Immigration

Visa changes to help farmers find workers

Working holiday visa restrictions are being relaxed to help farmers find seasonal workers.

WHAT ARE THE CHANGES TO WORKING HOLIDAY VISAS?

* People with working holiday visas (also known as 417 or 462 visas) will be able to stay in Australia for a maximum of three years from mid-2019, rather than two, if they complete six months of regional work during their second year in the country.

* Visa-holders who want a second year in Australia will still need to work in regional Australia for three months during their first year, but there will be more areas in which 462 visa-holders can do so.

Currently they are only able to do the 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 Northern Territory, South Australia, and Tasmania.

People taking advantage of the new regional areas will have to perform agricultural work, while those opting to work in Northern Australia will still have the choice of working in tourism and hospitality.

* The highest age will be able to get working holiday visas will be raised from 30 to 35 for some countries.

* Those with working holiday visas will be able to stay with the same employer for a year, rather than the current cap of six months.

* More spots will be available for 462 working holiday visas for people from a number of countries each year.

WHAT ABOUT THE SEASONAL WORKERS PROGRAM?

* A visa enabling people from Pacific Island countries to complete seasonal work in some industries, when the employer can't get local workers (also known as a 416 visa), will allow people to stay for nine months. At the moment, the visa's cap is six month for some countries.

* Visa-holders will also have to pay fewer out-of-pocket expenses.

WHAT IMPACT WILL THE CHANGES HAVE?

* The changes are aimed at addressing labour shortages on farms in regional and rural Australia.

* Regional economies are also expected to get a boost from visa holders splashing their cash locally.

HOW MANY PEOPLE COME?

* A total of 21,667 first working holiday visas were granted in 2017-18, with the top countries of origin being the USA, China and Chile. There were also 3339 people who secured a second year in the country.

* Just over 6000 people from the Pacific Islands take part in the seasonal worker program each year.

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