Visa changes to help farmers find workers

The Australian Prime Minister has announced proposed changes to working holiday visas during his visit at a strawberry farm in southern Queensland.

Changes to the Working Holiday Visa

People with working holiday visas (including the subclass 417 Working Holiday visa or the subclass 462 Work and Holiday visa) will be able to stay in Australia for a maximum of three years from mid-2019, rather than two, if they complete six months of regional work during their second year in the country.

Visa-holders who wish to renew their working holiday visa to spend a second year in Australia will still need to work in regional Australia for three months during their first year, but there will be more areas in which 462 visa-holders can do so.

In addition, the maximum age to apply for a working holiday visas will increase from 30 to 35 for some countries. To date, Canada and Ireland have signed an agreement with Australia such that Canadian and Irish citizens aged up to 35 years of age can apply.

It is also proposed that those with working holiday visas will be able to stay with the same employer for one year, rather than the current limitation of six months per employer per location.

Changes to 462 visa regional work requirement

Currently 462 visa holders are only able to do regional work in Northern Australia, but soon they’ll be able to choose from key regional areas in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, along with all of the Northern Territory, South Australia, and Tasmania.

People taking advantage of the new regional areas will have to perform agricultural work, while those opting to work in Northern Australia will still have the choice of working in tourism and hospitality.

Additional places will be available for 462 working holiday visas for people from a number of countries each year.

Who can apply for a 417 or 462 visa?

Currently, the 462 visa is available for the following countries:

  • Argentina
  • Austria
  • Chile
  • China, People’s Republic of
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Indonesia
  • Israel
  • Luxembourg
  • Malaysia
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • USA
  • Uruguay
  • Vietnam

Passport holders from the following countries may apply for the 417 visa

  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong (including British National Overseas passport holders)
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom.

Changes to the Seasonal Worker Program

A visa enabling people from Pacific Island countries to complete seasonal work in some industries, when the employer can’t get local workers (also known as a 416 visa), will allow people to stay for nine months. At the moment, the visa’s cap is six month for some countries.

Visa-holders will also have to pay fewer out-of-pocket expenses.

What impact will the changes make?

The changes are aimed at addressing labour shortages on farms in regional and rural Australia. Regional economies are also expected to get a boost from visa holders spending money locally.

A total of 21,667 first working holiday visas were granted in 2017-18, with the top countries of origin being the USA, China and Chile. There were also 3,339 people who secured a second year in the country.

Just over 6000 people from the Pacific Islands take part in the seasonal worker program each year.

Efforts to support jobs for Australians

The reforms of the working holiday visa come in response to calls for an overhaul of farm worker visas generally to attract more workers onto farms.

In October 2018, the Australian Government commenced a trial aimed at getting unemployed Australian citizens into agriculture. However, the trial, which offered incentives to unemployed people who work on farms, has gained little traction. Just 14 people have so far signed up to a new Federal Government program that allows unemployed people to earn an income and still receive their full welfare payment.

The Government has allocated $30 million to its Seasonal Work Incentives Trial, which began in July. Trial participants can receive up to $300 in living away and travel allowances if the work is more than 120 kilometres from home. The trial also includes cash incentives for employment service providers to get unemployed people to work on farms.

A joint media statement from Ministers McCormack, Coleman and Littleproud stated:

“This work builds on the changes we made last month to get more Australian job seekers into work by
filling farm shortages through the National Harvest Labour Information Service.

We want Australians filling Australian jobs but when this isn’t possible action was needed to ensure
farmers weren’t left high and dry.

Our action today means our farmers will get immediate support, helping them reap the economic
returns of their hard work”

Farmers in regional and rural areas around Australia will now receive more support to resolve labour
shortages with new changes to two visa programs, while the trial for Australian workers continues.


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