Government adopts recommendations to give regional and rural employers more certainty

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Julian Leeser MP, Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, welcomes the Government’s recent announcements to enable backpackers who remain on shore to stay on shore and help address labour shortages in rural and remote areas, in line with the recommendations of the Inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker Program.

“Rural and regional areas have been particularly hard hit by the border closures and the resulting labour shortages,” said Julian Leeser MP.

“The visa changes announced yesterday will be a welcome relief for rural employers as they face the upcoming harvest season and as they seek to fill labour shortages to meet the increased demand for domestic tourism.”

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs yesterday announced WHM visa holders working in the tourism and hospitality sectors in Northern, remote and very remote areas of Australia will be able to count this as specified work, making them eligible for a second or third WHM visa.

The Minister also announced that eligible current and former WHMs in Australia will be able to apply for a replacement WHM visa with nil Visa Application Charge (VAC) from March 2022 and former WHM visa holders who have transitioned to another visa, such as the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa, may also be eligible to apply for a nil VAC replacement WHM visa.

These changes are in addition to previous announcements made to enable WHMs offshore who were unable to come to Australia or had to leave early because of COVID-19 to be able to apply for a replacement visa with nil Visa Application Charge (VAC) from 1 July 2021 and the announcement made in early May to add tourism and hospitality to the list of COVID-19 critical sectors. This enabled WHMs employed in the tourism and hospitality sector to work longer than six months for one employer without requesting permission and giving more flexibility to tourism and hospitality employers to meet their workforce needs.

These announcements follow the Joint Standing Committee on Migration’s recommendations, in their Interim Report for the Inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker Program, to make amendments the conditions of the Working Holiday Maker visa for 12 months to assist with the COVID-19 recovery including:

  • Enabling Working Holiday Makers who have undertaken work in key industries in all peri-urban, regional, rural or remote areas, to count their work towards qualifying for a second and/or third year visa.
  • Allow Working Holiday Makers who have transitioned onto the subclass 408 visa to count essential work undertaken on the 408 visa to support any application to qualify for second and/or third year Working Holiday Maker visas.
  • Extend the Northern Australia provision, allowing work in hospitality, tourism and other industries to apply in all regional, rural and remote areas.
  • Enable all Working Holiday Makers to work for the same employer for more than six months, if they are in peri-urban, regional, rural and remote parts of Australia to provide more certainty for visa holders and employers.

“The announcements will give employers and visa holders more certainty, enabling visa holders to stay in the country for another year without having to pay for another visa, regardless of whether they are on a working holiday visa, work and holiday visa or they have transitioned to the COVID-19 pandemic event visa,” said Julian Leeser MP.

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