Work and Travel in Asia: The Best Working Holiday Visas for British Citizen

Every year, hundreds of young people travel to countries as distant as Canada, Denmark and Japan for an open-ended trip known as a working holiday. These ‘work and travel’ experiences, which are just starting to catch on in the UK, allow students to visit a country for longer than the average tourist while they gain valuable work experience.

For British students and young people in general, working holidays constitute a wonderful opportunity to take on short-term jobs and explore a culture in-depth without using their savings.

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In this article, we will introduce the best working holiday schemes for British citizens who want to have an adventure, make friends, and try new experiences in Asian countries.

Hong Kong

If you’ve ever travelled to Hong Kong, you know why two weeks are not enough to discover its many delights. Home to some of the best theme parks and attractions in the world, Hong Kong combines entertainment with traditional tours and magnificent islands to provide one of the most eclectic destinations in the world.

The Hong Kong Working Holiday Scheme was created in 2009 by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to grant young people an opportunity to obtain first-hand professional experience in a foreign country to broaden their personal and social horizons.

The Scheme’s main objective is to facilitate cultural exchanges between the host country and its partner economies, thus enhancing international cooperation, promoting tourism, and strengthening bonds between countries. Since this is a cultural exchange program, participants under the scheme are expected to see employment as an incidental part of the experience, rather than a way to save money. While, in practice, it is possible to find full-time employment, the main purpose of the scheme is to help young people their resilience, self-confidence, and social skills.

The main areas where British citizens can work in Hong Kong are the Construction, Catering and Retail industries, as well as the Elderly Care & Rehabilitation Services Sector.

Eligibility

Are you a British citizen and you want to spend your summer working abroad?  See if you meet the eligibility criteria to be granted a working holiday visa to live and work in Hong Kong.

  • You are aged between 18 and 30.
  • Your main stimulus is personal development
  • You have a valid UK passport
  • You reside in the UK or in a partner economy
  • You can prove that you have sufficient money for your proposed stay
  • You hold a return air ticket or have the fund to purchase one.
  • You agree to take out healthcare and liability insurance.

How to Apply

If you want to apply for a working holiday in Hong Kong, all you have to do is fill out the application form ID(E)940 which is available online at the website of the Immigration Department of the HKSAR.

Once you have completed your application, you have to submit it by post along with the necessary supporting documents to the Immigration Department of the HKSAR.

Visit the website of the Immigration Department of the HKSAR to obtain detailed information or submit an inquiry about other application methods.

Japan

The reasons to visit Japan are endless. Whether you want to explore Japanese history and traditions, indulge in its wonderful cuisine, or enjoy a ride on the luxurious Shinkansen trains, a stay in Japan promises a magical time for all types of travellers. Known for its impressive temples and castles, incredibly polite and friendly people, and a vast expense of forested mountains, it’s easy to see why Japan is gaining popularity among British travellers every year.

Thanks to an agreement between the governments of both Japan and the United Kingdom, Japan introduced the "Working Holiday Scheme" for British citizens in 2001, which has increased opportunities for students to experience the Japanese culture in the flesh while gaining professional and inter-personal skills. Under the Working Holiday Scheme, an annual quota of 1000 British citizens can stay in Japan for up to twelve months every year, and take up short-term employment to supplement their travel funds.

This programme, however, is not designed for people who mainly intend to work. The applicant's main purpose of stay should be to engage in a cultural exchange experience in Japan. Furthermore, applicants are strictly forbidden to work at places that “affect public morals” such as cabarets, nightclubs and so on.

Eligibility

The Japanese Working Holiday Visa, which is valid for one year from the date of approval, will be issued to applicants who satisfy the following conditions:

  • You are a British citizen who resides in the UK
  • You intend to stay in Japan for no more than one year.
  • You are aged between 18 and 30 at the time of application.
  • You are not accompanied by children
  • You are not accompanied by spouses or partners unless they also have a visa.
  • You hold a valid passport
  • You have a return ticket or can show that you have enough funds to buy one.
  • You have sufficient funds for your maintenance.
  • You haven’t previously been granted a Working Holiday Visa
  • You are in good health

How to Apply

Unlike the Hong Kong Working Holiday Visa, applications for the Japanese permit must be made in person at the nearest consular mission of the Government of Japan in the United Kingdom. For example, if you live in Scotland or the North of England, you must apply to the Consulate-General of Japan in Edinburgh.

When applying for a work and holiday visa to work abroad in Japan, applicants can expect to be interviewed by a government officer before their application is considered.

South Korea

South Korea is such a rich destination that it’s easy to see why someone would want to spend a longer time there. One of the most industrially advanced countries in the world, it is the ideal destination for both city lovers and those seeking quiet fishing villages AND a mecca for K-Pop fans.

Luckily, thanks to a reciprocal agreement between Korea and 25 countries, now you can explore South Korea in-depth with the Working Holiday Visa (H-1). With this permit, you get to spend up to twelve months travelling, working, making friends and even studying! As you can imagine, It is a wonderful starting point for those who want to improve their conversational skills while soaking up in the Korean cultural and political life without getting into debt.

Having a working holiday visa, however, is not a guarantee that you will find a job in Korea. It is up to every applicant to find a seasonal position that adheres to the requirements of the South Korean government. Also, though you may leave and re-enter the country as many times as you wish while your visa is valid, this is a one-time-only permit.

During this exceptional time, you will be allowed to work for no more than 1300 hours in positions as diverse as waiter/waitress, retail associate, hotel staff, interpreter, au pair, and more. However, you may not be employed at places of entertainment that might go against good morals and manners, or… teach your native language!

Requirements

Do you want to spend up to one year working abroad in South Korea? Check if you meet the requirements for a work visa:

  • You are a British citizen who resides in the UK.
  • You are aged between 18 and 30 years old.
  • You intend to travel alone.
  • You have a return travel ticket or enough funds to purchase one.
  • Your main intention is to travel to the Republic of Korea
  • You have a touring schedule. For example, you've booked some tourist excursions.

How to Apply

If you want to spend your next holidays exploring the Republic of Korea, find the closest embassy or consulate and make sure you bring the following documents: a valid passport, proof of sufficient funds, proof of student status, a criminal record check, a travel itinerary.

Prepare for Your Trip

So, there you are. Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea—three fascinating destinations that everyone should see at least once in a lifetime.

No matter which one you decide to explore next, learning the language spoken in your target destination might make the difference between a memorable but alienating event and an immersive and meaningful experience.

By learning Cantonese (which is the main Chinese dialect spoken in Hong Kong), Japanese or Korean, you will not only improve your chances of finding a really good job; you will also find it easier to connect with locals and soak up in the culture of the place where you’ll spend such a big piece of your life.

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