Note: This post was written in May, 2016. Since then there have been some very slight changes with regards to the rules on the Second Year Visa. I'm currently travelling India and unable to call Immigration, but when I am back in Australia at the end of 2017, I will be updating this post to reflect any changes.
I've recently felt driven to write a post attempting to help other backpackers with the answers to the countless questions surrounding the Australian Working Holiday Second Year Visa requirements. From my personal experience, I've found there to be not enough clear information online for us, and the 'Immigration helpline' is only open during hours where many of us are at work so are unable to call. Plus the hold queue is usually at least an hour long, preventing you from fitting in a quick call on your lunch break!
So, I've taken it upon myself to try and write a list of as many 'second year visa' related questions as I can think of, to spend my free time on the farm researching my ass off, and to call poor Immigration (what feels like several thousand times) with said questions, to present to you my carefully researched answers.
So... Where to begin?... I've tried to keep this in what I consider to be a vaguely chronological order - hopefully if you've come here looking for an answer then I've been able to help!
What is an Australian Working Holiday Second Year Visa?
The Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417) is a temporary visa which allows people between the ages of 18 and 31 to live and work in Australia for up to one year. (Though you must apply before you turn 31.) The second year visa is simply an extension of the first year visa, available up until the age of 31.
Who can get one?
You must hold a valid passport from a country which is involved in the Working Holiday programme with Australia. This includes:
- Republic of Ireland
- Republic of Korea
- United Kingdom
- Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (including British National Overseas passport holders)
You must be between the ages of 18 and 31 (Again, you will need to apply before your 31st birthday.)
What about Americans? (USA)
Unfortunately, if you're a US citizen, you're not currently eligible for a second year working holiday visa in Australia. You can still apply for a first year visa here though, and there are other options available to you if you would like to stay in Australia a bit longer. (A tourist visa, student visa or skilled worker visa!)
How much does it cost?
It currently costs $440 AUD to apply for/purchase a second year visa.
What requirements do I need to meet before I can apply?
To apply for a second year working holiday visa, you must have complied with all the requirements of your first year visa, (have a valid passport, be between the ages of 18-31, have enough money to support yourself and buy an onward ticket at the end of your stay, blah, blah, blah) AND most importantly, you need to have completed three months or 88 days of specified work in Regional Australia before your first working holiday expires.
What classes as 'specified work'?
Specified work means work that is undertaken in a specific field or industry (within a designated regional area. The approved industries for specified work are:
- Plant and Animal Cultivation
- Fishing and Pearling
- Tree Farming and Felling
Examples of work in these industries which count towards your second year (as long as they're in an eligible postcode) are:
- Fruit picking
- Working on a cattle ranch (feeding or herding cattle)
- Oyster pearling
- Mining coal or ores
- House renovations
If you would like more detailed information on eligible specified work, click here and then scroll down to click 'Visa applicants' and then to 'Specified work.'
Does Au Pair work count towards my second year visa?
In short - no. Up until a few weeks ago, I was under the impression that working as a nanny counted towards signing off your second year. (I believe due to the huge amount of posts online offering 'second year visa au pair work.') After looking into this, I've discovered that it doesn't count at all. (It even says so on the Specified Work section of the Immigration website.) Chances are, if an au pair job is offering to sign you off for second year, they'll be signing your days off through the ABN number of a farm, and putting your hours down as farm hand work. Obviously if an employer is doing this, it's illegal, and you're at risk of your second year visa being turned down if investigated! Sure, some of you will know somebody who has worked as an au pair and already received their second year visa - but is it really worth the risk?
What about Traffic Control work?
Yes. As long as it's in the Northern Territory. Plenty of people head up to Darwin for work as a traffic controller, and complete their second year visa work there.
Which areas class as 'regional areas'?
The areas listed in the table below are the areas which class as regional areas. Before you start any specified work, check that the postcode you'll be working in makes you eligible! As you can see, some areas such as Northern Territory are completely regional.
Where can I find a job that counts towards my second year visa?
I've personally found Gumtree to be the most valuable resource in finding a job. I posted an advert on there and had plenty of replies. (Be aware that there are scams about though!) There are all sorts of jobs on Gumtree. When you search, try using the keywords 'second year visa' and you should get plenty of results. Remember to check the website a couple of times a day as there are always new posts being added!
