Expat Travel – How to travel like us

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For any of you who have been following us for a while, you will know that we love the freedom a Working Holiday Visa offers us. We have been travelling together since the start of our relationship 5 years ago and since then have lived and worked in Australia, Canada and New Zealand under the Working Holiday Scheme. Think about it, you move to a beautiful new country, get to explore said country and the nearby surrounding countries easily and cheaply. What we like to call ‘Expat Travel’ is a great way to see the world, because it means you have a base country for the duration of your visa and you can earn money while essentially “travelling”. As much as we love travelling long-term without a care in the world, there is no way we would be able to do that without having lived in and earned a good wage in countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand.  

A working holiday visa is a residence permit allowing travellers to undertake employment (and sometimes study) in the country issuing the visa to supplement their travel funds. For many young people, holding a working holiday visa enables them to experience living in a foreign country without undergoing the usual costly expenses of finding work sponsorship in advance or going on expensive university exchange programmes.  

Our vast experience traveling this way has brought me to writing this fact-filled piece. You know how passionate I am about travelling and I want to let you in on our ‘insider knowledge’ on this particular way of travelling. Expat travel it’s a thing.

Running along one of the many beautiful beaches in New Zealand
On the ski hills of Whistler

Here’s how we Expat Travel –

We decide on a country that we are both interested in and one that offers a Working Holiday Visa (from here on in referred to as a WHV), for example Canada. We decided on Canada as our second WHV destination when we were  living in Australia under their WHV scheme, we both knew that as much as we loved our ‘home’ of Sydney we were ready for a change and wanted to travel as much as our bank balances would allow. So, we started planning our departure from Australia a year out.

Decision made. Now, we would save our butts off because we weren’t going to move straight to Canada after leaving Australia, we would take a ‘Gap year’ to travel, spend all our savings then move to Canada get a job and replenish those savings again. Expat travel is a fantastic way to see the world, live, work and travel in one country then at the end of your WHV take a significant time off to backpack before moving onto your next WHV destination.

Luckily, for us (as mentioned above) we are from Ireland and England, both passports make it relatively easy to get a WHV. The WHV’s for us costs as follows: Australia is $440AUD, Canada is $250CAD and New Zealand is $208 NZD.

The snow outside our home in Whistler
Swimming at Cape Reinga, New Zealand

Now for the most important part of Expat Travel – getting the WHV’s for each country:


Perhaps, the most popular of the lot. I think everyone knows someone who’s done a WHV in Australia. This visa is called the Subclass 417 visa. It’s pretty easy to start the application process, you can start applying online here. The first step is to set up an IMMI account (see photo below) and the next page asks you to set some Security Questions and set a Password.

Et voila, IMMI account set-up. You then login to your IMMI account and start the application process for your WHV.  It takes about 15-20 minutes to fill out the application.

  • The visa costs $440 AUD. This does not cover other costs, such as the costs of health assessments, police certificates, or any other certificates or tests you may need. FYI – if you’re a Nurse or plan on working in Social Care or with children you will need to do a health assessment. Find out more about working as a Nurse in Australia here
  • It can take anywhere between 11 – 32 days to process the visa according to the official Australian Government website
  • Note – on this visa you can work for any one employer for a maximum of 6 months, there are exceptions to this rule however
  • Also be aware that at the application stage you will need to prove that you have “sufficient funds”. You must provide a bank statement as a proof you have enough money to support yourself in Australia (AUD 5,000). You may also be asked for this bank statement when you enter Australia so ensure you have a copy of a recent bank statement proving this upon entry.

If you’re looking for an easy entry into Expat Travel then I highly recommend Australia as a starting point. The visa is cheap, quick-to-get and relatively stress-free. The work-life balance in Australia is amazing, with an average of 5 weeks annual leave, 10 paid sick days and the pay is high. Australian employers will even pay your Pension for you (it’s called Superannuation in Australia), and at 9% of your salary that can add up to a lot of money. Which you can claim back when you leave. More on that in the next post.

It’s easy to find a job even a few days after arriving (especially if you sign up with a Recruitment Agency when you land). FYI – in order to work and get paid you need a Tax File Number or TFN, do this in your first few days (more info here) Rent is expensive and hard to come by especially in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Renting a room is the way to go to begin with, try – flatmates.com.au or gumtree

One of the best cities in the world (*photo from Daily Telegraph)
The Olympic Pool, North Sydney
Sunset on the Opera House (*photo from The Daily Telegraph)


If Australia is an “easy” visa to get, then Canada is the opposite. Beware, it’s a very time-consuming application process. However, It has changed since we applied back in 2014 and sounds like it’s a bigger pain in the ass. But, I promise it’s worth it in the end. It’s called the IEC Working Holiday Visa Program.  Now, settle in potential expat travellers because this is a long read.

