Australia: Changes to Working Holiday maker Visas for Bushfire Recovery

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Australia, one of the world’s most loved tourist spots, is currently going through a really tough phase. Tourism is taking a massive hit because of the double whammy of the coronavirus and the bushfires. A country that once enticed tourists and professionals alike is now in an era of travel uncertainty.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. Between the bushfires and the coronavirus travel bans, the island nation is losing millions of dollars in the form of tourist income every month. While the reasons are quite valid, and honestly out of anyone’s control; Australia has not lost hope.

To help with both bushfire recovery efforts as well as bringing the tourist dollars back, Australia has initiated an offer that allows travellers aged 18 to 30 with the opportunity to work in the country for a full year. They have categorized it as a Working Holiday Maker Visa.

The Federal Government has unveiled temporary changes to working holiday visas which it says will make it easier for backpackers to help rebuild fire-ravaged communities and stay in Australia longer.

Under the current working holidaymaker visa rules, employers can only hire the same working holiday makers or backpackers for six months at a time, and volunteer work is not counted in the system.

To be eligible for a second-year visa, backpackers must complete 88 days of work in regional Australia. For a third year, visa holders must work for an additional six months.

Under the changes, Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said employers would be able to hire the same backpackers for up to a year in fire-affected areas.

Applicants for a working holiday visa must be between 18 and 30 years of age and be a citizen of an eligible country.

The Working Holiday Maker Program

Australia’s reciprocal Working Holiday Maker (WHM) program has been fostering stronger links between young people from Australia and around the world since 1975.

It allows young adults to have a 12 month holiday, during which they can undertake short-term work and study.

The WHM program now includes over 40 partner countries or jurisdiction in two visa subclasses, the Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa and the Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa.

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has accepted the recommendation of the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) to relax and broaden the conditions for holders of Subclass 417 and 462 Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visas to allow them to assist in the recovery efforts following the recent bushfires, without breaching visa conditions.

Those who plan on taking a working holiday in Australia can now volunteer to help with bushfire relief as part of their application for a longer working-holiday visa. The aim is to direct larger numbers of workers to areas where help is most needed, especially on a long-term basis. The changes come a month on from devastating bushfires which killed 33 people and around a billion animals, destroying more than 3,000 homes and 19.4 million hectares since July 2019.

Before the change, travellers had to put in 88 days of paid – usually agricultural – work to be able to apply for a second- or third-year working holiday visa.

There are two similar visa categories in the programme – the Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) and the Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462). Each is open to a different group of nationalities, and some requirements differ between the two visa types.


  • The time a WHM can work with the same employer has been extended from six months to twelve months for those assisting with bushfire recovery efforts through a shift in policy. This is consistent with arrangements put in place for recovery efforts following Cyclone Debbie in 2017.
  • The definition of “specified work” will be revised for the Work and Holiday Maker (subclass 462) visa to ensure construction work in a disaster-declared area is captured.
  • Paid and volunteer disaster recovery work in areas declared impacted by the recent bushfires will count towards the “specified work” needed to apply for a second or third year 417 or 462 visas.

The new rules also allow people to stay up to a year in a single job, instead of just six months as was the case before. And construction jobs have been added to the designated work activities travellers can participate in, to encourage young people with relevant skills and training to find work in affected areas.

In a statement on 17 February, Alan Tudge, acting minister for immigration, citizenship, migrant services and multicultural affairs, said farmers and regional businesses have welcomed the new rules for working holiday visas. Working holidaymakers can help rebuild homes, fences and farms. They can also assist with demolition, land clearing and repairing dams, roads and railways.

The UK is Australia’s largest market for working holidaymakers, according to Tourism Australia. Around a third of all backpackers and young travellers visiting the country currently take advantage of the second- and third-year visa.

Future Focus Infotech

Future Focus Infotech, a global mobility company, has on-holiday employment as one of its most popular services. We take care of on-holiday jobs where we will find you an engagement that leverages your unique skill set, that means your skill pays for your vacation, and you get to experience a new culture, a new way of life.

We endorse Australia’s move to bring this strategy to their country.

A good reason why to take up a vacation job is when you wish to travel longer and would like to earn while you have a good time. When the time is being put to a useful purpose, there’s nothing like it.

If you are an in-demand techie or take up specialized consulting assignments, step out of your comfort zone and…oh…see the world as you do.

Look out for hidden opportunities. Expand your expertise. Every experience counts.

Give us a call to find out more about how good your vacation job could be.

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