Working Hostels are basically hostels which find you work. (Some don't actually find you the work, but provide you with local contacts etc.) When you check into a working hostel, you'll be added to a work waiting list. Sometimes the wait for work can be over 4 weeks.
Harvest Trail are extremely helpful when it comes to helping you find work. Just give them a call and tell them which area you're in, and they can tell you if there's any available work! The number to call them is 1800 062 332. You can also check the town and crops map, which they provide - this gives you an idea of which areas will have work at specific times of the year.
Another option is Pick the World. This website lists contact details for hundreds of farms in Australia. Check on the Harvest Trail crops map which areas are about to come into harvesting season, and then phone as many farms from the Pick The World website as you can! Chances are, some of them might need some help! Obviously be sure to check that the work counts towards your second year before committing!
Keep an eye on the Australian Independent Backpackers Facebook Group. The admins on there (especially Robyn!) are very helpful when it comes to helping people find jobs! Robyn often shares job offer posts in the group throughout the day, so check back often!
As mentioned before, there are scams about, so be wary!
Do I need a car?
It's definitely beneficial to have one, as a lot of farm work is in the middle of nowhere and the employer requires you to have one to get to work. Not all jobs will require you to have one, but it'll definitely make your life easier!
How can I check if my job offer is a scam or not?
As of yet, there's no official blacklist of employers/farms (though it would be extremely handy!) I think the key is to have your wits about you. Ask for the employers ABN - you can check online if the business is legitimate. Never, ever pay an upfront deposit to secure a job, or for accommodation. Don't be scared to ask questions - and then do your research online. Ask other backpackers for information too - the Australia Backpackers Facebook group is a good place to ask - with over 40,000 members there's a chance that someone might have worked for your employer, or at least have some information about them!
Do I have to complete all my regional work in one go?
No - though it may be in your best interest to get it done in one go! Regional work can be completed in one block with one employer, or in separate blocks with one employer or several employers.
Do I need to complete 3 months of work or 88 days?
If you are working full time for one employer for three calendar months in one block with no gaps, then you can class that three months as having done your regional work, as your employer can sign off your weekends too. You can only do this if the hours you are working are classed as full time for the industry standard. (Usually 38 hours a week.)
If you complete your work in an industry where the standard practice for that industry is two weeks on, two weeks off, (for example mining) then you can sign off your three months of specified work with only six weeks of actual work, as the two weeks off will also count towards your second year.
If you are completing your work with more than one employer, if you work less than full time hours each week, if you are completing your work in more than one block or if you are employed by more than one employer at any time, you must complete 88 full days of work,
How much time do I need to complete my regional work?
The obvious answer is 'three months' or '88 days.' However, it's not unheard of for work to get called off due to bad weather, for work in an area to run out, for there to be a hundred other setbacks/issues when working or looking for work. If you're lucky, you will find steady work with one employer for three months and your days get signed off and you're stress free. What seems to be fairly common, however, is that people manage to pick up days here and there, and not even including the search for an eligible job/jobs, it's not unheard of for it to take up to 5 or 6 months to get all of your days signed off successfully. The best bet is to complete your regional work as soon as you possibly can, to avoid having to join the ever growing number of backpackers who are urgently trying to cram in their days!
How much money do I need to be earning for my regional work to count towards my second year?
In order for your days to be signed off, you MUST be earning the legal minimum wage for the work you complete. If you are employed on a full time contract, this is $17.29 per hour (before tax). If you are employed on a casual contract, this is $21.61 an hour (before tax). All Australian employers are legally obligated to provide their employees with payslips for any work they undertake.
Does it matter if I'm on a full time or casual contract?
It doesn't matter which type of contract you are on when it comes to signing off your visa - as long as you are getting paid the correct wage. On a full time contract, your employer has to give you 38 hours of work a week. On a casual contract, you might find yourself working only three days a week.
How often do I need to get paid for my regional work to count?
Most jobs will pay weekly or fortnightly. There are exceptions, but try to get a weekly or fortnightly paycheque if you can. I've heard of employers that suggest paying you in bulk at the end of your employment - as far as I'm aware this will still count towards your visa, (as long as you have a payslip underlying the hours you've done) but I think it's better for your application to have regular payments going into your account.
