An update to this article can be found here.
A third year visa for both Subclass 417 – Working Holiday visa and Subclass 462 – Work and Holiday visa holders (collectively referred to as working holiday makers) is on its way, along with some significant visa changes, according to today’s announcement by the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. The reason cited is a chronic labour shortage for farm workers, and incentivising overseas nationals to work longer in regional areas will hopefully help plug this gap.
Working holiday maker (WHM) visas are perhaps one of the few Australian visas the government is trying to attract more applicants through legislative reforms than any other. Over the last couple of years, they have:
Added more countries to the 462 visa program;
Added a second year 462 visa if first-year holders undertake specified Subclass 462 work;
Began increasing the age cap for some 417 visas to 35 (although this appears to be a drawn out process); and
Backtracking on tax reforms for WHMs.
These measures are apparently not enough. To attract more WHMs and to hopefully get them to work in lower skilled occupations in regional areas with a labour shortage, the government intends to:
Expand specified Subclass 462 work postcodes for plant and animal cultivation occupations for which a new instrument has already been passed;
Extend the period allowed to work for any one agricultural employer from six to twelve months. This most likely means that policy for approving extending visa condition 8547 will be relaxed for this type of employment;
Introduce a third-year WHM visa (417 and 462 visas) for any second-year holder who completes at least six months of regional work in that year from 1 July 2019 onwards; and
Lift annual caps for 462 visa. Caps are varied by country with only the USA having no annual visa limit.
Additionally, the Seasonal Worker Program stream under Subclass 403 – Temporary Work (International Relations) visa will also see some changes, including increasing the work period in Australia to nine months for all visa applicants, increase the validity of labour market testing from three to six months, and reduce some out of pocket expenses for employers.
Will these changes be the panacea to the agricultural sector’s woes? It may be a while before we find out.