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Have Working Holiday Visa, will travel
Hongkongers love the Working Holiday Scheme, here's how to jump on this bandwagon
When Hong Kong started the Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) a decade ago, some people joked that it is just a way for countries to swap unemployed youths.
The scheme allows people between the ages 18 and 30 from Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Japan, Canada and Korea to travel and work in the scheme's participating countries.
Participants of the scheme get to live in the country of choice for 12 months and take on short-term employment. The jobs they can find are limited mostly by their fluency in the local language, but many people value the year abroad as a way to experience more of the world.
When the 2008 financial tsunami hit, many young people in Hong Kong decided to leave the city and try their luck abroad using the WHS, finding new career paths and new lives.
But why wait for another economic crisis to hit before trying the WHS? Here is what each country has to offer.
See more details at whs.esdlife.com.
Australia, for improv travelers
If you failed to apply for other countries' Working Holiday Visa, take Australia. Without visa quota restrictions, Australia is a good choice for those with a spontaneous spirit.
If working in farms and factories seems too trivial for you, try contributing in the rebuilding of Australia. Earlier this year, Queensland was hit by one of the most devastating floods of the century, now the state is trying to reconstruct the damaged buildings.
If you are strong, take a short construction course in Hong Kong or Australia and join the rebuilding force.
The Australian Embassy is open for Working Holiday Visa applications all year round and there are no quota restrictions. You have to provide financial proof of a deposit of about AU$5,000 in your bank account. During your one-year stay, you are not allowed to work for the same employee for more than six months or to take a language course longer than four months.
New Zealand, for fruit-lovers
Agriculture is the main industry in New Zealand. Yet, the Kiwis don't like to do the seasonal, low-paid work of fruit-picking. So, they need you to be the cheap labor.
If you would like to find a job at a fruit farm remember to find out when the harvesting period for your favorite fruit is. For example, kiwi ripens from April to June and the farm would start hiring a few months ahead.
The Internet is a good tool for job-hunting but it is not the only way. Some people just call the telephone number on shopping bags and ask for jobs.
Applications can be sent in beginning on April 1 each year. The 200 visas are given on a first-come-first-serve basis. You have to provide financial proof of a deposit of about NZ$4,200 and pay an application fee of HK$720. During your one-year stay, you are not allowed to work for the same employee for more than three months or to take a course longer than three months.
Japan, land of sincerity
The Japanese Embassy puts the most importance on a WHS applicant's Letter of Reason, which states their intentions for travelling and working in Japan.
Stuff like "I want to understand Japanese culture and learn the Japanese language" are too generic. Try to think of specific goals for your time in Japan, such as travelling around Honshu for one year and participating in every traditional festival. Detailed and attainable goals like these will make you stand out.
You have to have a minimum of ¥200,000 in the bank to apply. Japan accepts applications during two seasons a year. The first season in 2011 is from July 4 to 15, the second is October 3 to 14. Each time 125 visas are granted. All applications will be reviewed, regardless of which order they were received.
South Korea, watch your Korean soaps
Speaking Korean is essential to making it in Korea. Going to places like Japan, us Chinese can figure out a signpost or two by reading the kanji characters, but in Korea we don't even have that advantage.
Besides, to get a job in Korea you have to have at least Level Two proficiency in the Korean language -- there are six levels in total. Even with Level Two, it is difficult to find non-manual labor employment.
If you speak fluent Mandarin or English, you can try your luck finding a job at hotels or youth hostels that require multilingual staff.
The Korean Embassy accepts applications for WHS starting on January 1 of each year. The 200 WHS visas are first-come-first-served.
Canada, be a good citizen
The Canadian Embassy requires a proof of no criminal record from the Hong Kong Police for all WHS applicants. This takes about a month to process, so plan ahead.
The embassy also warns that applicants should make good use of their website for communication and not send emails or make telephone calls to inquire about the application. Don't call them, they'll contact you.
Applications can be sent starting March 1 of every year. The 200 visas are granted on a first-come-first-serve basis.
You must have CND$2,500 in the bank to apply for a working holiday visa in Canada and requires a visa processing fee of HK$1,100 that is refunded if you don't get the visa.
Germany, best to start with
Germany is a great place to start your big European trip, if you know enough German.
The living standards are high while the costs are low in Germany, especially when compared to other popular European countries.
However, as is the case with Korea, it is hard for a non-German speakers to find a job in Germany other than working in the some Chinese restaurants. You should have at least an intermediate level of German before going, or take a German course when you get there.
Otherwise, impress the German boss by out-debating them in beer drinking. You may stand a chance then.
Application period opens from July 1 every year and 100 visas are given out. You have to provide financial proof of a deposit of about €2,000 in your bank account and the application fee is about HK$700 that must be paid in cash. During your one-year stay, you are not allowed to work for the same employee for more than 3 months or to take a course longer than 6 months.
Ireland, beautiful and safe
Land of incredible landscapes, Ireland is a great place to find work on a farm. Out of all the WHS countries, Ireland is also most concerned with your insurance.
The country requires health insurance valid for one year that is specifically for coverage in Ireland. When I personally applied for WHS in Ireland in 2009, the embassy required that my insurance state "Ireland" and not the more general "global coverage."
Ireland accepts WHS applicants starting March 1 of each year and gives out 100 visas. Applicants need to have HK$25,000 in the bank and anyone staying longer than three months needs to apply for a Immigration Certification of Registration that costs €150.
During the 12-month stay, employment terms must last no longer than three months.
United Kingdom, Youth Mobility Scheme
The United Kingdom as a whole offers something slightly different than the Working Holiday Visa. It is the two-year-long Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) Visa for any BNO passport holder under 31 years old. Once a YMS visa is obtained, you are allowed to live and work in the UK for up to two years. Remember to make sure you have a loaded savings account for the forever high living costs, plus chance of unemployment in the UK.
Applicants to the scheme must show £1,600 in the bank and have a BNO passport.
Download the application form at www.ukvisas.gov.uk.