The job I have been offered is a 'piece rate' job. Does it count towards my second year visa?
Many people opt to work picking or packing fruit for their second year visa. In some cases, you will be paid hourly for this - in a lot of cases the work will be piece rate. This means that you get paid a certain amount of money per bucket or bin that you pick, pack or prune. Does the work count towards your second year? Well. This is a bit of a grey area....
As a piece worker, you need to enter into a written agreement with your employer, clarifying that you agree that you might not necessarily make the national minimum wage. By law, the piecework rate has to allow the average competent employee to earn 15% more per hour than the relevant minimum hourly rate. But, that doesn't mean that everyone will be able to meet those targets. The rate might be calculated at $12 a bin, as the 'average competent employee' can supposedly pick 2 bins in an hour. But does that mean if you only pick one bin per hour you can't count the work towards your visa?
To be honest, I've tried to find an official answer to this question for so long, that I'm practically blue in the face. FOUR calls to Immigration, (totaling nearly 6 hours) and twice I was told that ALL fruit picking work needs to be paid hourly for it to count. The other two times, I was told that the work only counts if the buckets or bins are paid at a 'reasonable rate.' Fair Work weren't able to advise with regards to whether or not the work qualified towards the visa.
I know plenty of people who have succeeded in getting their second year visa through fruit picking at piece rate - some have even managed to earn a lot of money. And of course, at some fruit farms it's possible to earn a very good wage, but many people don't because they aren't working hard enough. As far as the work counting towards your visa goes, I personally would opt to only take an hourly paid job, just because I like being certain, BUT I'm also aware of how many people pick fruit at piece rate for their visa with no problems, and there must be something in that. Though, if you think that Immigration are going to give you a straight answer, think again!
Does it count towards my second year visa if my wage is paid in cash?
Yes. As long as you have a payslip to show how much you have been paid and taxed. However, Immigration strongly advised that it's best to be paid by bank transfer or cheque where possible. Or at the very least, to make sure you're banking your cash each payday.
Does the specified work count if I'm working in exchange for free food and accommodation?
If you're only receiving food and accommodation in return for your work, then your job will no longer count towards your second year visa. (Up until 31st August 2015 it would have counted.) It is possible, however, for an employer to offer free food and accommodation or just free accommodation alongside a wage that is lower than the minimum wage as long as they deduct the costs for this on your payslip (after tax,) and your wage before the deductions was equal to the minimum wage or higher than. So for example. If you're working 38 hours a week on a farm on a casual contract and getting paid $360 a week as well as free food and accommodation, this would count towards your second year, if your employer has marked down on your payslip that your food and accommodation costs are $200 (even though it works out as under $10 an hour earnings.) Below, I'll try my best to show why!
- $21.61 (the casual minimum wage) multiplied by 38 (hours) is equal to $821.18.
- Minus the tax, and you're left with $554.30 (For this example I have used a tax rate of 32.5%, but this can be variable!)
- If the employer has marked $200 a week on your payslip as 'food and accommodation costs.' $554.30 - $200 = $354.30
- So anything above $354.30 a week works out as above minimum wage earnings and will count towards your second year!
I'm not getting paid the minimum wage for the work I'm doing. What can I do?
Contact Fair Work. There have been plenty of cases I've heard of where the employer has been forced to pay out to the employee. The biggest payout I've personally heard of was $3500. It seems that Australia, or at least Fair Work, takes workers rights pretty seriously. You have up to six years to make a claim with them, so it's even worth giving them a call if you've already completed your farm work. If you're currently working on a farm and receiving pay below the minimum wage, maybe talk to your employer first, and hint to them that you're going to call Fair Work. It might even be a good idea to start looking for a new job prior to calling, as it's likely that your employer isn't going to be especially happy if you've reported them.
How many hours do I need to work for a day to count as a signed off day?
You will need to find out what the industry standard is. So for the Horticulture industry (which covers fruit picking and packing, sowing crops, harvesting crops etc etc) the industry standard is an eight hour day. That means that if you're working as a tractor driver, planting crops, you will need to work eight hours a day for each day to officially count as a day. If you want to find out what your industry standard is, you can check on the Fair Work site. Just click here! Use the dropdown menu to select which industry you're working in, and once you've done that, it will come up with all the details for your award. Then you just need to find the section 'Ordinary hours of work and rostering.'