Here’s how to be accepted to the IEC Working Holiday Visa Program –

  • You must be a citizen of one of these countries
  • Have a valid passport for the entire duration of your stay in Canada, so if your passport expires a year after entering Canada that’s only how long your visa will be for. Ensure you have at least 3 years left on your passport at the application stage
  • You must have a recent bank statement proving that you have  CAD$2,500, you will typically only be asked for this on landing in Canada
  • Note – you must have private health insurance for the entire length of your visa. I recommend True Traveller

Part one –

  • Complete the Come to Canada questionnaire.  If you meet the criteria, you’ll receive a personal reference code.
  • Enter this code to create your IEC account
  • Fill in your IEC profile.
  • Submit your profile and choose the IEC pool(s) you want to be in.
    • Then, it’s a case of waiting to be selected, as you’ll need to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) to continue the process. It’s a frustrating wait as the numbers in the pool can greatly exceed the number of permits available.
  • If you receive an ITA, you have 10 days start your application for a Working Holiday Visa in Canada.

Now, the actual application for a WHV commences:

  • As soon as you press the ‘Start Application’ button to formally accept the ITA, you’ll have 20 days to submit your work permit application and pay any relevant fees
  • Gather and upload all the documents (e.g. police or medical certificates) requested by IRCC. If you don’t have these immediately, you can upload proof that you’ve applied for a police cert or medical exam
  • Pay relevant fees. To get a Working Holiday Visa in Canada, it will be necessary to pay a participation fee of CAD$150, and an open work permit holder fee of CAD$100.
  • IRCC will assess your application and may request additional documents.
  • If your application is a success, a letter of introduction (LOI) will be sent to your account. Bring this with you on your journey to Canada as you’ll need to present this to an immigration officer at a Port of Entry (POE), such as an airport or border crossing. This is where you’re provided with a work permit.

In short, although the process for an IEC working Holiday Visa is a lengthy (and at times stressful process) it offers you 2 years to work in Canada up to the ripe old age of 35. You can work for the same employer for that entire time if you wish, and you don’t have to do regional or farm work to get your second year (like Australia). I personally recommend this visa for people who want to set up a ‘home base’ for a longer period of time. A lot of people stay past their WHV and opt for residency, it can be hard to leave Canada – the lifestyle is good and once you get a ‘good’ job it’s hard to leave it behind. BUT, the big downside for us was the measly 10 day annual leave and 0 paid sicks days (that was just the jobs we worked whilst there can’t speak for them all).

It took me a little longer to find a job in Vancouver than Sydney, but again I suggest signing up with a Recruitment Agency to get your foot in the door. The wages are lower here, averaging about $15CAD per hour for entry level positions but the cost of living is lower e.g groceries are cheap (however, chicken and cheese are extortionate in British Columbia). Rent too is a little more reasonable than Australia, we found ours by walking around the area we wanted to live in (Westend in Vancouver) and if an apartment block has an apartment available to rent they will display it on a board outside together with a number to call. Other good websites for renting are Padmappeand Craigslist. 

As you may already know, we moved to the Ski Resort of Whistler after 6 months in Vancouver and that’s a whole other ball game for rent. Read more about our life in Whistler here

Typical Canadian backdrop
The beautiful city of Vancouver
Forever my favourite photo from Canada

New Zealand

Working holiday visas to New Zealand are available if you’re in the 18-30 age bracket, but 18-35 in a select few countries. They let you travel and work in New Zealand for up to 12 months, or 23 months if you’re from the UK or Canada. You need to have a return ticket, or enough money to pay for one, and be coming mainly to holiday, with work being a secondary intention.

First step, you need to create an account on the New Zealand Immigration website, link here And see photo below for what this page will look like:

  • Now, once you’ve created your account go back to the Apply Online page. You must complete all 4 tabs – Personal, Health, Character and Working Holiday Specific. When all tabs show a tick, you are good to go. Hit “submit”.
  • Review the legal statements, tick all the boxes that apply and hit “submit”.
  • You are now on the Confirmation Page. On this page you will be invited to pay for your application. Note – your application will not be processed until your payment is cleared. The next page will display your fee (usually NZ$208), click on “secure payment site” in the text.
  • Et voila, with this all done you wait. It took only a few days for an email to appear in my inbox from Immigration New Zealand stating that my WHV has been improved. Note – to print your visa off you must login to your Immigration New Zealand account

Note – You need to have at least NZ $4,200 to live on during your stay. So, print off a recent bank statement and have this when you land at the airport in New Zealand.

