The working holiday visa is an international program that works like a visa exchange which is available for 20-somethings in certain countries to be able to live, study and work in other countries that are part of the program.
When you’re a young adult in your twenties, you probably want to make the most of your new-found adulthood and freedom, and you’ll most likely want to travel and explore the world. In fact, many lifestyle bloggers, including myself, strongly suggest that you SHOULD travel as much as you can in your twenties.
Which countries run the Working Holiday Visa Program?
Be aware that the working holiday visa program is only available for people between the ages of 18 to 35. So you should definitely consider going on the program while you’re young and it is available. The conditions for the working holiday visa vary and will depend on the country where you want to live. Here are some of the countries that are part of the working holiday visa program.
1. Africa: South Africa
2. Asia: Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam
3. Europe： Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom
4. North America： Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, United States
5. Oceania: Australia, New Zealand
6. South America： Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay
Our experience of the Working Holiday Visa Australia Program
Being Australian, Fufu and I were eligible for the working holiday visa Australia program, and we could choose to live and work and study in any of the other working holiday countries. Fufu and I actually applied for and used the working holiday visa for Taiwan. We lived in Taiwan for about 1 year and a half on that visa. We even applied for and were approved for the working holiday visa for Thailand.
Though the process to get the visa for Thailand took longer than 3 months to process (and we had brought our non-refundable flight tickets as part of the application requirement), the Taiwan visa process was much more easier, with a 3 business day turnaround. At the end we lived in Thailand for about 6 months with visa runs and tourist visas instead because we didn’t want to miss our flight.
In this article, I’ll focus more on our working holiday experience in Taiwan, since we lived there for so long. I also want to highlight our experience in Taiwan in particular, because the majority (if not all) Australians I know choose to go on the working holiday visa to live in the United Kingdom. For me, this is such a shame, because there are so many other options of countries for you to choose from and expand your horizons.
3 reasons why you should do the working holiday visa and live overseas
Here are 3 reasons why you should do the working holiday visa and live overseas, based on our experience in Taiwan:
1) Explore new places & Discover different cultures
The working holiday visa allows you to explore new places in the world that you have never been before in your life. You will immerse yourself in a new culture, and you will learn so many new things about the world, and even more about yourself – and your ability to adapt in uncertain circumstances.
When we first arrived in Taiwan, I had never visited Taiwan before. None of my family members or friends had actually visited Taiwan before either. However, I was up for the challenge and the adventure. The reason why I suggested to Fufu that we live in Taiwan was because I actually wanted to learn Mandarin Chinese, which is the main language spoken there.
I scoured plenty of blogs and forums and even Wikipedia articles, and felt that Taiwan would be a great place to learn Mandarin Chinese. I preferred Taiwan over China because of the democratic freedoms in Taiwan, and because I was worried about how China had historically banned a number of websites and this wouldn’t work for me because I am an avid user of the internet for both entertainment and my work.Also, the primary language in Hong Kong is Cantonese, not Mandarin Chinese.
Prior to our trip, I also read from plenty of blogs and forums that expats and tourists had such a wonderful time in Taiwan. Also, Taiwan garnered positive reviews in regards to its low crime rate, friendly people, good food, moderate cost of living but highly developed technology and infrastructure. With all of these points in mind, we decided to apply for the working holiday visa in Taiwan. We were glad that all of these actually were true from our personal experience.
We chose to live in the city of Tainan, which is to the south of the island. In order to get there, you need to take the Taiwan High Speed Rail, and it only take about 1 hour and a half to get to Tainan from Taiwan’s capital of Taipei in the north. The reason we chose Tainan was because I had read that the city was smaller than Taipei, it was the food capital of Taiwan, and the people there were friendlier and polite, the air was cleaner, and Tainan has less of the hustle and bustle of Taipei. Again, through our personal experience, we found all those to be true too!
Fufu and I were so happy to have discovered and to have lived in Tainan, and Taiwan overall, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the working holiday visa. Throughout our working holiday visa period in Taiwan, we certainly explored other parts of the country, such as Taipei, Kaohshiung, Taichung, Taoyuan and Chiayi.
Tainan itself is a lovely little city. We lived in the East District, which is just outside the main city district. Some of the fun, cultural activities we did included:
1. Watching the “Beehive fireworks” for Chinese New Year in the Yanshui District of Tainan, where we saw a display of colourful fireworks blast around a giant Chinese Temple
2. Going to a lot of night markets and sampling a number of Taiwanese snacks and drinks. The thought of Taiwanese deep-fried mushrooms still makes my mouth water! Yum!
3. Eating at several Taiwanese vegetarian restaurants and trying out so many unique, delicious foods
4. Taking a boat to the Sun Moon Lake and breathing in the fresh air, while watching some traditional Taiwanese dances
5. Biking all over Tainan, including cycling all the way to Anping and walking along the boardwalk to the sea
We also got our little Yorkshire Terrier in the first few weeks of moving to Taiwan and have had so many memories with this little furball throughout the years. Raising a dog in Taiwan was amazing as the vet services were very affordable, there were plenty of dog parks, dog grooming services, cute accessories and clothing and doggy day care.
2) Study or Work while on the Working Holiday Visa
Apart from the travelling and cultural discovery that you get with the working holiday visa, you also get the opportunity to study and work in the country. This is especially helpful for those who want to actually take formal or informal classes to learn the local language or to learn a skill or take a course of interest. This aspect of the working holiday visa is also helpful so that you can actually work and earn an income while you live in that foreign country.
