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The Ultimate Guide to Your First Steps Abroad With a Working Holiday Visa

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Are you planning a Working Holiday Visa adventure but feeling a bit uncertain about the initial steps when you arrive at your destination? You’re probably thinking: How am I gonna get paid overseas, open a bank account, or find a place to stay? Cast your worries aside—it’s time for the adventure of a lifetime, you got this!

As a reminder, if you’re a Canadian aged 18 to 35, you can travel and work in more than 30 countries thanks to International Experience Canada. The Working Holiday Visa allows you to stay in your chosen destination for up to one or even two years, participating in lawful employment and earning income to extend your adventure. Discover all the details here!

Get ready for firsthand tips from experienced travellers with the Working Holiday Visa. Athena, a Montreal native, initially intended to spend just two years in Scotland on a Working Holiday Visa but found herself extending her stay to four years. Drew, a digital nomad from Toronto, discovered his passion for travel during a year-long adventure in Taiwan on a Working Holiday Visa. 

Let’s find out their insights and advice on seamlessly settling down in a foreign country.

© Athena Eleni / Nomad Junkies

What are some important tasks before moving to your Working Holiday Visa destination?

You don’t have to tackle a million things before you go—just make sure you’re honing in on these essential items, and you’ll be free to start savouring your experience abroad! 

  • Prioritize aligning with embassy requirements for the Working Holiday Visa application and use checklists provided by International Experience Canada, to methodically organize required documents.
  • Obtain an International Driver’s Permit for increased freedom during travel.
  • Consider essential documents, such as biometrics, for specific visa applications; e.g., the U.K. requires hard copies submitted in person.
  • Ensure compliance with financial requirements, including a certified bank statement with a minimum balance for visa approval.
  • Verify passport validity, as some countries have specific requirements, and consider renewing it if it is nearing expiration or running out of pages.
  • Be aware of the association between visa and passport numbers, emphasizing the need for a valid passport during the entire visa duration.
  • Check passport pages for available space, as some countries require full blank pages for entry stamps.

Basically, just double-check that your passport is in top-notch shape—it’s the main thing.

If there aren’t enough empty pages, you might need a new one (and that can take time).

Get your Working Holiday Visa now!

What emotions should one anticipate when arriving at their Working Holiday Visa destination?

It can be an emotional rollercoaster for sure! Embarking on a journey to a new country with a Working Holiday Visa is a thrilling adventure. You can expect some ups and downs, but it is all worth it! 

For example, Drew’s arrival in Taiwan was a mix of overwhelming emotions marked by disorientation and confusion because of the unfamiliar culture and language. Despite a rocky start, Drew’s excitement for the adventure eventually overshadowed these worries. He got busy making friends and building his own little support squad.

This tip of establishing connections before arrival is key in easing the transition into a new culture. 

One practical way to implement this is by joining expat Facebook groups related to your destination. You can easily find these groups by searching on Facebook using terms like “City or Country + expat.” 

In the case of Athena, it was pretty different. Her experience moving to the U.K. was characterized by a sense of safety and preparedness. With prior visits to Edinburgh and connections through a friend, Athena felt more grounded. She felt that it was because she did a lot of preparation, including job interviews and building a professional network.

Trust yourself that you’ll be able to adapt and remember that feeling diverse emotions is normal when moving to a new country.

© Drew Joseph Sisera / Nomad Junkies

What are some things you can do to make yourself comfortable in your new surroundings?

You’ll miss home at one point, but that does not mean you can’t find ways to settle in smoothly.

Here are some ideas for a seamless transition to your new home abroad.

Secure a temporary nest

If you don’t know where you’ll stay in the long run, at least book the first few days somewhere nice and easy. For instance, Athena was navigating the competitive housing market in the U.K., so she opted for an Airbnb for the initial three weeks.

This transitional space not only allowed her time to find a permanent residence but also provided her insights from local hosts about the area.

Build your support network

Knowing people is essential! Proactively building a support network before arrival is something you need to focus on to foster a sense of belonging to a new community.

Organize your work arrangements

Having a job lined up can help you get comfortable quickly in your new life overseas.

Athena’s example highlights how securing employment provides not just income but also a structured routine, contributing to a feeling of stability in a new environment.

Explore local amenities

Go after what you like! If you’re a foodie like Athena, explore the local grocery stores to find familiar tastes.

Understanding the local amenities will not only satisfy your daily needs but also add a touch of familiarity, making the transition more seamless.

Get your Working Holiday Visa now!

How can you find accommodation for your Working Holiday Visa?

Moving abroad for a few months can be a significant adjustment. Finding accommodation for your Working Holiday Visa can be a crucial and sometimes challenging aspect of the process.

Based on the experience of Athena and Drew, here are some strategies you can try:

Using online platforms

Utilize websites like SpareRoom (for the U.K.) or local platforms that offer room-sharing situations.

For example, SpareRoom in the U.K. facilitated communication with potential flatmates.

Attending in-person interviews

When seeking shared living spaces, go for platforms where you can message potential flatmates and attend in-person interviews.

You’ll live with these folks every day, so you’d better meet them in-person first. This allows both parties to assess compatibility based on lifestyle and preferences. 

Networking

Engage with expat communities and networks.

In the case of Taiwan, where the infrastructure might not be as straightforward, reaching out to expat Facebook groups is a must. 

Getting local assistance

Seek assistance from individuals or services that specialize in connecting foreigners with local accommodation and employment opportunities.

Some organizations specialize in acting as intermediaries, helping with apartment searches and job placements.

Avoiding scams

Be really cautious to avoid potential scams! Always insist on seeing the accommodation before making any payments.

Video calls or virtual tours, as done in Taiwan, can be instrumental in ensuring that the place meets your expectations and is legitimate.

