If you are like myself and thousands of other backpackers who fell in love with Australia during our 1st year Working Holiday Visa Australia (417/462), then you have also realized that 1 year just doesn’t cut it!
Luckily for everyone, there’s a way to extend the best year of your life – into the TWO best years of your life!
The process isn’t a walk in the park, but is very attainable. If you choose wisely and work with a good group of people, I’m sure your regional work experience will be one of the highlights of your Australian adventure.
I have put together a comprehensive guide that explains all the information you will need to know when it comes to securing your working holiday visa Australia.
Eligibility and Basic Requirements:
Before you decide to pack up your bags and head out of whichever city you have been living in to complete the regional work required for your working holiday visa Australia, take the time to ensure you’re eligible to be granted the visa. Succumbing yourself to 88 days of slave labour, just to find out it was all for nothing would be a fucking nightmare.
- 417 visa holders are eligible to complete their work in specific postcodes in every state throughout Australia.
- As of Nov 18th 2016, second year WHV’s are available to 462 visa holders. For the 462 extension, you are only allowed to complete your work in postcodes from the Northern Territories, and certain northern parts of Queensland and Western Australia.
- Ensure that your passport has at least 6 months remaining before expiry at the time of application. This will avoid complications with contacting IMMI to amend your information during the application process, and causing delays.
- Make sure you apply for your 2nd year visa before your 31st birthday. Visas can be granted after you turn 31, but your eligibility is calculated from your application date.
- You must not have any dependants (children) living with you for the entire duration of your stay.
- Ensure you complete the full 3 months or 88 days of regional work before your 1st WHV expires. I completed my 88 days in just over 4 months, but I would recommend giving yourself 6 months to complete the days, in case of sparse work.
- You will need an Australian Tax File Number (which can take up to 4 weeks to get).
Complete the correct amount of regional work:
There are 2 ways to complete the days required for your working holiday visa Australia. To submit your regional work, you must:
- Have worked 3 months of continuous full time work. Industry standards vary, but full time work is considered a minimum of 35 hours per week. You can only go this route if you have worked with 1 employer during you regional work.
- Have completed 88 days of part time work. You can work for as many different companies as you wish. Only the industry standard of 7 hour+ work days will be counted towards the 88 days required. This is why I feel you should give yourself 4-6 months to complete your days. Just because you have secured work either directly though a farm, or through a backpacker contractor, doesn’t necessarily mean you will be given a great deal of work. It took myself just over 4 months to complete the days.
You cannot shorten the 88 required days by adding up long hour work days. For example, since the industry standard is 7 hours, you can’t do a 10 and 11 hour shift and count it as 3 days.
If you have secured a full time contract, any days that aren’t worked are still counted towards your cumulative total. For example, a 3 month contract with 7 days on and 7 days off, will be accepted as 3 months of continual work.
What is regional work and where can you complete it?
The most popular job types to complete the required days for your second year are by far fruit picking/packing and farm jobs. Jobs in this field (pun intended) tend to be plentiful for 10 months out of the year, and can pay quite well during the busy times. But you should know that there are other industry jobs which are recognized as regional work, and may be better suited to you and your skills. The 5 eligible industries are:
- Plant and animal cultivation
- Tree planting and felling
- Fishing and pearling
There are heaps of great resources for travellers to use to find work. Facebook is one of the best, offering many groups and forums in a friendly online community that’s loaded with job opportunities. Gumtree is also very popular, being used by many backpacker contractors, who offer jobs year round.
Make sure that the jobs you apply for are located in an eligible postcode. I came across a few jobs on gumtree that were in ineligible postcodes.
You can find work in almost every town in regional Australia, but here’s a few of the most popular farming towns that are known to the backpacking community here in Australia:
- Bundaberg (I spent 5 months here): Very popular farming town about 450km north of Brisbane, at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. Work on tomato farms is the big money maker here. Try to avoid Bundaberg during January to April as farms are very slow this time of year.
- Stanthorpe: Located about 220 kms south east of Brisbane, this town is warm enough to grow tomatoes, and cool enough to grow stone fruit. Great variety of farm jobs here.