If my industry standard is 6 hours and I work 12 hours in one day, can I count that as two days?
No. You're only allowed to count one day of work per calendar day. Though, I have no idea how they'd ever find out if your payslip stated simply the number of hours you've worked in one week, and your employer was happy to say you'd completed six days work instead of five.
Can I work seven days a week to sign off my days more quickly?
According to Fair Work, you're allowed to legally work 13 out of every 14 days. So as long as you're having at least one day off per fortnight, that's all good!
I've completed my regional work. When should I apply for my second year?
This depends on whether you want to start your second year straight away or not. If you would like to stay in Australia and complete two years in succession, then it's recommended to apply for your visa as soon as you've finished your regional work. If you are applying from within Australia, you must be in Australia when the visa is granted. If you are applying from within Australia, your second year will start as soon as your first year finishes. If you would like a gap between your first year and your second year, then you need to be outside of Australia when you apply for your visa (and you will need to remain outside of Australia until it is granted!) Your one year visa will then start as soon you re-enter Australia. Don't forget that you must apply for your second year before your 31st birthday, and if you are choosing to have a gap between your two years, you must have re-entered before your 32nd birthday!
Do I need to provide evidence of my regional work when I apply for my second year visa?
Not when you apply. But, print out a 1263 Employment Verification Form before you start your regional work and get your employer/s to complete this for you once you have finished working for them. If you apply online for your visa, you don't need to submit any evidence with your application (though once you've applied, you can log into your 'immi account' and there's the option to submit evidence if you wish!)
How long will it take for my visa to be accepted?
This varies hugely. There are plenty of people who have their application accepted within minutes. There are also plenty of people whose applications have taken 3 or more months to be accepted. There have been reports of people who have had their visa accepted and didn't receive an email, so it's worth checking your 'immi account' every now and then, just incase.
What happens if my visa application gets investigated?
I'm not certain on the exact figures, but I've heard that 1 in 7 second year visa applications gets investigated. (Please correct me if I'm wrong!) If you happen to be one of the unlucky ones, Immigration will simply request that you provide evidence to back up your application. If your visa hasn't been accepted by the time your first visa runs out, and you're still in Australia, you'll be put onto a bridging visa.
What evidence will I need to provide if my visa application gets investigated?
Evidence requested might include original or certified copies of the following:
- Group Certificates
- Payment Summaries
- Tax Returns
- Employer References
- A Completed Verification Form, signed by the employer (The 1263 one mentioned earlier!)
- An Original Bank Statement covering The Entire Period that you're claiming to have been employed for regional work
Make sure you use your card to pay for things in the area you're working in, as it backs up your claim that you were there!
What needs to be on my payslips?
Your dated payslips will need to include your employer's name and ABN number as well as your own name, work position, contract details, the hours you've worked, your hourly wage, tax deductions and also any deductions for food and accommodation.
What is a group certificate?
This is sometimes called a 'payment summary' or a 'PAYG payment summary.' At the end of each financial year, employers are required to provide their employees with one of these. If you're leaving an employment before the end of the financial year and you require one for an investigation, you can just ask your employer.
What's a bridging visa?
A bridging visa (BVA) is a temporary visa which allows you to stay in Australia in the instance that your first year visa expires and your second year visa still hasn't been granted.
If I'm on a bridging visa, do I get extra time in Australia?
No. Unfortunately not. If you are on a bridging visa for two months whilst waiting for your second year visa to be granted, those two months will be deducted from your second year.
Can I work whilst on a bridging visa?
Yes, as long as the last visa you held in Australia was a Working Holiday Visa.
Somebody told me that you only have one year to apply for your second year visa after you've finished your first year. Is this true?
No! As long as you apply before you're 31, there is no time limit as to when you need to submit your application.
I applied for my second year and I've been asked to do a health screen - do I have to do one?
Yes. Sometimes Immigration will require people to undertake a health screen for their visa to be granted. This could be due to a number of reasons, for example, if you've visited a certain country in the past, or if you've worked in a certain industry before. If you are asked to do one, you must do one - there's no getting around it!
If you have any more questions regarding the second year visa, shoot them my way and I'll do my best to find out the answers (and add them to this post!)