Working Holiday programme: Israel added, Singapore pending, and regional work changes

Just before the next federal election was called on 8 May 2016, and therefore dissolving both houses of Parliament, a few tweaks and announcements were made affecting the Working Holiday visa programme. This programme consists of two similarly named visa subclasses: the Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa, and the Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa.

Although both visas are designed for cultural exchange typically associated with foreigners “backpackers” these visas do have some important differences. While they share some common criteria, the Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa requires that a visa applicant hold a minimum educational qualification, and for some countries, the applicant must also have government support.

The list of countries that are signing up to the Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa programme continues to grow. New laws were passed last week to enable Israeli passport holders to apply for a Work and Holiday visa from 1 June 2016.

Israeli applicants must at least hold the relevant secondary school qualification, and either completed their military service or are legally exempt. They are not required to obtain government support.

While not in law at this point in time, the then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection announced on Friday that Australia agreed to implement a Work and Holiday visa programme with Singapore. This will allow up to 500 places per year for Singapore nationals, and will bring the number of countries participating in the Working Holiday visa programme (both subclasses) to 39.

For Working Holiday (subclass 417) visas, the major benefit is the ability to apply for a second visa of the same subclass by, among other requirements, having worked in a specified regional area for at least three months. The definition of regional Australia for this work will add Norfolk Island on 1 July 2016. Norfolk Island has separate immigration arrangements that will be repealed also on this date when Australia’s Migration Act 1958 (Cth) will extend to the territory.

On a side note, anyone following Australian politics will no doubt be aware that both houses of Parliament was dissolved on 8 May 2016, and a national election will be held on 2 July 2016. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection along with all other federal government departments enter what is known as a caretaker period. This period, which will last until the election results are clear, by convention, will not make any major policy decisions and any other actions likely to impact the as of yet unknown incoming government. With this in mind, however, the administration of these departments will continue as normal.