- Cairns: Tully is probably the backpacker hub, located 2 hours south of Cairns. Banana picking is huge here, but beware, banana picking is damn hard work. The worked paired with the humidity = no thanks.
- Mildurra: Located about 6 hours north of Melbourne, this farm town is super popular with backpackers. Great variety of farm jobs from citrus, to berries, to stone fruit etc.
- Margaret Valley: 3 hours south of Perth, you will find one of the most beautiful and fastest growing farm towns in Australia. Known for their vineyards, grape planting lasts from February-April, then picking goes from June-September. There is also a wide variety of other farm jobs here.
CAUTION: Be extremely careful when it comes to choosing who you will work for. Talk to other backpackers in the company to see if they are getting good work. Far too often, people end up loosing money waiting around for jobs that were promised to them that aren’t there.
Collect and organize all documents throughout the entire process:
Australian Immigration has been cracking down on the second year visa applications over the past few years, due to reports of many travellers scamming the system by getting signed off on the 88 days without actually working them.
Don’t be lazy. Gather and organize all documents throughout the entire process. This will ensure that everything goes smoothly when it comes time to apply.
You will have to download, and print an official Official Employment Verification Form, then record your logged days at every place you’ve worked.
Some pieces of evidence that IMMI could possible ask you for (I was asked to submit them) on top of the OEVF are:
- Payslips from your employer
- Rent receipts
- Employer references
- Tax return
- Bank statement from the payslips matching ABN number
When it comes to the day to day work, it is a great idea to record every single hour you worked. You can use this to question your employer if there is a discrepancy with your pay check, and you can also include this as proof of work if you are asked to submit documents. I used the Notes app on my iPhone, and strongly recommend it.
Tips I learned from my experience completing my regional work:
During my 4 months in Bundaberg completing my regional work, I picked up a few tips and ideas that you might find useful. Some are common sense, and some I had to find out the hard way:
- Do your research before you take a job. Like I mentioned earlier, talk to fellow backpackers about the amount of work given and the living conditions. I couldn’t imagine much worse than spending 6 months out of your first year visa trying to get your second, and ending up falling short of the 88 days required.
- Never take your job for granted. Regional work isn’t for the faint of heart. You will often be working 10-12 hour days, sometimes in the blazing sun in 30+ degree weather. During my farm work, I witnessed many people getting fired for not working fast enough, or show a lack of quality control in the fruit they were picking/packing. You have to be especially careful while working for a backpacking contractor, since you pay weekly rent out of your salary. If you get fired, you have no more work, which means you are essentially forced to leave quickly, resulting in you losing your bond. This happens more than you could imagine, so while at work, keep your head down and work your ass off.
- Beware of on-line scammers. Never send money over the internet for deposits on accommodation or a job. (I came across but avoided this on gumtree)
- Become mates with supervisors, or bosses. Being buddies with people in charge of giving you work can never be a bad thing. Just don’t be a brown-noser!
- Ask people to take pictures of you at work. They’re great for memories, and can also be sent to IMMI as documentation evidence when applying. If you are not allowed phones in packing sheds (which is normal), make sure you ask for approval from your supervisor prior to whipping out your phone and possibly getting fired.
- Wear comfortable and durable footwear. For fruit packing jobs, I would suggest comfortable running shoes, or something that you could be comfortable during a 12 hour shift, as packers get a lot of hours in busy seasons. For fruit picking jobs, I would suggest some sort of breathable but waterproof shoe. I used super comfortable trail runners with Goretex which was amazing for the rainy and muddy days.
- Drink lots of water. I cannot stress this enough. Many backpackers have died working on farms, mainly due to dehydration. Almost every location in Australia can get wicked hot during the summer months. Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory can get unbearably hot, with the humidity often above 80% (which is the real killer). If I knew I was in for an 8 hour day, I would always bring 4L of water and would often drink it all.
- Protect yourself from the sun. Australia has some of the highest UV rays in the world. The incidence of skin cancer is one of the highest in the world, two to three times the rates in Canada, the US and the UK. So don’t be naive and put on that damn sunscreen! I bought a 1L jug of 50 SPF at K-mart. If working out in the fields, I would always wear a large straw hat, baseball caps don’t quite cover enough in my opinion.
