The Australian Immigration announced an evolution on the renewal of Working Holiday Visa (WHV / WHP) in Australia on the 1st May 2015. Now, voluntary work, known under the names HelpExchange (HelpX) and Wwoofing, will no longer eligible to obtain a second WHV.
Update December 2015 : From 1st December 2015, Volunteer work is no longer eligible for the renewal of the Working Holiday Visa (WHV / WHP) in Australia.
The Wwoofing and HelpX, a common way to renew the WHV in Australia
For many backpackers that come into the working holiday visa program in Australia, the renewal of the working holiday visa is a real goal. To be eligible for a second WHV in Australia, you must have completed 88 days of work in the areas identified by immigration: agriculture, mining, certain construction jobs … and that the employer is located in an eligible rural area. So far, volunteer work, based on the exchange (a few hours per day in exchange for housing and food) could allow the renewal of WHV, provided that the tasks correspond to Australian immigration requirements.
Wwoofing and the HelpX for example do not provide paid work, but are however highly popular among backpackers in Australia. Indeed, they have a reputation of being less painful than the farm work, and often easier to find. Volunteer work is also popular with travellers who see the opportunity to meet local and discover the Australian culture while renewing their working holiday visa.
The Australian government reform the conditions for renewal of WHV
On the 1st May 2015, Australian immigration reform announced on the renewal of WHV which comes into place in the coming months. Volunteer work will no longer be eligible conditions for the renewal of the Working Holiday Visa (WHV / WHP) in Australia.
The government justifies this decision by citing operational problems of workers with the WHV. Some hosts benefit from this system, and do not provide the desired working conditions by the government.
Here is a statement made by Ms. Cash, Minister of Australian immigration:
“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.
“The reform will require those seeking to apply for a second Working Holiday visa holder to produce an official payslip from their employer, demonstrating 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.
“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.”
What are the consequences for Backpackers?
Although this decision is aimed at improving working conditions for backpackers, it will not be good news for everyone. Many turned to this trading system in order to renew their visas and avoid competition in the farms.
This trend is likely to intensify competition in the fruit picking, and perhaps push some farms to benefit (lower wages, poorer working conditions). The government regularly fight against irregularities, as was recently the case with employers ordered to pay compensation to backpackers. Unfortunately, scams in Fruit Picking exist and it also happens to be “underpaid”. It is therefore important to learn a minimum to avoid some scams, and if you have a problem with your employer, you are reminded that it is possible to contact the Fairwork for the protection of labour rights.
This new rule should be applied “in the coming months,” the precise date has not yet been confirmed. For those in Australia who are relying on their days with the Wwoofing or HelpX programs to renew their visa, we encourage you to make your application faster.
Official source: www.minister.immi.gov.au