Volunteer work undertaken through Australia’s Working Holiday visa programme will no longer count as eligible work to qualify for a second visa, the country’s Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Michaelia Cash, revealed today.
Currently, young adults aged 18 to 30 from partner countries may holiday and work in Australia for up to 12 months and may extend their stay in Australia by a further 12 months if they undertake at least three months work in certain agricultural, mining or construction roles in regional Australia.
Minister Cash explained that the changes address a concern that some employers are exploiting the second Working Holiday visa initiative by encouraging Working Holiday visa holders to work for less than the minimum wage.
“The current arrangements can provide a perverse incentive for visa holders to agree to less than acceptable conditions in order to secure another visa,” Minister Cash said.
“This Government is resolutely focused on upholding visa integrity and preventing exploitation – these changes will remove the incentive for visa holders to accept substandard conditions.”
Cash continued: “The reform will require those seeking to apply for a second Working Holiday visa holder to produce an official payslip from their employer, demonstrating that they have completed their regional work component.
“I recognise that the majority of operators are doing the right thing, however it is unacceptable that some employers have been exploiting vulnerable young overseas workers and damaging the reputation of this important social and cultural exchange programme.
“As is the case with all visa programmes, it is essential that integrity in the Working Holiday visa programme is maintained so as to prevent exploitation and ensure public confidence in the system is upheld.”
The Assistant Minister concluded her speech by stating: “In recognition of the many legitimate and worthwhile agencies that employ volunteer workers to deliver valuable community services, Working Holiday visa holders will still be able to perform volunteer work should they wish to do so. The work will simply not count towards eligibility for a second visa.”
These changes will be phased in by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection over the coming months.