Finding a job in Hawaii

Samuel Clennett

Hawaii’s unique natural setting and vibrant culture draws tourists and expats alike, looking for the perfect sunset, the most exhilarating surf, and the most immersive social and cultural experiences.

Life in Hawaii is relatively expensive compared to the rest of the US, making it more important than ever that you find a great job to make the most of your time there. This guide will get you started in your hunt.

We’ll also talk about ways to keep your costs down as you move, by using Wise international payments to cover cross border expenses like a rental deposit. You might also benefit from a Wise multi-currency borderless account to manage your money between Australian and US dollars in the longer term. More on that in a moment.

What is life like in Hawaii?

Hawaii is famous for its beaches, surf, mountains and outdoor activities. There’s no chance to be bored if you like to get out into nature, hiking, climbing, bodyboarding, kayaking or taking part in any of dozens of other common adventure activities easily available in Hawaii. Hawaii also offers a lot for people who prefer the comforts of home and city life - with a varied culture, great food and a year round climate that is never too hot, or too cold. What more could you want?

It’s worth noting that although surf culture might be relaxed, working life in Hawaii may not be. Hawaii is still part of the US, and as such working culture frequently involves overtime and long hours, as well as no statutory requirement to provide paid vacation, sick or holiday leave¹.

Life in Hawaii is also pretty expensive compared to the rest of the US.The costs of shipping goods in plus extra duty and tax, means you could be looking at general living expenses 30% higher than the mainland.

Make sure you read up on what day to day work life might be like for you, if you’re headed to Hawaii - and negotiate hard to get the salary and terms you need in your employment contract.

Do you need a visa to work in Hawaii?

Hawaii is a US state, and the visa requirements for entry are the same as if you’re heading to the North American mainland. If you plan on working in Hawaii, you’ll usually need a job arranged before you travel, and you need to choose the right visa type depending on the work you’re planning on doing.

In most cases, you’ll start the application around 90 days before you need to travel, by collecting all of the paperwork required and attending an appointment with the US consulate in Australia.

The documents you have to provide might vary depending on the visa type you want to apply for - usually you’ll need the following:

  • Application form
  • Passport
  • Additional passport sized photos
  • A receipt for the visa application fee which you pay online in advance
  • Evidence of your work history and qualifications

Get more information from the US Travel Docs website, including details of local US consulates in Australia, application processes and the fees you have to pay².

Is there an age restriction to working in Hawaii as a foreigner?

Hawaii doesn’t impose an age restriction on applicants for work permits or visas³.

If you’re a younger person heading to Hawaii and you’re enrolled in post-secondary education at an approved institution, you might find the Summer Work Travel visa is a good option⁴. Check out all the details and the full range of visa types, online.

What about tax?

Tax is never simple, and can become even more confusing if you move to a new country. If you’re considered a tax resident in the US you’ll probably need to pay Federal Income Tax and Social Security Taxes⁵. Hawaii also has state taxes which you need to cover if you’re resident there.

The Hawaii state tax is progressive, meaning there are different tax brackets depending on your income. There are also a number of deductions, exemptions and credits which can be used to offset some of the costs⁶.

The good news is that Australia has a double taxation treaty with the US⁷ which means that you should not have to pay tax twice on any of your income. This is important because you’ll probably have to pay US tax on your worldwide income if you’re considered a tax resident. Under the terms of the taxation treaty, any American tax paid is offset against your Australian tax bill.

You’ll find more information about the specific Hawaii state taxes, on the Hawaii state department of taxation website - although you may decide it’s easiest to have an accountant help you navigate the complex tax system at first⁸.

Where to look for jobs in Hawaii?

Hawaii has a booming tourism industry, with good jobs available for people with the right skills and experiences. Construction and healthcare are also key areas. It’s worth knowing that life in general in Hawaii can be expensive, so you’ll need to consider the costs of the location you want to live in, alongside the potential salaries you might earn there.

You can look for jobs online using large global search pages like Indeed⁹ and Monster¹⁰, and also take a more local focus by building a network in your chosen industry in Hawaii and leveraging this to find a role. Get started on this before you leave Australia if possible. Connect with people in your field using LinkedIn, and by following industry publications, to start to integrate into the professional community. Long time Hawaii residents recommend using this method to get recommendations and referrals, as the power of personal connections is still strong in Hawaii.

Opening a bank account in Hawaii

Hawaii has its own banks, which are more commonly found there than the biggest US banks from the mainland. It’s definitely worth checking out the locations of bank branches in the area you’re planning on living to make sure you have convenient access to ATMs and any face to face services you choose to use, as coverage isn’t as universal as elsewhere in the US.

For the largest branch and ATM networks, try a local giant like Bank of Hawaii¹¹ or Territorial Savings BankP¹². You’ll probably need to visit a branch and show your documents to open an account, making this something to arrange once you arrive in Hawaii.

That said, it can be convenient to have a US dollar account before you make the move, to cover costs like rental deposits and other necessary move expenses. A great option in this case is to get a borderless account with Wise. Also if you are looking for a way to send money to Hawaii, Wise could be an option.

You can open an account online before you leave Australia and hold money in over 40 currencies including Australian and US dollars. You’ll also get local account details for AUD, USD, NZD, GBP and EUR so you can receive money in these currencies for free via local payment methods. Use your borderless account to hold, send and spend online, and switch between currencies using the Google exchange rate whenever you need to. There’s no markup on the rate applied, just a low transparent fee per transaction, which can work out far cheaper than using a regular bank.

A new life in Hawaii can offer a wealth of opportunities - but it won’t come cheap. Save on your international payments with Wise, and make managing your money day to day a breeze with a Wise borderless account. One less thing to worry about, so you can get on with planning and enjoying your move.













All sources accurate as of 17 September 2019

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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