Regarding the study aspect, I actually took advantage of that opportunity and I took Mandarin Chinese classes two times a week while I lived in Taiwan. My Chinese tutor lived nearby in Tainan, so I would bike over to her house on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we’d have 1 and a half hour classes together. My Chinese did improve as a result. Now, if you’re planning to do the working holiday visa in Taiwan or another non-English-speaking country, then I highly recommend that you take language classes while you’re there. You will be able to learn cultural and linguistic nuances of the country.
Although on a more practical level, learning the language will help you be able to order food at a restaurant, ask questions to store clerks, reserve a hotel room, negotiate with your landlord and communicate with your new friends. Learning Chinese is especially important in Taiwan because not many people speak English very well, and for many who do speak English, their English may be broken.
Now, Fufu and I also had the opportunity to work in Taiwan. In fact, many of my Aussie friends and acquaintances who do the working holiday visa in the United Kingdom opt to actually work in order to earn their income. Some of my friends have worked in the UK on the working holiday visa as secretaries, waiters and bar tenders, social workers and other professions.
Apart from the money, the advantage that you could get from getting a job while on the working holiday visa is that you would make new local friends, and you would learn so much about the work ethic and business culture of the country. When we lived in Taiwan, however, we didn’t need to apply for a job in Taiwan because the income from our online businesses was sufficient.
3) Make New Friends from a Different Country
The final reason why I think you should consider going on the working holiday visa is because you will make new friends, and that friendship may just change your life. In our case, when we first arrived in Taiwan, it was just us too, hanging out with each other. We would explore Tainan on our own together, and that was fun in itself. We actually thought it would be that way throughout our stay.
However, we were so surprised when we met and began hanging out with our first Taiwanese friend, Michelle. We met her originally as she worked for the real estate agency when we were trying to find our apartment. One day, she asked us if we wanted to be friends with her, and asked us to hang out. We were really surprised, and unsure about her motives.
It turned out we were just being paranoid, and after our first meet up with her at an Italian restaurant in Taiwan, we decided that actually, she was just a really nice and genuine person. She really embodied the Taiwanese hospitality, politeness and friendliness that we have come to associate with Taiwan, and Tainan specifically.
After hanging out with her some more times, and then being introduced to her friendship group and then boyfriend, we grew even closer as friends. We went to E-Dai, a Taiwanese theme park together. We went clubbing together and got really drunk on the bottomless, all-you-can-drink alcohol that some Taiwanese clubs offer. We also had a unique Christmas party at her house and exchanged gifts, Taiwanese-kris-kringle style!
I would say that our friendship with Michelle and her friends really was the highlight of our entire trip and working holiday experience in Taiwan. We have been friends for years now, even after we left Taiwan. We are so close that in fact, she and our other Taiwanese friend, Dan Dan, came to our wedding in Thailand. We also went back to Tainan in Taiwan when Michelle got married to her long-time boyfriend, James.
In terms of making friends and building new relationships, we actually also got Buckwheat during our time in Taiwan. We got him from a cute, little pet shop in Anping. I remember picking him up and choosing him. He was the size of my palm back then. We got Buckwheat after Fufu had been urging us to get a dog together, since we had been travelling together for a while now, and she wanted to have a little one. With Buckwheat in our lives in Taiwan, we then explored much of Tainan with him, with our daily walks and biking adventures with him around town.
What’s Next? How Can You Apply for the Working Holiday Visa?
If this post has inspired you to want to go on a working holiday visa trip, then here’s some steps to guide you on what to do next:
1. Check to see if your country is one of the countries that is part of the Working Holiday Visa program. (You can check out the list of countries that I listed above, and if your home country is there, then you will be likely to be eligible)
2. Decide which target country on the Working Holiday Visa countries list that you want to live in, work in, and study
3. Check to see the criteria working holiday visa criteria for that specific country.
For example, if you want to do the working holiday in Taiwan, go to Google and type in: “working holiday visa Taiwan”. If you want to do the working holiday in the United Kingdom, go to Google and type in: “working holiday visa United Kingdom”.
Or, you can check the webpage of the relevant embassy or consulate in your country. For example, if you want to do the working holiday in Taiwan, and you are Australian, then go to Google and type in: “Taiwan embassy in Australia working holiday visa”
Once you find the relevant working holiday visa requirements, read through them.
4. Be sure that you fit the appropriate age range in accordance to the working holiday visa requirements of your target country. Different countries have varying minimum and maximum limits. For example, some countries allow you to go on the working holiday visa up to 35 years of age, while others have a maximum of 30 years of age.
5. Ensure that you fit within the specific requirements of your target country. Some countries, for instance, require that you show proof of a certain amount of money in your bank account, or proof that you have travel health insurance, or proof that you are in good health by your doctor. Some even require that you provide x-rays or blood check as proof of your health.
6. Go to the relevant embassy or consulate of the target country, and send in your working holiday visa application!
If you are worried about feeling lonely or worried about doing it on your own, why not consider asking a friend to also join you on they working holiday adventure. Fufu and I did the working holiday together, and we know some other friends who did the working holiday visa together to go to the United Kingdom.
Good luck! You will not regret going on the working holiday visa. It will change your life.