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SWAP Working Holidays is a Canadian-owned organization that has been working for over 45 years to promote cultural exchange opportunities to Canadians. We started in 1975 and have been going strong ever since.

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FAQs

Working Holidays

WHAT IS A WORKING HOLIDAY?

Working holidays are the best way to experience life in another country! Canadians are very lucky to have so many opportunities to go live and work around the world. Not just anyone can pick up and easily move to a new country, unless they have a specific skill or family there to support them. Canada sees the benefit in sending youth 18-35 to other countries to experience them for up to 1-2 years, with an open work permit and no special requirements needed. Take advantage of these opportunities while you can!

We understand moving to a new country can be a little overwhelming which is why SWAP exists! We make your move easy and stress-free. We offer working holidays in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, and Japan. A working holiday is meant to be a way to experience a new country in a way a tourist cannot, and by spending up to 1-2 years abroad, you really get a sense for the local customs, culture, language, food, and lifestyle that a 1 week vacation just can’t provide. As no one expects you to save up for a year off, you can work during your stay to support yourself, and find work in any industry, depending on your interests and experience!

WHEN I SIGN UP, DO I HAVE TO TRAVEL RIGHT AWAY AND HAVE EVERYTHING READY?

Moving to a new country can be a big change, so we also give you lots of time to get ready (if you need it!) You can sign up on SWAP as long as you plan on travelling within 1 year. We understand that plans can change so if you need time to prepare your application or put off travel, you do have 12 months to work it all out. Most SWAP participants sign up 2-6 months before they plan to go.

We send you all the info you need once you sign up so we will help you plan your trip – no need to figure it out beforehand. We’re here to help!

WHAT TYPES OF JOBS ARE AVAILABLE? DO YOU PROVIDE JOBS TO ME?

Every country will have a huge variety of work available – it’s like asking what jobs are available in Canada. There are tons of opportunities to take advantage of, so finding work should depend on your personal interests and previous work experience. Working holidays can be a great time to try new things (especially jobs that may not be available in Canada – hello, kangaroo sitter, castle tour guide, or bungee jump operator!)

Many SWAP participants work in hospitality, retail, and tourism, so they can have flexible schedules and get in tons of travelling and exploring. You don’t want to move to a new country just to be stuck inside an office all the time! Our local job specialists will be there to help you perfect your resume, provide you with leads, networking connections, and listings, plus help you get the essentials set up that employers will look for (banking, tax number, permanent address, and more).

CAN I FIND A JOB OR APARTMENT BEFORE I ARRIVE?

It’s way easier to wait until you arrive before you start your job/apartment search – this way, you get to know your new city, meet our expert job specialists, and have a chance to see flats and talk to employers in person. There are a lot of scams online so it’s safer to wait until you can go see for yourself, and our expert staff will be there to help you get settled in quickly. The majority of SWAP participants are able to find work within only 1-2 weeks of arriving!

CAN I FIND WORK IN MY FIELD?

Yes, the working holiday visas are open work permits, so you can look for any work you wish. Again, we always recommend being open minded though. It can be limiting if you are only willing to do one specific kind of job; we can’t guarantee availability and getting hired will depend on your education and previous work experience. No matter what sort of work you do, putting international experience on your resume is always beneficial. It shows you are independent, a risk taker, and open to experiencing new cultures!

WHAT IF I DON’T FIND A JOB?

We’ve sent over 65,000 Canadians abroad over the past 45 years, so helping our SWAP participants find work is something that we’re quite good at doing! We wouldn’t send SWAP participants abroad if our resources and support couldn’t help you get a job fast. As long as you go in with an open mind, you’ll have plenty of opportunities knocking on your door.

WILL I HAVE TIME OFF TO TRAVEL?

This depends on where you work and what your employer offers. Many employers in more flexible industries (like hospitality) are aware of working holiday programs and may even be willing to give you a very open schedule so you can make the most of your time living in your new city and get lots of travelling done. Generally though, vacation time has to be discussed with your employer, just like at any job you’d have back at home.

ARE THERE ANY ADDITIONAL FEES?

SWAP works alongside International Experience Canada (Canadian Government), so we pride ourselves in advocating for affordable travel opportunities to ensure all Canadian youth can take advantage! We keep our operating costs as low as possible to pass those savings on to you. Check out the destination pages for the programs that interest you to learn more about what specifically is included — flights, insurance, and cost of living funds are not incorporated into our programs.

WHAT IS THE COST OF LIVING IN MY DESTINATION?

Cost of living really depends on where exactly you will be living! Cities are more expensive on average than more rural towns, but they also have more job opportunities, and some countries that are more “expensive” also offer high minimum wages to compensate. Check out “cost of living calculators” online for the cities you’re interested in living in for more info on everyday items and average costs.

We have thousands of SWAP participants living abroad at any given moment and all of them are making their way and having incredible experiences, so it’s more than possible to support yourself on a working holiday!

DO I HAVE TO BE ABLE TO SPEAK THE NATIVE LANGUAGE (FOR COUNTRIES LIKE JAPAN, GERMANY, AND AUSTRIA)?

We do strongly recommend you have conversational skills in the native language of the working holiday destination you choose. If you would feel comfortable attending a job interview held entirely in that native language, that’s a good sign you’ll be okay in finding work. Being able to speak the native language also means it’s easier to meet locals, read directions, order the right food from menus, and understand the culture.

WHAT DOES THE AGE RANGE MEAN EXACTLY? IF I’M NEAR THE CUT OFF CAN I STILL GET THE FULL LENGTH OF THE VISA GRANTED TO ME?

