For the past seven years, a working holiday arrangement between the US, New Zealand, and Australia has given young Kiwis and Australians the opportunity to experience US culture in an extraordinary way. These special visas allow current students or recent graduates from New Zealand and Australia to travel and work in the US for 12 months, offering them a unique opportunity to see the US as a vacation destination as well as a place for future work and study. Although New Zealand and Australia have a variety of working holiday arrangements with dozens of other countries, only Kiwis and Australians are offered this 12-month program within the US.
Prospective applicants must achieve sponsorship through organizations such as InterExchange, Life Adventures, and the International Culural Exchange Organization. In turn, sponsors are required to pre-arrange employment opportunities for at least half of their applicants and also support the remaining students with their job search while in the US. Although students are allowed to intern at large US corporations in fields ranging from technology to architecture, previous students have largely chosen to work in low-skilled service positions at hotels, resorts, or restaurants. As a general guideline, participants are not allowed to accept jobs that would replace an American worker.
Since its implementation in 2007, the working holiday program has had a huge impact on expanding US-Australia-New Zealand cultural ties. From the year 2000 until right before the start of the program, an average of around 2,700 Australian students studied abroad in America; by 2011/2012, the number of students reached nearly 3,900, an increase of over 40%. The number of Kiwis studying abroad in America from 2000 to 2007 declined throughout most of the period, averaging just around 960 students; from 2007 to 2012/2013, however, the number of students increased by over 35%. On the flip side, the number of US students studying abroad in New Zealand and Australia from 2000 to 2011/2012 has increased by 165% and 16%, respectively.
Given the success of the program over the last seven years, it is expected that US-Australia and US-New Zealand student exchanges will continue to strengthen and grow.
Andy Nguyen is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a graduate student at Georgetown University.