Is a Working Holiday feasible during a Pandemic?

Published 2021-07-07 13:46:37
Water photo created by -

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, many young people took a gap year to travel and work in exotic locations to inject some adventure into their lives before the serious business of "adulting" began. Countries like the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and Canada were among the top destinations that people looked at when considering a gap year to work abroad. But how has the pandemic affected this popular trend and what is the future of this "rite of passage"?


With Australia's borders closed to travellers to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the opportunity for a working holiday visa is no longer available at present.

However, you can still apply if you're feeling optimistic the borders will reopen soon because you have 12 months to activate the visa once it is approved. This means that you must enter Australia within 12 months, and once the visa is activated you have twelve months to live and work in the country.

Unfortunatelly, if you already have an approved visa and haven't used it yet but it expires during the lockdown, you will have to reapply and pay the visa fees if you still meet all the criteria.

The Australian Working Holiday Visa (visa subclass 417) is only available if you meet certain criteria and allows the visa holders to travel and work within Australia.

The eligibility requirements are:

  1. Age between 18 and 30 years (except if you're from Canada, France or Ireland the age limit is increased to 35 years old).
  2. You must hold a valid passport from a country that is eligible for this type of visa.
  3. You're not allowed to have dependents that will travel with you.
  4. You must be able to prove that you can support yourself while in Australia.

The cost of the visa is AUD 485 and the application process generally takes up to a month. At the moment, the Working Holiday Visa is not a priority for processing.

Working holiday makers play a vital role in the Australian economy and in the tourism industry so once the lockdown is eased, they will be actively encouraged to apply for the 417 visa again.

New Zealand

New Zealand is only issuing working holiday visas to people from certain quarantine-free countries who meet their criteria.
The quarantine-free countries are currently: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States of America.

The eligibility criteria for applying for a WHV are:

  1. Age between 18 and 30 years (for some select countries the age limit is increased to 35 years).
  2. Have proof of having enough money for a return ticket to your home country.
  3. Show that your primary activity in New Zealand is holiday, and working is the secondary activity.

The work visa is valid for twelve months for most countries except for people from Canada and the UK. People applying from these two countries can apply for a work visa that is valid for 23 months, provided they apply with a General Medical Certificate.


The Canadian government has a programme called the International Experience Canada (IEC) which facilitates young people to live and work in Canada. It caters to young professionals, students, etc. For example, if you fancy a skiing holiday, you can work as a ski instructor and enjoy the slopes then consider Canada.

Register your profile on the IEC website. You apply for the visa and get allocated to a pool of other applicants depending on various factors like nationality, whether your country is eligible as outlined on the IEC website, amongst others.

Another type of visa that will enable you to work and earn in Canada while you travel is to apply for an open work permit. This permit grants you the permission to:

  • Earn money while you travel.
  • Allows you to work in multiple locations.
  • Allows employment with more than one employer.
  • Apply for most jobs. However, certain restricted jobs require a medical exam first.

New Covid-related changes to the visa process include:

  • Having a valid offer of employment before entry to Canada.

General Eligibility Criteria

  1. You must be within the age limits as outlined for the working holiday visa available for your specific country.
  2. Any dependents you have are excluded from this visa; they may visit you but must apply for the appropriate visit visa.
  3. You must hold a valid passport.
  4. You must have a valid police clearance certificate.
  5. Have the relevant medical documents for some applicants.
  6. Biometric information.

Do your research to find out which type of visa you qualify for depending on your education level and the field you're in.

Canada has seen a drop in working holiday visa applications by almost 60% due to the pandemic. Hopefully, applications will increase once the pandemic and spread of the virus has been curbed to some extent.

The United Kingdom

Strict Covid-19 rules, lockdowns and a rapid vaccination rollout in the UK have seen infection rates reduced and a slow return to normal life as pubs and restaurants reopen in time for the summer.

Both the pandemic and Brexit have forced many working holiday makers and European tourists to return home, leaving a substantial void in the hospitality sector. This has created a need for more working holiday travellers under the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS, previously known as the Working Holiday Visa), according to The UK Pub Co.

So far, only travellers from New Zealand, Australia and Canada with travel exemptions can take these job opportunities in the UK. 

Eligibility criteria for the Youth Mobility Scheme

  1. Be between the ages of 18 and 30.
  2. Only available to a select list of countries. The visas are based on reciprocity, i.e. visas from those countries are available for UK citizens for the same purpose. Some of the countries on this list are: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc.
  3. This Tier 5 visa is available for 24 months only.
  4. You must show sufficient savings in a bank account that can support you for one month (about £2530).
  5. You cannot have dependents under 18 years of age.
  6. You are not eligible to apply if you have previously been granted this type of visa.
  7. The cost of the YMS Tier 5 visa is £244.

Share your experience, participate in the discussion and leave comments in our forum HERE.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest WhatsApp Addthis

Author: KashGo
Expat Mum in the Desert...

For other discussions, advice, question, point of view, get together, etc...: please use the forum.

More articles

- My Life Abroad -
A selection of expat stories

"A fun compulsive read!"
J. Matcham, Amazon

"I strongly advise people ready to live abroad to read this book!"
Patrice, Amazon