How to Work Your Way Around the World Without the Visa Hassle

by Jennifer Lachs

What would you do if you won the lottery today? Buy a house? A yacht? Travel the world? When asked this question, most people include some form of travel high on their list. So while the desire to see the world and explore different countries, landscapes and cultures is universal, long-term travel is usually perceived as being expensive and attainable only to the rich and famous (or winners of The Price is Right).

However, you probably don’t want to wait until you win the lottery (or more likely, retire) to see the world, and two weeks of vacation a year is certainly not enough to remedy a serious case of wanderlust. If you aren’t fortunate enough to have a trust fund, you’ll either have to enter the “work, save, travel, repeat” cycle or, alternatively, work on the road to help prolong your travels.


There are plenty of ways to work abroad, but one thing remains that can destroy your dreams of a globetrotting career—paperwork (dun dun dun!).

The Reality About Working Abroad & Visas

Visa issues have to be considered. Most countries have some sort of work permit restrictions or require you to prove that you have a large sum of money stashed away before giving you a working visa. Depending on the country you wish to work and travel in, it might be almost impossible to get the right visa without proof of employment. 

You’ll have to find a way to deal with the visa hassle, particularly if you don’t want to commit to just one job or country for a long period of time. While there will always be some bureaucracy involved in working and traveling abroad, there are plenty of work opportunities that cause much less of a headache, regardless if a visa isn’t needed or if visa-help is guaranteed. Here are our favorite ways to work abroad without the visa hassle: 

Participate in Work Exchanges

Over the last few years, various online platforms have sprung up to help people find work exchange opportunities around the world. The concept is simple: travelers looking for these opportunities can sign up for a yearly membership to websites that and can connect them with potential hosts from around the world, all who offer room and board in exchange for some hours of work per day. The most popular sites for finding these opportunities are Workaway, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and GoCambio, the newest kid on the block (Workaway = €23 membership per year, WWOOF = membership cost varies per destination, GoCambio = free!).

Money never changes hands, which means you aren’t technically working – #loopholes! Thus, you won’t need a working visa, and getting a tourist visa for the duration of your stay will be sufficient.

Workaway placements can range from gardening to receptionist work, babysitting to web design, cooking to construction; there’s something for everyone. With WWOOF-ing, you’ll be able to get your hands dirty on the farm in exchange for a roof over your head and warm, homecooked meals. If you have any sort of skills, such as fluency in a language, PHP coding, or an ability to play an instrument, you can cash it in as currency.

For all volunteering and work exchange experiences, make sure you get valid travel insurance that covers volunteer work, in case you get injured at work.


Become a Digital Nomad

A relatively new, but increasingly popular way to work around the world is by living the “digital nomad lifestyle.” Digital nomads are people who work remotely online, meaning they could be at home in their pajamas or on a beach in Thailand, it doesn’t matter as long as they have a good internet connection. Most digital nomads are either freelancers or entrepreneurs that are registered in their home countries for tax purposes, meaning they are not technically working in the countries they are visiting. As long as they only stay for the legal amount of time and don’t work for, or employ, locals, they can enter any country and work online with just a tourist visa.

Some of the most popular destinations for digital nomads are Thailand, Vietnam, Bali, Eastern Europe, and South America, where living costs are low and their money goes much further than at home. 

Work on a Cruise Ship

Ahoy, matey! Working on a cruise ship is a powerful way to see different parts of the world while being gainfully employed. The perks are endless: buffets, anyone? You get to live on board a luxury cruiser, meet new people from around the world, see exotic locations, and never have to pack your bag!

Downside alert: you do have to get the appropriate visas (either working, transit, or crewmember visas), but cruise companies generally take good care of their employees in this regard. They’ll help you fill out the forms, know how to navigate the sometimes confusing waters, and will know exactly which visas you need and how to get them. It might be cheating a bit to include this on the list, but we all know how much easier paperwork gets when you have help from someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

And have we mentioned yet that cruise jobs always include room and board? This means you can save up almost 100 percent of your hard earned cash for further travels. Cha-ching! 


Score a Working Holiday Visa

Take (FULL) advantage of special working holiday visas that may be available for you. Yes, you will have to apply for it, but unlike working or business visas, you don’t have to have a job secured in the country before you travel there, a huge stress relief for modern travelers. Furthermore, working holiday visas are usually relatively simple to get approved, as long as you are under a certain age, usually 30 to 35 years old.

Depending on your country of citizenship, you’ll be eligible for different working holiday visas. Some of the most popular countries offering working holiday visas to U.S. citizens are Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Korea, and Singapore. Popular jobs include harvesting crops, working in hospitality (such as bars, restaurants, and hotels), teaching English, or trying your luck at being a tour guide.

Obtain a working visa while you can; spend a year working in some of the most stunning places on the planet without sacrificing too many funds from your savings account. Just don’t forget to budget time in your work schedule for weekend trips and jaunts!


Ok, so this last option isn’t technically working, as you very rarely get paid to volunteer (shocker). However, we feel strongly that volunteering abroad is one of the best ways to delve into a new country, culture and language, and get to know the people, and it doesn’t have to break the bank, either. With the right opportunity, volunteers can receive food or subsidized housing in exchange for their time and efforts. Many volunteers choose to stay in homestays with local families, which is a very special way to connect with local communities. The wealth of experience you gain will not only look great on your resume, but will most likely be more valuable than hard cash.

Traditionally, volunteering entailed humanitarian relief, but nowadays there are many more options available, from environmental work to teaching English, animal care, and marine protection. While the rules are different for each country, many countries popular for volunteer travelers allow you to volunteer on a tourist visa. This means you simply have to apply for a normal tourist visa, avoiding those pesky applications for work visas and work permits. Many countries even offer a “visa on arrival” that is often sufficient if you’re only staying for a month or two. You should check the country’s consular website, or ask your volunteer program organizer for more information, before you leave to travel. And, as always, get travel insurance that covers volunteer work.


What’s holding you back now?!

Not even bureaucracy and boring paperwork can stop you from traveling if you’ve really set your heart on it. Pick one or even all of the above avenues to work abroad without (too many) visa annoyances (let’s be honest, they’re always going to be there). Making money and having adventures can be one in the same. You’ll be on the road in no time!

This inspiring article was written in conjunction with OpenCollegesAU.