Changes to the Working Holiday Visa in Australia

16 May 2006

Australia has a "working holiday maker (WHM)" programme that allows foreign visitors to earn money while temporarily travelling in Australia. Persons qualifying for this type of visa may also study in Australia for a short time.

Under a bill submitted this month, the program will be altered to expand these opportunities. Young people will now be able to stay longer with one employer and study an extra month while they are in Australia, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Amanda Vanstone announced on 09 May, 2006.

Under the previous working holiday makers, people could work for three months with one employer, but that will now be extended to allow work for the same employer for an extra three months (six months total).WHM holders will further be allowed to study in Australia for four months instead of the current three months.

Also, beginning from July of this year, working holiday makers who spend three months employed in an expanded range of primary industries- such as fishing, pearling, shearing, butchery and forestry work - can apply for another WHM visa.

"These changes will be a win-win situation for [both] employers and working holiday makers, and will help boost the Australian economy."the Minister said. "Working holiday makers are often highly skilled and can make a positive long-term contribution to the economy."

"The expansion of the scheme follows successful changes to the working holiday maker visa in November 2005, which enabled people who spent three months doing seasonal harvest work in regional Australia to become eligible for a second visa.

"More than 1500 working holiday makers applied between November 2005 and December 2006 to stay an extra year in Australia." Workers are able to apply for a 12-month extension to their current WHM visa.

The idea is for Australian employers to retain trained staff for longer periods of time to recoup their investment. Working holiday makers now have the opportunity to apply for jobs that require a stay of longer than three months.

Changes to the study time allowed under the scheme will have additional benefits. Working holiday makers who are evaluating full-time work or study in Australia, such as nurses wanting to qualify under Australian law, can now use this programme as an entry vehicle.

The working holiday maker scheme has already grown to more than 104,000 during 2004-05, up from under 50,000 people a year in the mid-1990s.

As part of the revision, overseas students who graduate in Australia with a tertiary degree from an Australian university will now be able to immediately apply for an 18-month work visa in Australia. Included in this portion of the initiative is an option to extend this work visa to students graduating from overseas universities. Targeted are those who have studied in high value skill sets that the Australian government has been recruiting in recent years.