Work and Travel in North America
WORK IN NORTH AMERICA ALL YEAR ROUND
North America makes up some of the richest countries in the world and some of the poorest. Making up the mainland, along with what’s known as Central America and the Caribbean, this continent is a traveller’s dream. Whether you want to visit the sprawling metropolises of New York and Mexico City or laze around on a beach in the Bahamas, there’s something for you here.
Volunteering in North America will let you stay for longer, test your limits, and show others what you are capable of achieving. If the travel guides of North America are already convincing you to hop on a flight, take a look at some of the incredible volunteering opportunities on offer.
Do you have what it takes to tackle North America?
1. Work in North American Hostels
North American hostels aren’t as abundant as they are in Europe, particularly in the Caribbean and in the United States. However, everywhere else you’ll find it easy to find a position in a hostel. The work may or may not pay. It depends on the country, the city, and the hostel itself. But you can always expect at least a free bed.
Since North American hostels are some of the most expensive in the world, it makes good financial sense to take on one of these roles.
2. Volunteer as a Dive Instructor
So many people from all over the world come to North America to learn how to dive. The courses are not intensive and it’s relatively easy to become qualified. If you already have a dive certification, you can volunteer and begin helping out with teaching others how to dive.
There are a lot of spots in and around the Caribbean for this sort of work. However, if you’re looking to work and travel in a cheaper area you should head to Central America. Guatemala is a particular favourite of backpackers looking to dive.
3. Teach English in North America
It’s easy to forget that only the United States, Canada, and some smaller Caribbean islands have English as their native language. The rest of the continent speaks mainly Spanish. That’s why if you want to work and travel in North America you should look into teaching English.
Travel in North America and you can find English teaching work in a range of places. Mexico City, for example, is a main hub for teaching English in North America.
Depending on where you want to work, you may only need to be a native English speaker. But it’s always better to have a formal qualification, such as the TEFL. This will enable you to acquire work in formal educational settings.
Furthermore, a working knowledge of Spanish will allow you to begin teaching English from scratch, which provides you with more options for work.
WORK & HOLIDAY VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR PAID WORK AND VOLUNTEERING IN NORTH AMERICA
USA Visa Policies: If you have a passport from one of the 39 countries on the USA's Visa Waiver Program list – which includes the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and European Union countries – you need to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) in advance of your trip. Register online with the Department of Homeland Security at least 72 hours before your arrival. Once your ESTA is approved, it is valid for two years. The fee is payable online and costs $14.
Canadian passport holders do not require a visa or ESTA to enter the USA for stays of less than 90 days. Visitors to the USA from other countries must apply for a tourist visa.
Canadian Visa Policies: US citizens can enter Canada simply and visa-free as long as they are carrying proper identification such as a valid US passport.
Over 40 countries are visa-exempt but need first to first fill out an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) form. Travellers from the rest of the world need to apply for a formal visa to enter Canada.
See here for official entry requirements and instructions.
Mexican Visa Policies: If you are a citizen in the Schengen Area, UK, USA, Canada or Japan or if you have a permanent residence permit or a valid visa for any of those countries, you do not require a visa to visit Mexico under the following conditions: the purpose of your visit is tourism, studies or business, the duration of your stay does not exceed 180 days, or you will not receive any remuneration at all from Mexico. You will need to apply for a business visa to get paid for working in Mexico. See here for more information.
Central American Visa Policies: We'll use Nicaragua as an example of Central American visa policies. Nicaragua offers a simple visa regime. Citizens of North America, the European Union (EU), the UK, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and South Africa are free to enter the country for 90 days without acquiring a visa in advance. We should mention that the CA-4 Agreement between four Central American countries still exists here. It works much like the Schengen Zone in Europe in that you can cross the borders of these countries without additional checks when you enter one.
However, this agreement only applies to land-based border crossings. Air crossings work the same way as before and you’ll get a new stamp every time you enter a new CA-4 country through an airport.
Chinese and Indian citizens will still need to apply for a Nicaraguan visa before they travel.
SEASONAL WORK IN NORTH AMERICA
In the USA, the main seasonal jobs in spring revolve around parts of the local, state, and national parks. There is a range of positions in national parks, including water quality research testers, replenishing stocks of plants, and even managing the maintenance of hiking trails. For active, outdoor-based work outside of national parks, for example, you could spend the spring maintaining gardens on a permaculture farm in Florida.
In Canada, spring finds snow still on the ground in much of the country. You can still positions at ski resorts, especially with cleaning and maintenance skills, since they’ll need extra help repairing and scrubbing down equipment and rooms that have been booked up all season.
Spring in much of Mexico and Central America is shoulder season, so tourist levels are not at their peak. It may be difficult to book up paid work at this time of year, but volunteers for orphanages or other welfare organisations are needed all year long.
Part of the culture of the USA and Canada is that during the long summer holidays the kids go away to summer camps. You might think that the volunteers there are exclusively drawn from the local community, but that’s not the case. You’ll find plenty of summer camp volunteering opportunities for both qualified and unqualified working travellers. Are you a working traveller from England with keen football skills? They’ll likely be coaching opportunities for you at summer camps. You’ll find that if you love young people, summer camp work is for you. Just be sure to look into this work early, since positions get booked up fast.
Summer in southern Mexico and Central America is high tourist season for visitors from Europe and the USA on summer holiday. Seasonal work in the tourist industry will be widely available. Backpackers may even be able to just show up at hostels or hotels in certain areas in this region during the summer months and book up work on the spot.
Bar and restaurant work is your best bet for autumn work in Canada. The major cities of Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal offer the highest chances of you finding work. In the USA, harvest and picking work is most plentiful. The cannabis industry is growing rapidly in the US as legalisation has increased - cannabis plant trimming is still a favourite industry this time of year for backpackers, with September through November being the prime trimming window.
The areas of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean cover a wide climatic region, but generally autumn isn’t a particularly high tourist season. You can likely continue on with positions already secured in hospitality, and as it’s the start of the academic year this would be the time to start booking up teaching and education roles.
In the USA, the internationally renowned ski resorts in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah are amongst the best in the country. If you are particularly experienced as a chalet host, ski technician, or snow guide/instructor, you can stand to earn some good money as a working traveller here in winter. The same goes for major ski towns in the Canadian Rockies such as Banff.
Certain parts of Central America and Mexico experience a rainy season in the winter, so this is the best time to get involved in education or welfare programmes, working with street children or other underprivileged groups. Otherwise, head north or to drier parts of North America this time of year.
ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING IN NORTH AMERICA
Work and travel in Canada and the US is a long-standing tradition. Canada for one is an extremely cosmopolitan country, with Toronto having the most diverse mix of expats in the world. Many young Canadians work and travel in other countries and so it’s no surprise for the locals to see young travellers doing the same.
Both the US and Canada have an extremely advanced working holiday programme and many businesses across the country rely on these volunteers and paid workers to help with the business for just a few months of the year.
Foreigners are a very common site in Mexico and many Caribbean nations. The people of these more southern climes are generally very friendly and welcoming. Especially if you only plan on volunteering, you shouldn’t face resentment for your presence.
North America is such a diverse area, and you’ll sure to find a perfect opportunity to test out your work and travel skills. Get started today!
- Edited on Jun 11 2021 by Lily
- Edited on Mar 12 2019 by
- Edited on Jan 10 2014 by