Backpackers will be able to stay in Australia longer thanks to relaxed working holiday rules


  • Australia is relaxing its working holiday visa restrictions.
  • Visa holders will now be able to stay longer, be older and work in more areas across Australia.
  • Peak industry bodies have welcomed the changes.

Backpackers will be able to stay in Australia longer under changes the federal government is proposing for the country’s strict working holiday rules.

The Working Holiday Maker (WHM) program allows young travellers to have an extended holiday in Australia supplemented by short-term agricultural, and in some cases hospitality and tourism, employment.

The program consists of two visa sub-classes, the Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa and the Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa. Here are the difference between the two.

Among the most significant changes are the length of stay for visitors on these two visas.

Working will be able to stay in Australia for up to three years from July 2019, rather than two, if they complete six months of regional work during their second year in the country.

The government is also extending the areas in which 462 visa-holders can work if want to work in regional Australia in order to stay in the country for a second year. Currently they are only able to 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 NT, South Australia, and Tasmania.

And instead of only being be able to stay with the same employer for six months, visa holders will now be able to work for the same employer for one year.

The maximum age to obtain a working holiday visas will also be raised from 30 to 35 for applicants from Canada and Ireland, and more spots will be available for 462 working holiday visas for people from a number of countries each year.

“Australians filling Australian jobs is my number one priority but when this isn’t possible we need to ensure our farmers aren’t left high and dry with rotting crops, especially in the strawberry industry,” Morrison said on Monday during a week-long tour of Queensland.

“We want more money in the back pockets of our farmers.”

The changes have been welcomed by industry leaders who say the new rules will make the Working Holiday Maker visa program more attractive by allowing visa holders to stay longer and have increased work flexibility.

“Australia has long been a popular destination for working holiday makers, but we have seen a decline over the years. With these changes we will see an increase in the appeal of Australia as a working holiday maker destination,” Chief Executive Officer Margy Osmond said.

“All these changes will allow more people from a wider range of countries to consider working, staying and playing in Australia.”

AUSVEG, the peak industry body for the vegetable growers, has also praised the government for the changes which will help Australian growers manage their labour struggles.

“It’s great to see the government respond to calls for reform by making these improvements to the visa programs which are currently helping growers manage their labour issues,” said AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside.

“Backpackers are an established source of labour for Australian farmers, and allowing them to work for longer periods at a single farm will help our growers retain a more stable workforce throughout the year.

“Making it easier for growers to be a part of the SWP is a welcome improvement to a visa that’s already providing value to our growers and supporting our regional neighbours.”

According to the Department of Home Affairs, in 2017-18, a total of 210,456 WHM visas (subclass 417 and subclass 462) were granted, and on June 30 2018 there were a total of 134,909 WHM visa holders in Australia.

Read more about the new changes here >>