COVID-19 & Working Holiday Visa Holders

The Australian Government has recently announced a number of concessions available to temporary visa holders in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, providing much needed flexibility for those currently in Australia on a temporary visa. In particular, the government has implemented several amendments to the conditions of working holiday visas designed to protect the ability of Australia’s ‘backpacker’ labour force to continue supporting our critical sectors.


There are over 100,000 working holiday visa holders in Australia who are subject to conditional work rights, conditions which the government seeks to ease if you are currently working in sectors such as health, aged and disability care, agriculture, food processing and child care. Working holiday visa holders are generally limited to a maximum period six months work with any one employer and would otherwise require express permission from the Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs) to extend this period.


In accordance with the new amendments introduced by the Federal Government, working holiday makers employed in these critical sectors will now be exempt from the six month work limitation with any one employer without requiring formal permission from Home Affairs. Such temporary visa holders are also eligible for a further visa if their current visa is due to expire within the next six months.


Agriculture and food processing would by extension apply to those employed in plant and animal cultivation and fruit-picking, as these sectors directly contribute to the production of essential goods and services. This has provided significant relief to employers in these industries, allowing many working holiday makers whose employment was ceased to be redeployed into essential farm work due to their eligibility for a visa extension and exemption from the six month limitation.


The relaxations effected by the Federal Government have allowed Australian growers to maintain a seasonal workforce and continue to meet the high demand for crops and produce. Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, the Hon Mark Furner, has affirmed agricultural production as a key pillar of the Queensland economy and ensuring its proper management would be vital in combatting the effects of the pandemic. Growers and food supply chains have continued to operate and meet the increased demand for fresh produce due to the measures implemented by the Morrison Government for working holiday makers.


These amendments have enabled many working holiday makers whose employment was discontinued to seek an extension and resume work in sectors typically requiring a consistent and dependable workforce. The announcements have provided significant relief to harvesters, horticulture enterprises, growers and farmers nationwide, who are able to maintain their seasonal workforce largely comprised of working holiday makers.


For working holiday makers employed in all other sectors, the six month limitation with any one employer will continue to apply and these visa holders must maintain full compliance with this condition to avoid potential cancellation. Existing working holiday visa holders employed in critical sectors who have not completed the three or six months of specified work required for a second or third working holiday may need to seek alternative arrangements to extend their stay in Australia. It is advised that you contact a registered migration agent for assistance if you are in this situation to pursue other options and ensure you remain lawfully in Australia.


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