8 December 2011

Paid work abroad is a great option for a career break if you want to earn while you travel. There are lots of different options and lots to think about but here are 2 key points:

  1. It's easier the younger you are (because of visa restrictions)
  2. If you're on sabbatical you won't usually be allowed to do paid work (check with your employer if you're not sure)

What paid work can I do abroad?

It depends where you go and what qualifications and experience you have. Most people who do short-term work abroad tend to get similar temporary jobs that are available here - bar and restaurant work, office jobs, seasonal work in ski resorts or summer resorts.

If you have a TEFL qualification, you can teach English - to school children or to business people. See the TEFL section for more on this.

If you have an instructor qualification, in something like skiing, snowboarding, surfing or sailing, you can do seasonal work abroad. A Competent Crew certificate can also get you work on yachts around the world. See the Learn section for more on instructor courses.

Some people use their skills to do contract or consulting work abroad. This is particularly popular for people in IT.

Where can I do paid work abroad?

It is easy to do paid work in any EU country if you are an EU citizen - providing the jobs are there! If you're in a country for less than 3 months, you won't need a residence permit.

USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan all have working holiday visa schemes for British citizens, but there are restrictions, especially with regard to age (see restrictions for more information, below).

Generally, there is very little paid work available in developing countries, unless you have a TEFL certificate to teach English (read more about TEFL here). It is possible to do voluntary work where you receive an 'in-country wage' (which is enough to live on), but you usually have to make a long-term commitment to the project (generally 2 years, although 1 year placements are sometimes possible).

If you're interested in doing paid work in any other country, contact their embassy to find out about their work permit requirements. Click here for a list of embassies (external link).

If it is difficult for you to get a work permit for a particular country, you may consider trying to get a job with an international organisation (i.e. applying to offices here for a job overseas). You may also chose to work as a contractor if you have the skills and are able to find contracts before you leave.

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Why should I do paid work abroad?

Most career breakers choose to do paid work abroad to help fund their travels. It also can help you learn the language of another country, and give you valuable work experience.

What restrictions are there for working abroad?

The first and most obvious is whether or not you're allowed to work in a particular country.


  • You can apply for an H2B visa, which lets you do seasonal, temporary work. It's valid for a year (but may be extended).
  • The J1 visa will allow you to work, but you must be in a certified visitor exchange programme.
  • There are other visas available depending on what you want to do, and what you are able to do. BUNAC can help, or visit http://travel.state.gov.


  • If you're under 35, you can apply for Canada's working holiday visa, which is now called the Experience Canada Initiative.
  • You can work in Canada for up to a year, doing almost any job.
  • You must apply directly to the Canadian Foreign Affairs department.

Australia and New Zealand

  • These both have working holiday visa schemes, which are very popular with British gappers and career breakers.
  • You must be under 31.
  • In New Zealand you can apply for a 12-month or 23-month visa.
  • In Australia you can get a 12-month working holiday visa, and you can apply for a second one after that if you want.
  • For both, you must show evidence of 'sufficient funds' when entering the country.


  • Japan's working holiday scheme allows you to work there for up to a year.
  • You must be under 30 to apply.

EU countries

  • You don't need a permit to work in the EU
  • If you stay longer than 3 months, you may have to apply for a residence permit
  • You may also have to open a bank account in the country where you are working

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If you are planning to take a sabbatical from your job (i.e. your company is keeping your job open), be aware that your employer may specify that you can't do any paid work while you are on your career break. This applies whether you're on a paid or unpaid sabbatical. Companies will sometimes make exceptions if you are working for a charity.

Lastly, consider the availability of jobs in the country you want to go to. What sort of work are you prepared to do, and do you have the skills and experience? In places like ski resorts, there are a lot of jobs, but there are also a lot of applicants! If there's a shortage of your skills in your destination, you will be much better placed to find a job, especially if you are looking for longer-term work.

How do I go about it?