In June 2007, I graduated from college and decided there wasn’t much reason to stay. With an economy already in decline and no bites from any employers, I told myself I would leave the US before September 1, 2007. I left mid-August and I’ve been on the road ever since. Having ran the gamut of visa applications, I’ve learned a few things – most importantly that there are a lot of options out there for people who want to get out and see the world.
Working Holidays ““ Many developed countries have reciprocal agreements that allow young people between the ages of 20-30 to travel and work in another country for up to 12 months. Unfortunately, the US does not have a working holiday program which means very few countries allow Americans to participate. The few countries that do allow Americans to travel and work include Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Canada (which has a special program called SWAP).
Working Holiday visas offer a great way to travel and not go broke, as jobs for backpackers aren’t that hard to find. Try looking on hostel job boards for wanted ads or try GumTree (UK) or Craigslist. You may be able to find work through mainstream job search sights, though these positions are far and few between. In Australia and New Zealand, contacting a recruiter can help you find work fast. However, don’t count on beefing up your resume by taking a working holiday. Some countries limit the kinds of work you can engage in as well as your length of employment by any one employer – neither of which will help you in the long run. If you want to go abroad and get some relevant work experience, you may need to find another way.
Work Visas ““ There are a few different kinds of work visas: sponsored and skills-based visas. Sponsored visas allow you to enter a country and work indefinitely with one specific employer who will recruit you, organize the visa, pay for the visa, and verify your earning potential (i.e., financial stability) to immigration. It’s possible to enter a country on a working holiday visa and later secure a sponsored visa through your employer, however, this is not a common result. As work sponsored visas are expensive, require governmental hoop-jumping, and backpackers are typically under-skilled, most employers will not extend sponsored visas to working holiday visa holders. However, if you have a skill that is in high demand, especially in health care, you may be still able to find work.
Skills-based visas are slightly different. While a sponsored visa ties you to your job (i.e., if you lose your job, you have to leave the country), skilled worker visas provide you a pathway to residency and/or citizenship because the skill you have is in high demand. Those skills could be anything from nursing to hair dressing. Visit the immigration website of the country you wish to live in to find out more about what options are available to you. Your odds of securing either of these work visas increase if you’re willing to travel to remote regions where attracting trained professionals is difficult (not to mention the visa process may be faster due to demand).
Student Visas ““ So, you have no money, you have no education, and you have no skills. How in the hell do you get overseas? As a student, of course! Most student visas allow you to work and study at the same time (though some, like student visas in Australia, may restrict the amount of hours you’re allowed to work) which can help pay your way. And if you didn’t know it (hold onto your seat) tuition in other countries is typically less than tuition in America. In fact, sometimes it’s free. Schools in the following countries will allow you to study for less or no cost at all: Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Malta, Mauritius, Morocco, Norway, Scotland, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Kenya, and Peru. Very importantly, many international universities participate in the US federal loan program, which means you can get Stafford loans while you study overseas. To find out which schools participate, visit the GradPlus loan program page or visit the Stafford loan program page for a list of schools you can attend for undergraduate degrees.
Partner/Marriage Visas ““ You’re in love! Isn’t it wonderful? But you’re from different countries and you want to stay together – how do you make it happen? Visas based on your relationship are a serious matter and can be a lot of work. I caution you: don’t enter into a relationship solely for the purpose of immigrating. Likewise, be sure you really love someone infinitely because obtaining a partner/marriage visa is hard work.
Essentially, visas of this nature allow you as an individual to sponsor another person on the basis of your mutual love and enduring relationship. In this arrangement, you (as the sponsor) will have to prove that you can meet all the emotional and financial needs of your husband/wife in the new country over a period of time (usually one to two years). Essentially, your foreign love becomes your dependent. If you are the applicant though – the one immigrating – your role in the application is to prove that: 1. You are not a criminal. 2. You can speak a reasonable amount of the native language in the country you are moving to. 3. Your values are similar to the country you are moving to. 4. You are not applying just so you can get a visa. Proving these things takes a lot of work and will involve immigration digging deep into the details of your past and your current relationship. For more information on the specifics, the costs, and the process of applying for partner/marriage visas, visit the immigration website of the country you wish to move to.
Family Visas ““ Like partner or marriage visas, this kind of visa will make you the dependent of a family member who will bear all legal responsibility for your financial needs in your new country. However, what makes this different is that you must have a family member sponsor you. Every country is different though – some require that the family member be an immediate family member while others will allow an aunt or an uncle to sponsor you. For more specific information, visit the immigration website of the country you wish to move to.
Right of Return ““ What if you could skip the whole visa thing and just become a citizen? Right of Return might be your last option but it’s a good one. “Right of Return” is an area of international law relating to the right of people to return to their homelands based on their ethnic heritage. Some countries have used instituted repatriation programs of this nature to right decreasing population numbers, re-populate ethnic groups after war or genocide, and to provide a home for displaced people of a certain heritage or origin (i.e., Israel). Recently, my fiancÃ© used exercised his right of return to gain Irish citizenship because his biological grandfather was Irish, which by extension means he also has EU citizenship, giving us the right to live and work in most of Europe. Even if the country of your heritage doesn’t offer a right of return program, you may be surprised to find special visas for people of your specific ethnicity (South Korea is one). For more information on which countries have right of return programs, visit Wikipedia for a fairly comprehensive list.