“What happens to my visa, Mr Morrison?”​

April 7th, 2020 | | backpacker

I’m fortunate and proud to be an immigrant to Australia. I’ve adopted a lot of Australian habits, I eat avo on toast, I often put an ‘o’ on the end of my friends names and I shop at Bunnings in my thongs…thongs means something completely different over here.

Born in England, I took the ‘backpacker route’ to become Australian citizen. I arrived on a 417 Working Holiday visa in 2010 and completed my 88 days of regional work to extend my stay. I was then fortunately offered sponsorship by an exciting Australian travel company. I eventually gained residency and, finally, in 2017 I made the pledge to become a citizen of this amazing country, that is girt by sea. After a somewhat long and arduous visa process, I embraced my newfound citizenship by starting a tour company, Welcome to Travel, with my best friend. Welcome to Travel introduces people, primarily on a 417 and 462 visa, to the possibilities of travel and the Australian way of life.

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Our travellers land full of enthusiasm, open minded, looking forward to the next 24 months of adventures. They know there may be challenges ahead, including completing 88 days of farm work in critical, and at times unregulated, industries. They do it so they can enjoy the full 24 months of the 417/462 Working Holiday visa and explore more of this amazing country, maybe even with a slight hope of one day, like me, being able to call Australia home. However, the COVID-19 crisis is proving to be a challenge too far for some of Australia’s working holiday makers.

I have admired the way the Australian Government has acted in the face of adversity in these unprecedented times. Offering Australian citizens and businesses lifelines of support. Welcome to Travel is especially grateful for the recently established JobKeeper payment.

But today, something didn’t feel quite right during the Coronavirus update with Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge. The request/demand for ‘backpackers’ to go home did not provide any solutions to working holiday visa makers’ main question – ‘what happens to my visa?’

The 417 Working Holiday Visa and 462 Work and Holiday visa costs $485AUD for one year. They’re available for select nationalities to use once, between the ages of 18 and 30, (unless you’re from Canada, Ireland and France then the age limit increases to 35.) To extend another year you need to complete 88 days regional work, and to extend for a third year you need work six months in a critical industry.

Australia welcomed 306,400 Working holiday makers between April 2018 to March 2019 with a spend of 3.2 billion Australia dollars. Their spend keeps many Australian businesses operating, they contribute to critical industries such as agriculture, childcare and construction, and they are actively contributing to our health sector during a global pandemic…they’re not bad for a group of ‘backpackers’.

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Following today’s announcements, working holiday makers now have the direction they need to start to take action around Covid-19, but those looking to comply with the government’s request to ‘go home’ still don’t know what will happen to their visa when they leave mid-way through their stay.

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Working holiday makers who travelled to Australia in 2019/2020 have been hit hard by a number of events beyond their control, first by an unprecedented bushfire season, and now a global pandemic.

Every single one of these 300,000+ people has their own individual story and struggle. They may have just landed in the country for the first time, were just about to receive sponsorship in a new job, or they may have missed out on the opportunity to complete regional work. Others have recently returned to Australia to begin their second or third year visa to be told they must return home. Does this mean their second year visa will continue to remain active even when they leave the country? Were the 88 days they spent completing regional work all for nothing? These are all real life examples from some of our travellers.

This community of travellers have been given mixed messages from Governments; at first told to stay in Australia to avoid the virus in Europe and UK, and now explicitly told to return to their home country, all still with no clarity on their visa status.

There are many ways to support working holiday makers and ensure they return home, the following recommendation drafted by Adventure Tourism Victoria is potential win-win for both parties:

‘Anyone who is/was on a working holiday visa from 31 December 2019 to 1 July 2020 would have been affected from the coronavirus should be welcomed back on another working holiday visa free of charge.’

The disruption to industries all over the world has been immense and travel and tourism have felt the first shockwaves of this crisis. Australia should be in a good position to ‘bounce back’ with its array of mesmerising destinations, coupled with their offering of unique experiences and their high minimum wage it is a must do for anyone wanting a working holiday. Tomorrows travellers will inject money into the economy, but this will only happen if the government is being empathetic to the working holiday makers today and take measures to support their eventual return.

Australia, I know you’ve had a hard time this year, but please don’t ostracise this community of travellers. They are huge contributors to the economy and to our critical industries, and most importantly they are your best source of tourism marketing. They are Australia’s free advertisement, they are destination advocates and promoters, but they can’t do that if we don’t provide clarity on their visa status.

Once you give the give the green light on their visa’s and their ability to return Australia, they’ll head home to be with their loved ones, because that’s where they really want to be right now.

When this pandemic is over, travel bans have been lifted and the world is a safer place, they’ll return in their droves, help to boost our economy, work across vital industries and most importantly they will get to experience the best that Australia has to offer.

Article written by Darryl Newby,Co-Founder of Welcome To Travel

3 Responses

  1. Julian Ledger says:

    Nice one Darryl

  2. Wendi Aylward says:

    Great article. A welcome back waiver would be a huge help to those who had to cut short their travel, and in many cases have an unused flight voucher that can be used to get them back here. Our government needs to start thinking about putting the building blocks in place now in order for our industry to rebuild.

  3. Very good article Darryl, congratulations.
    I think Mr Morrison is happy to let WHMs stay – it is the Tourists he wants to go home. We need the WHMs for picking and packing.

    Two things I would like to know are:

    As many station owners cannot afford to pay backpackers who stay in Australia now (it is much safer here than in Europe or North America) because of the drought and now the Virus – please may the Second Visa be granted for Volunteer work – just like for the bush fires?

    Can the Second Visa be extended to cover eligible farms which do not have the correct post code for paid work?