If you are 30 or 35 (depending on the program you have chosen) you can still apply for the visa, but you should apply early enough to make sure the visa is granted to you before your 31st or 36th birthday. So, the latest you should plan to apply is about 2-3 months before your birthday (but the earlier, the better). Once the visa is issued you still get to use the full time period, even if you turn 31/32 or 36/37 during that time.

Accommodation During Working Holiday Programs

IS ACCOMMODATION INCLUDED IN SWAP PROGRAMS?

We want your SWAP membership to be a perfect fit for you, so accommodation on most programs is included or optional. If you have other accommodation planned, or will be staying with friends or family, no problem!

Or you can sleep easy and let us book your accommodation for your arrival in your new city. We only book our SWAP participants at reputable, safe, and clean hostels that are conveniently close to our local resource centres, so you will be right in the heart of the action.

HOW DO I BOOK NIGHTS OF ACCOMMODATION WITH SWAP?

It’s easy! Once you sign up with us, we’ll send you our welcome email that has all your instructions, visa application, timelines, a checklist, and an accommodation booking form. On our accommodation booking form, you will be asked what nights you’d like us to book for your SWAP program. Since you’ll need to book your flight first, we’ll wait until your travel plans are confirmed before we do this. Just tell us the nights you’d like us to book for you and we’ll take care of the rest.

HOW WOULD I BOOK EXTRA NIGHTS OF ARRIVAL ACCOMMODATION?

As most of our programs include some overnights, we’ll get those booked for you according to your arrival date and the number of nights included in the program. If you’d like us to book more overnights, you can let us know and we’ll be happy to help with getting this done. If you arrive and decide you’d like to stay longer at the hostel (they are good fun!), you can extend your stay with the front desk staff. Many SWAP participants choose to do this while looking for a permanent place to live, and many hostels offer discounted weekly and monthly rates. It’s also a great place to meet new friends and potential roommates!

I AM GOING ON A WELCOME WEEK TOUR, WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT POTENTIAL ACCOMMODATION BEFORE AND AFTER THE TOUR?

When you book one of our SWAP Working Holiday programs + Welcome Week tours, accommodation is already included for the entire time you are on tour. Should you want to arrive in your new country a day or two before the tour start date to shake off any jet lag, we can book additional accommodation once you confirm your travel plans.

After your tour, our local expert staff will help you find long-term housing options. Should you choose to stay at the hostel for awhile longer in the meantime, you can book this at the front desk. It’s as easy as that!

Teaching Abroad Programs

CAN I REQUEST WHERE I WILL BE PLACED?

You can list preferences on your application (rural vs. urban, preference in what grade level you want to teach, etc.) however we can’t guarantee these. Placement availability depends on what schools are most in need of teachers so it’s not possible to control which areas or types of schools are hiring. The more you’re open to doing, the faster we can find a placement for you.

CAN I BE PLACED WITH A FRIEND?

We have placed friends together before, and usually if we cannot place you together in a school, it’s possible to at least arrange shared accommodation (with both schools nearby). Availability depends on which schools are hiring and sometimes it’s unlikely that a school will need two new teachers so if we can place you and a friend together, we will but if we can’t, we’ll do our best to find a good solution. We recommend being okay with the possibility of teaching at a school without a friend (however all schools will have at least 1 or more English speaking teachers) but we’ll try our best to find an option that works for everyone.

I HAVE A DIPLOMA/CERTIFICATE, BUT NOT A BACHELOR’S, CAN AN EXCEPTION BE MADE?

As much as we wish there were exceptions on this program, the requirement for a Bachelor’s Degree is that of the Thailand Government and is a requirement for the visa type that you’ll be  applying for. It doesn’t matter what field of study you have a Bachelor’s Degree in but you need to have one. Furthermore, you’ll need take the paper copy of your degree with you to Thailand. Both the school and the visa office will need to see it.

Language and Culture Programs

CAN MY CLASSES BE EXTENDED?

Of course! If you would like to immerse yourself even more and really dedicate yourself to learning a new language, you can absolutely extend your courses – usually for as long as you wish! Contact SWAP at info@swap.ca for more details and pricing options.

CAN I BE A COMPLETE BEGINNER? WHAT LEVEL OF LANGUAGE WILL I ACHIEVE?

Our courses have options for complete beginners! For our Japanese Language program we do recommend you know the Hiragana alphabet (we’ll include a copy in your SWAP guide to memorize) as this will accelerate your learning once you being your classes. Learning a language can be different for everyone depending on how quickly you pick it up and how much you practice, so the more you put into it, the faster you can become fluent!

Volunteer Abroad Programs

HOW SAFE WILL I BE?

The safety and security of our participants is SWAP’s number one priority, so every measure is taken to ensure a comfortable and safe experience. With any sort of travel though, there are always risks, but as long as the normal precautions are taken, you can enjoy your stay with your mind at ease. We provide secure airport pick up and drop off services and our staff is available around the clock. For our participants in South Africa, the camp is in a gated area so volunteers are also highly secure.

ARE THESE PROGRAMS ETHICAL AND DO VOLUNTEERS ACTUALLY CONTRIBUTE?

We are well aware that some volunteer programs can be the opposite of helpful to a community in need; we strive to ensure our programs are only offered if volunteers are truly needed and if they can contribute in a positive way. Our wildlife conservation is set on a reserve that has the highest Rhino population in South Africa, all due to their tireless efforts to protect the wildlife against poachers, so extra sets of helping hands are always in need.

WHAT IS INCLUDED?

Everything you need to have an amazing volunteer experience is included in our program; all meals, your accommodation throughout your stay, the placement itself, dedicated and friendly staff, plus airport pick up and drop off.

WHAT ARE THE PROGRAM DATES?

Our volunteer programs in South Africa offer 2 orientations per month; the first and third Tuesdays. Check out our South Africa Wildlife Conservation program for full details.