The WHV to New Zealand is probably the least difficult and least time-consuming visa of the lot. It was a very quick process for us, literally within 4 days of applying we had our WHV’s. It was very easy for us to set our lives up here in New Zealand – I found a job pretty much right away (it was a job I had my eye on since we first applied for the WHV and I was lucky enough to get it). Paul on the other hand struggled to find a job in construction, as the town we are living in currently is quite small.

Rent here is a lot cheaper than Australia and Canada (however, my only experience of renting here is in the Bay of Islands and I’m aware that rent in cities like Auckland and Wellington can be on par with Australia). You search for rental properties direct with the rental agencies such as Harcourts and LJ Hooker. Beware – you do have to pay a letting fee here however, you can rent month-to-month which is a godsend for expat travellers.

New Zealand is similar to Australia in that you get an average of 5 weeks annual vacation and 10 days paid sick leave. The work/life balance is amazing and the pay is decent (although not as high as Sydney). Read more about our recent move to New Zealand here

Cape Reinga, New Zealand
Walking the beach in Omapere, New Zealand

In summary…

So, there you have it our life of Expat Travel so far. And honestly, I can’t recommend it enough – we’ve lived and worked in 3 beautiful countries together and earned enough money to travel to over 30 countries. We’ve gained invaluable work and life experience and met so many amazing friends along the way. It’s an easy, relatively stress-free way to travel and now that we’ve gone through all the ‘most popular’ WHV’s who knows what our next move will be. All we know is that Expat Travel works perfectly for the kind of lifestyle we want and it may work perfectly for you too. Expat travel it’s a thing. A good thing.

Any questions at all about the WHV system, expat travel in general or anything else please COMMENT below.


17 Thoughts to “Expat Travel – How to travel like us”

  1. The WHV has been great for me here in NZ! Luckily from the UK you guys have options to extend and option to apply for Canada. In the US, we’re a bit more restricted – but I still recommend it to everyone!

  2. That is such a great information. WHV really exists- this is a news to me 🙂 I am actually planning for Australia and was in the process to apply for visa- now I will apply WHV!

  3. Very informative breakdown! I can’t do a whv myself, but I thought my son will at some point! They’re definitely a great way to experience life in a location!

  4. Sarah

    What an incredible way to see the world. I’m too old now but wish I had know about these opportunities earlier in life. Great tips and guide!

  5. I absolutely love this post. It’s so informative. I did a working holiday in America and I have to say it’s one of the best ways to travel.

  6. I love the idea of a holiday working visa and honestly am thinking about doing this myself. This is an awesome post with some great tips!

  7. Great post! I was just in Canada talking to a woman about working and holiday visas. She had lived/worked in Australia and said that it was a bit tough to get that visa but had just moved to Vancouver and that process was much easier.

  8. Before I read this post, I had no idea this was a thing…now I feel like I know ALL about it. Such great, in-depth info! Wish I would’ve done this before having children…there’s always retirement time, right?

  9. Awesome! What a great way to see the world. I got my IEC for Canada last year, but have since been travelling and now we only have a year left. Eeek. Not sure employers will want to employ us now, but we’re giving it another go! Nicky from Travelinteresting.com

  10. Would love to be a travel blogger. Someday!

  11. This is great information! I currently live in the UK on a spousal visa, but am so sad to head back after being here for almost 3 years. Onto the next adventure though!

  12. A lot of great information here and full of important need-to-knows for traveling and working in a new country. This would be a great way to see the world. If I didn’t have a dog, I’d totally be up for this lifestyle.

  13. Megan Jerrard

    This is fabulous information for obtaining a work holiday visa, my husband is from America, and I’m from Australia, so he came to spend 12 months in Aus before we got married on a WHV. The only thing which sucks about the Australian visa is the age limit on it – I guess they think that people who are older than 40 have a higher chance of wanting to settle down and not leave! I would love to go for a year in Canada at some stage, but we’ll wait until my husband gets his Aus citizenship and then think about spending some time away 🙂

  14. Canada and NewZealand are both amazing and thanks for sharing your stories with us. There are a lot of useful information for anyone who is interested or considering going on a working holiday, too! These two countries would both be great choices ~ @ knycx.journeying

  15. Wonderful travel tips for expats to be. The WHV, working holiday visa, process is outlined nicely here for Canada, Australia, and NZ, cool countries I would love to spend a lot of time in. Nice to know that I would have to provide evidence of having a certain bank account balance before arriving.

  16. Super useful rundown. Wish I’d done this when I was younger.

  17. Em

    I wish I had heard that Working Holiday Visas were a thing before I was 29!

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