Australia's Working Holiday Maker Visa rules are changing to offer backpackers an extra 6 month stay in Australia if they choose to assist with bushfire recovery efforts.

The migration policy changes will benefit farmers and businesses in bushfire-affected areas as well as young travellers seeking to travel, work or volunteer in Australia for an extended period, while making a valuable contribution to communities in need.

The Working Holiday Maker visa program is currently available to young travellers between the age of 18 and 30, or up to 35 for Canadian, French and Irish citizens.

It allows backpackers from 40 partner countries to work and sight-see in Australia for one year with extensions available in some circumstances.

The program is comprised of two visa types – a Subclass 462 Work and Holiday Visa or a Subclass 417 Working Holiday Visa. A person's eligibility for a 462 or 417 Visa will largely depend on their country of passport.

How will visa rules for the Working Holiday Maker Visa program change?

The Government's visa changes will relax and broaden existing visa conditions.

Two key changes are being made to policy arrangements to allow young travellers to apply for a 12 month Subclass 462 Visa with a single employer, or extend a Subclass 417 or 462 Visa to participate in bushfire recovery work:

  1. Young travellers who are granted a 462 Visa to assist with the bushfire recovery will be able to work in the same job for up to 12 months (rather than 6 months) without requiring approval from the Department of Home Affairs.
  2. Both paid or volunteer construction work in declared bushfire areas will count towards the 'specified work' needed for Subclass 462 or Subclass 417 Visa holders to apply for a second or third year in Australia.

How backpackers can help

According to Alan Tudge, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant services and Multicultural Affairs, the new visa rules will give backpackers the option to stay longer in Australia and contribute their skills and efforts to communities, farmers and regional businesses in need.

Mr Tudge said, "Hardworking Australians have been hit by the recent bushfires, but from today they can employ backpackers for six months longer, helping them at a critical time in the recovery effort."
"It means working holiday makers can help rebuild homes, fences and farms... and help with demolition, land clearing and repairing dams, roads and railways," he added.

After a devastating bushfire season, over 46 billion acres have been burnt, one billion animals killed and 3,000 homes destroyed. Some of the regions declared to have been the most affected by the fires include areas of eastern Victoria, south-eastern New South Wales and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.