- Keep fit and flexible. Farm work is generally quite physically demanding and can be super taxing on bodies. Knees and backs can easily develop pain if you are not a decently fit person. Many farm jobs require you to bend over for the entire time, sometimes for 10+ hours a day. Stretching everyday prevents muscles tightening up and will help to minimize pain.
- Gloves are your friend. Buy a thin rubber work glove (approx. $10) if you are working in the fields. If you are picking tomatoes, or in a packing shed, buy disposable latex gloves to protect your hands from harsh chemicals that were sprayed.
- Be productive on your down time. It is super important keep your mind active while you are working and living in these remote areas and small town. Whether its exercising, learning a language, learning to cook, or writing a blog to share your adventures, keep busy and the time will fly by!
- Cook your meals, and save your money! You will be required to supply your own lunches while working on a farm. If you’re not confident in the kitchen, I highly suggest you learn to become confident or you are going to have a very rough time. I rotated between 5 dishes which were all loaded with protein and veggies (thai curry/indian curry/teriyaki chicken/kimchi fried rice/okonomyaki), where I made enough food for at least 3 or 4 days. It’s by far the cheapest and most delicious way to go. I knew heaps of people that lived off of canned tuna and white bread for months at a time, which hurt my soul to watch.
- Be safe! Finally, the most important tip. Always, always take every necessary precautions to avoid injury. Accidents and death are easy to brush off and think it would never happen to you but they happen more than you might believe. I worked with a guy that had half of his thumb ripped off after getting it caught in a machines chain. A guy from a backpackers down the road had a similar injury but lets just say on a slightly larger scale. I have also heard of many people having their foot run over by a truck or tractor. I came close to having my foot run over from a trailer wheel after the tractor driver released the clutch for a second and started moving. But I am constantly aware of that being the case, almost waiting for it to happen. I don’t want to scare you but I feel I need to express how easy it is for accidents to happen, and how common they are.
Applying for the highly coveted Working Holiday Visa Australia:
Congrats, you’ve completed your 88 days! Wasn’t so bad was it? Now lets get that Visa granted.
Along with the evidence we’ve already talked about, you will also need all the information and documents as when you applied for your 1st year visa.
You can either apply by:
- Online. The application will set you back $444 AUD, and will take you about 15 minutes to complete. Write down the TRN (Transaction Reference Number), as you will need this if you ever need to contact IMMI.
- Post. Paper applications must be sent to the Cairns office in Northern Queensland @ Cairns Working Holiday Centre.
If you are applying in the country, you must remain in the country until IMMI has processed your application and granted your visa. Once you apply while in Australia, you are put on a bridging visa until your visa is granted, and can remain in the country even if you’re 1st year visa expires. If for whatever reason your visa is not granted, you will be asked to leave the country within 28 days.
Same goes with if you apply outside the country, you must remain outside until your visa is granted.
The average response time from IMMI is 21 days. I know many people who received their granted visa within 10 minutes, and I know people that waited 3 months or more! I ended up having to wait over 6 weeks to get my visa granted.
I should note that I didn’t actually complete the full 88 days due to working during 3 slow months. In the end I had 75 days of eligible work days. I believe the reason IMMI granted my visa was because I proved via pay slips that I lived and worked for a farm in a regional post code for 17 weeks. So if you are worried about falling a few days short of the 88 days required, don’t sweat it too much. Just prove you spent the time working in a regional area and you will get it!
If you are having a hard time looking for work in Bundaberg, leave your email in the comments and I will send you my contact information to the backpacker I worked at.
I hope this post answers any questions you may have, and that it guides you guys along through your regional Australian work adventure. If not, let me know what I missed, or leave a question in the comments below.
Feel free to bookmark this page for a refresher and share this post with your friends if you found it useful!
DUE TO POPULAR DEMAND, HERE IS MY BUNDABERG CONTACT:
The backpacker hostel is called Sun City, and the supervisors name is my friend Thomas, you can tell him you’re Alex’s friend if you’d like.
His # is 0421411332
Hope this helps,