Backpacker hostel sign

The Government has announced changes to its working holiday visa program aimed at supporting farmers and attracting more backpackers to regional areas.

People on subclass 417 and 462 visas will soon be able to stay in Australia for up to three years, provided they meet new regional work conditions.

This represents one of the biggest ever overhauls of the popular program.

Key Working Holiday Visa Changes:

1. Working holiday visa holders will be able to work for the same agricultural employer for a year instead of just six months. This is great news for anyone wanting to prolong their farm work or gain experience needed for a skilled agricultural visa. Which brings us to our next point…

2. From mid-2019, working holiday makers (subclasses 417 and 462) who complete six months of regional work in their second year will be entitled to apply for a third working holiday visa. That’s right, a THIRD one.

3. Visa holders wanting a second working holiday visa will still need to undertake three months of regional work during their first year in order to be eligible; however, more areas will qualify as regional now for subclass 462 holders.

4. Annual caps will be lifted for a number of countries participating in the work and holiday maker visa program (subclass 462).

Backpacker working on a farm in Australia

Speaking earlier this week, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman said the working holiday visa changes would help ease farm labour shortages in regional and rural Australia.

“Lifting the annual caps on visas, expanding the number of regional areas where work and holiday makers can work for three months in specified farming work, and allowing 12 months of work with the same agricultural employer will assist farmers this growing season,” Mr Coleman said.

“These incentives will encourage more workers to the regions that need them and provide working holiday makers with more flexibility, as well as the opportunity to experience living and working in Australia’s rural communities.”

Age limits for Irish and Canadian working holiday makers were recently increased from 30 to 35, with more countries expected to follow suit in the near future.

It’s important to note, however, that you’ll still need to meet the age requirements for each visa. For example, you won’t be able to start your first working holiday visa at 35 and complete your third one when you’re 38. If this was the case, you’d only be eligible for the first visa. The ceiling for the whole program is 30 for most countries (at present) and 35 for Ireland and Canada, so if you want to stay for the maximum length of time permitted for your country, you’ll need to start earlier than the cut-off point.

More than 210,400 working holiday maker visas (subclass 417 and 462) were granted last year, injecting $920 million into the economies of regional towns. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is confident that these changes will push that number over $1 billion.

“They don’t go home with any money in their pocket. Everything they earn here, they spend here,” Mr Morrison said.

However, the Prime Minister said he would not be scrapping the recently introduced 15% backpacker tax.

Top Five Countries for First Working Holiday Visa (417) Grants in 2017-18

• United Kingdom (30,036)
• Germany (22,025)
• France (20,439)
• South Korea (18,145)
• Taiwan (14,659).

Top Five Countries for First Work and Holiday Visa (462) Grants in 2017-18

• China (1,155)
• Indonesia (562)
• United States of America (469)
• Chile (448)
• Argentina (175)

If you’re currently on a working holiday visa and want to discuss your skilled or partner visa options, contact True Blue Migration Services today for a free consultation.