Written by Sheila Woods of Interstaff 7th November, 2018
The Government has announced it will relax Working Holiday Visa program restrictions relating to age limits, areas of work, employer flexibility and length of stay to help agricultural businesses struggling with labour shortages while the Government considers creating a dedicated agricultural visa for a long-term solution. The Working Holiday Visa program is also relied upon by mining, construction, hospitality and tourism businesses in regional areas.
What is Australia’s Working Holiday Visa program?
Australia has two visa categories within the Working Holiday Visa program to provide opportunities for young people to work and travel in Australia. These are the Working Holiday Subclass 417 visa and the Work and Holiday Subclass 462 Visa. Your country of passport is the main factor determining whether a person is eligible for a Subclass 417 or 462 Visa. Both visa types allow a temporary stay of up to one year with the option to apply for a second year if eligible. To apply for a second visa under the Working Holiday Visa program, applicants need to have undertaken three months of ‘specific work in regional Australia’ while on their first visa.
Increased age limits for Irish and Canadian citizens
A change that has already taken place from 5 November 2018 is an increase in the maximum age from 30 to 35 years for Irish and Canadian citizens. You can read more about this here. Irish and Canadian citizens are eligible for the Subclass 417 Working Holiday Visa. The Government is considering options to expand the Working Holiday Visa Program for several different countries.
A longer stay for backpackers
Backpackers on Australia’s Working Holiday Visa program will be able to triple the length of their stay if they undertake extra agricultural work. From July 2019, backpackers can apply for a third year on a Working Holiday or Work and Holiday Visa if they undertake 6 months of ‘specific work in regional Australia’ while on their second year visa.
Backpackers no longer restricted to work in Northern Australia
The Government is also extending the regional areas which visa holders on the Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 462) program can work if they choose to apply for a second year on the visa. Currently visa holders on the Work and Holiday Visa program are restricted to specified regional work in Northern Australia to meet the regional work requirement for their second year visa. They will soon be able to work in regional areas in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia as well as all areas of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania to qualify for additional years.
The option to remain working for the same employer for one year
Australia’s Working and Holiday Visa program currently has conditions requiring backpackers to stay with the same employer for a maximum of six months. Under the changes, visa holders working for an employer in the plant or agricultural industry may be eligible to work for the same employer for one year before choosing to apply for a second visa.
Will the Government continue to plan for a dedicated agricultural visa?
Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader, Michael McCormack denied claims that the changes indicated it would no longer apply pressure for a dedicated agricultural visa to be developed saying, “It was always going to be difficult to get a specific ag visa in time for this harvest, but we are working towards making sure there are more permanent arrangements in place.”
Labor frontbencher, Andrew Leigh has criticised the changes as a “short-sighted” announcement. He says a more considered approach is needed to protect working holiday visa holders and from wage exploitation saying, “The Government needs to be very clear about how it’s going to deal with those abuses.”
The changes have generally been received positively by agricultural industry groups, such as AUSVEG, the peak industry body for vegetable growers. Ausveg CEPO, James Whiteside says, “Backpackers are an established source of labour for Australian farmers and allowing them to work for longer periods at a single farm will help our growers retain a more stable workforce throughout the year.”
Figures show it is in Australia’s economic interest to focus on developing regional migration policies. Over the past decade, Australia’s agricultural sector almost doubled in value and has now become a $63.4 billion industry, with the Working Holiday Visa program playing a role in this economic growth. Last year, 419,000 backpackers visited Australia and spent $920 million in regional areas. Prime Minister, Scott Morrison said, “Every dollar they earn here, they spend here, that’s the whole point.”
Interstaff assist people all over the world with the legal and professional process to travel or migrate to Australia for temporary work or permanent residence. Established in 1988, Interstaff has been trusted by migrating individuals and businesses for over 30 years and are the strongest group of experts for visa work in Australia. MARN: 0533879.