Overcoming bureaucratic challenges

In some countries, there is a lot of paperwork and steps to sign a long-term accommodation. Be prepared for bureaucratic challenges!

To overcome the accommodation stress, craft a short-term plan, and give yourself some time after arriving to figure out the rest.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people use their Working Holiday Visa and manage to find accommodation—you’ll be no exception.

© Drew Joseph Sisera / Nomad Junkies

How can you open a foreign bank account to receive payments from your employer during your Working Holiday Visa?

You’ll need to open a foreign bank account if you plan to work abroad.

This is how you’ll receive your paycheck from your employer during a Working Holiday Visa. The requirements may vary by country.

Address requirement

Usually, you’ll need an address as a requirement to open a bank account. Ask your Airbnb or hostel if you can use their address for the initial setup of the bank account, with the option to change it later. Using services like Brit Bound in the U.K. may help navigate this catch-22 situation.

Navigating administrative hurdles

Arm yourself with patience! Opening a bank account during a Working Holiday Visa can be hindered by bureaucratic hurdles.

In Taiwan, for example, navigating unfamiliar visa categories can necessitate multiple attempts and employer intervention.

Consider international credit cards

To overcome limitations on local debit cards, consider applying for an international credit card to give you more flexibility for cross-border transactions. 

Alternative solutions like Wise (formerly TransferWise)

In response to traditional banking challenges, alternative solutions like Wise offer international cards and the ability to hold bank accounts in different currencies. 

Get your Working Holiday Visa now!

Should you obtain an international driver’s license before embarking on your Working Holiday Visa?

If you have a Canadian driver’s license, you should definitely get your international driver’s license before leaving.

You may or may not use it, but at least you’ll have the option! 

For example, Drew initially considered driving, having prepared an international driving permit. But, witnessing Taiwan’s road conditions and scooter-centric culture prompted a shift. Opting for trains, buses, and occasional Ubers, Drew found these modes more accessible and safer. 

In Scotland, Athena’s preference for walking clashed with the long commute to work. Eventually, she bought a car, overcoming the challenges of purchasing one without credit and adjusting to driving on the opposite side. Her advice for driving on the other side: the driver is always in the middle of the road.

Here is some advice to keep in mind:

Country-specific regulations

Research the driving regulations of your host country. Some, like the UK, may recognize certain foreign licenses without needing an international driver’s license.

Assess local conditions

When you first get to your destination, pay attention to the road infrastructure, local driving habits, and public transportation options to decide if you really want to drive there. 

Time considerations 

Athena’s journey emphasizes the time factor. While an international driver’s license might be convenient for a short stay, it’s essential to check the duration for which it remains valid in your host country.

Stay open to alternatives

Be flexible in your transportation choices. You don’t have to force yourself to drive. Public transportation, rideshare services, and even scooters can offer convenient and cost-effective options in certain locations.

© Athena Eleni / Nomad Junkies

What can you do to make friends during your Working Holiday experience?

Making friends is essential to overcome the blues of being away from home for a long time.

Here are some strategies based on real experiences to make new connections:

Facebook groups 

Joining nationality-specific groups like “Canadians in the U.K.” or “Canadians in Scotland” can connect you with locals or fellow expats.

These groups often organize meetups and events.

Expatriate events

Attend events organized by expat communities or international bars. In places like Edinburgh, where the expat population is substantial, you can easily find gatherings to meet like-minded individuals.

Bumble BFF

Download apps like Bumble BFF to connect with people looking for friends.

It’s not just for dating; many have successfully used it to build friendships.

Joining sports teams

Consider joining local sports teams or leagues. This not only provides a regular activity but also introduces you to a community of individuals sharing similar interests.

Networking before arrival

Engage in online networking before arriving at your destination. Joining social media apps like Meetup, Tinder, or Bumble BFF can help establish connections in advance.

Explore local events

Stay informed about local events through platforms like Facebook.

Attend gatherings, parties, or even raves as Athena did.Don’t hesitate to reach out to organizers or fellow attendees for a memorable experience.

Remember, saying “yes” to various opportunities and keeping an open mind can lead to unexpected and fulfilling friendships!

© Athena Eleni / Nomad Junkies

How can you maintain communication with your family and loved ones during your Working Holiday experience?

Staying connected with family and friends during a Working Holiday Visa is crucial for emotional well-being. 

Exploring communication options

Get a local SIM card, eSIM, or an alternative networking solution, but make sure you have a reliable means of contact and that you are reachable.

Consolidating communication

Juggling with different time zones is an art! You’ll get good at it.

If you don’t feel like messaging every single person in your entourage every day, create group chats for friends and family.

This will streamline updates, minimizing the need for individual messages and helping to bridge the distance.

Seize the opportunity, and get your Working Holiday Visa now through International Experience Canada.

Get ready to soar into the thrill of your Working Holiday Visa experience, embracing the joyous ride of new emotions, and effortlessly settling into the warmth of your vibrant, overseas paradise!

Get your Working Holiday Visa now!

It’s never too early to plan the experience of a lifetime with a Working Holiday Visa!

Promo Codes

  • HOSTELS: If you’re backpacking in Canada (in Ontario or Quebec), don’t forget to use the promo code “NOMADJUNKIES” when booking a stay at Saintlo Hostels. You’ll receive a 10% discount on your reservation, allowing you to save money for extending your trip!
  • TRAVEL INSURANCE: If you’re looking for the best travel insurance for your Working Holiday Visa program, take a look at soNomad, the most affordable travel insurance in Canada. 
Emilie Robichaud
Emilie Robichaud
Je suis accro au mode de vie nomade! J’ai quitté ma zone de confort pour voyager à temps plein. Mon tour du monde sans fin compte plus de 71 pays et ça continue! Le voyage, c'est un style de vie et un état d'esprit!
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