working Agreement, it is possible for British nationals to work in any of the following European Economic Area countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Although Switzerland is not on this list, British citizens still enjoy all of the same benefits and can also work there.

If you want to work in France, for instance, you are free to work without needing a work permit. There are, however, some regulated professions. All you typically need is a valid identity card or passport to prove that you are a UK citizen. Find more information on the site for the British Embassy in Paris at https://www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations/british-embassy-paris.

Every country has a slightly different set of requirements and you will often need a permit to work, but as a British citizen all you need to do is apply for the permit with the respective embassy and you're likely to be granted permission. Remember that unemployment tends to be higher in some European countries than in others, so it may not be equally easy to find a job in all of those listed above.

Tapas bar in MardridHang out with locals when you live abroad

Asia

If you are looking to go somewhere unusual and exotic, why not head to Asia? There are many experiences to be had in Asia; head to technology driven East Asia, or find a rural enclave in South East Asia.

Japan has a working holiday program that allows citizens of the UK that are between 18 and 29 years old to work and stay in Japan for a year. To get a working holiday visa for Japan, you need to be in possession of a valid passport and a return ticket, or at the very least proof that you have sufficient funds to buy one. You also need a reasonable amount of funds for your initial stay in Japan. For more information check out The Embassy of Japan in the UK's website at http://www.uk.emb-japan.go.jp/en/visa/working-holiday.html.

Singapore’s working holiday scheme lets 18 to 30 year old British citizens work there for 6 months. Taiwan has a similar program that allows 18 to 30 year old citizens to work there for up to a year. If you would like to work in another Asian country, there are other options such as Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Countries like South Korea, China, Vietnam, The Philippines and Thailand are always looking for English teachers and have special programs in place where schools can apply for a work visa for you. You may need a TEFL qualification, but often being a university graduate who is a first language English speaker is enough.

Girl under waterGo snorkeling in South East Asia

North America

Want to be able to speak the language - or at the very least practise your French? Then head to Canada. This enchanting country, where you can find a mix of unspoilt nature and attractive metropolitan cities, runs a special working holiday scheme that makes it possible for British nationals between the ages of 18 and 35 to work and live in Canada for up to one year. To get a 'working holiday visa' you need a valid UK passport with British citizenship that will be valid throughout your entire period of stay in Canada. You also need a ticket to depart from Canada at the end of your stay, or the resources to purchase such a ticket, and the equivalent of £1,450 to cover expenses at the start of your stay. For more information have a look at the Government of Canada website at www.canadainternational.gc.ca

It is not so easy for Brits to work in the USA. Finding a job in the US will depend largely on your qualifications. If you find a company willing to employ you, then they can apply for a work visa on your behalf. There are options for British citizens to study and work as students in the US though, so if you plan to do more studying that is an option worth considering.

Girl rowingSpend some time outside in gorgeous Canada

South America

South and Central America are areas full of fire, colour and excitement. Learn to do the salsa, practise your Spanish or Portuguese, visit hidden Mayan cities or explore the Amazon.

There are many opportunities to volunteer and to teach English in South and Central America. If you want to visit Brazil, one of the most popular countries in South America, you do not need a visa for tourism or business, if you do not intend to stay for more than 90 days. If you want to stay longer Brazil is always looking for highly skilled workers. Finding a job will be easier if you can speak Portuguese and you are already based in Brazil, since an employer will be able to help you apply for a skilled visa. For more information look at www.prospects.ac.uk. Remember, the procedures vary vastly from country to country, so it is best to do up-to-date research if you pick a country in this area.

Man and Llama in front of Machu PicchuMake new friends in South America

Australia And New Zealand

Australia currently has a 12 month working holiday visa for UK Citizens who are between 18 and 30 years old. Unfortunately you will have to work and cannot just bum around on the beach all day.

New Zealand’s working holiday plan allows Brits that are between 18 and 30 years of age to live and work in this beautiful green country for 23 months. To qualify for the working holiday visa you usually need to be living permanently in the United Kingdom, have a British passport that is valid for at least three months after you plan to depart, hold a return ticket, or sufficient funds to purchase one, and have a minimum of £180 per month available to you. For more information consult the Immigration New Zealand website at www.immigration.govt.nz.

Girl sandboardingGo sandboarding in Australia

As you can see Kate, there are many options, but this is by no means an exhaustive list and is just some general advice. Once you have decided which country you would like to work in, it is important to get up-to-date information from the appropriate official source, such as the Consulate of that country and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, before you hit the road and start looking for a job. Remember to get your paperwork ready and to apply for your visa well in advance. We hope that we've managed to help you. I'm sure your trip will be amazing - travel safely.

Last Updated: December 2013

Guest Travel Writer

Your Essential Travel Experts can't be everywhere all the time, so we often welcome guest travel writers. This article was written by one such visiting travel enthusiast whose experience of different places and advice for travellers makes for an interesting read. Enjoy!