Many backpackers in Australia want to do the three months or “88 days” of rural work in order to get their second year Working Holiday Visa. There is some rules concerning the work that is eligible the 88 days that seem to raise a lot of questions among backpackers.
In this post I’m trying to answer some of the Frequently Asked Questions about the 2nd year visa work. There is a lot of contradictory information on the Internet about the rules concerning the 2nd year visa work, so for this post I have used the information found from Australian immigration website, which is the official source of any information about your visa.
Information on this article concerns only 417 Working Holiday visa holders and not 462 Work and Holiday visa holders. For information about second year visa for 462 visa holders, please proceed to border.gov.au and click the tab “Visa Applicants” and from there -> “Specified subclass 462 work“.
Where can I find information about 2nd year visa work?
Your primary source of information about anything related to work for the 2nd year visa should always be Australian immigration websites! I know the sites can be sometimes difficult to navigate and read, so as a secondary resource of information you can also use other websites to clarify things that concern you. But, because government is changing the rules all the time, the information you find elsewhere (like from Facebook groups or other backpacker friends) may be outdated.
Because of this it is important to always double check the information you find anywhere else (including this website) from immigration’s website where the latest and correct information is provided. To get there, click border.gov.au, click the tab -> “Visa applicants” and from there -> “Specified work“. If the information you receive elsewhere is contradict to what is said on government’s site, always trust the immigration’s website!
What kind of work can I do and where?
Work that can be counted towards second year visa must be done in an area that is considered to be regional. Post code list of regional areas can be found from: border.gov.au -> “Visa applicants” -> “Regional areas“. Basically, most areas outside metropolitan areas are considered regional.
Work that can be counted toward your second year visa must be in the following fields:
- plant and animal cultivation
- fishing and pearling
- tree farming and felling
It is not enough that you are employed in some of these fields, but the work you do must be specific type of work to be counted towards your visa. Examples of work that counts towards your visa days include:
- harvesting and/or packing of fruit and vegetable crops
- pruning and trimming vines and trees
- general maintenance crop work
- cultivating or propagating plants, fungi or their products or parts
- feeding and herding cattle on a farm
- horse breeding and stud farming
- maintaining animals for the purpose of selling them or their bodily produce, including natural increase
- immediate processing of animal products including shearing, butchery, packing and tanning
- landscaping the grounds of a construction/house site
- painting the interior/exterior of new buildings
- conservation and environmental reforestation work
- zoo work involving plant or animal cultivation
- erecting fences on a construction site
Examples of work that is NOT eligible include:
- working as a nanny on a farm
- working at a cellar door providing wine tastings
- general garden maintenance
- maintaining animals for tourism or recreational purposes
- cooking/catering on a mine site
- town planning or architecture
- cleaning the interior of mine complexes or buildings.
- supporting work, such as book-keeping
(source: border.gov.au, retrieved 18 Jun 2016.)
Read more: How to Find Farm Work in Australia
How to calculate the days?
This is a quote from border.gov.au:
” ‘Three months‘ means three ‘calendar’ months or 88 days. Work can be either:
- in one block with one business
- in separate blocks with one business or a number of businesses.
Blocks of work may be in different kinds of specified work.
One full day of work is defined as having worked the minimum number of hours considered to be a standard day by the particular industry in which the applicant is employed. Generally, the Australian working week is 35 to 40 hours, consisting of seven to eight hours of work each day. Individual employers can not set a smaller period of time than the industry standard to satisfy the specified work requirement –– Applicants whose work is equivalent to full time employment may count weekends in the 88 day period. However, if the applicant’s work is not equivalent to full time employment, for example, part time or casual, they may only count the full days actually worked. ” (retrieved 18 Jun 2016.)
It doesn’t matter what your employment contract says about your employment status (casual or full time) what does matter, is the amount of hours you work and is this equivalent to the full time employment. However, in my experience the amount of visa days you get from a week is dependent on the farm so always ask your employer how many days they sign you per week.
Also, unfortunately even if you would work more than full time hours per day does not count as ‘extra days’:
“The shortest period that may be counted towards the specified work requirement is one day of full time work (for that industry). Applicants cannot count a long day of work as more than one day of specified work. For example, if the industry’s standard day is six hours long, working a 12 hour day does not count as two days of specified work.” (retrieved 25 Jan 2017.)
How much should I get paid?
After 31 August 2015 all the work towards second year visa should be paid at least the minimum wage according to Fair Work Australia.This means that wwoofing and other volunteer work doesn’t count towards your visa anymore.
Most of the work that backpackers do is on casual contract, which means that you don’t get paid annual leave, paid sick leave or other benefits that full time employees get. This is why the minimum wages for casual employees are slightly higher than for employees with full time contract (more information click HERE). For farm work the minimum wages are following:
“For picking fruit or vegetables, or pruning, you should be paid at least $22.86 an hour if you’re working on a casual hourly basis.
If you’re on a piece work agreement your pay rate has to allow the average competent employee to earn at least 15% more per hour than the relevant minimum hourly rate in the award, which works out to be $25.60 for a casual employee.
You may get paid less if you work slowly or are still learning.” (source: fairwork.gov.au, updated and re-retrieved 9 Aug 2017.)
I know there is some farms that have found a loop hole going around this rule by overcharging in accommodation costs, so even if in the paper it looks like they are paying the minimum wage the money that remains to the employee after the deductions is much less. Personally I consider this to be as much exploitation as not paying the minimum wage so I would recommend not to work for these kind of farms.
What documents will I need?
You have to provide some evidence to immigration proving that you have done your visa days. The documents that you will need from your employer include:
- payslips (from all work done after 31 August 2015)
- completed Form 1263 that your employer has signed
In addition to these, if you do get checked when applying your second year visa the immigration may also ask you to provide:
- payment summaries
- tax returns
- employer references
- original Australian bank statement covering the period of declared specified work.
Evidence of payment
Now when all the work towards second year visa should be paid at least the minimum wage you have to provide evidence that you actually got paid this much. Evidence of payment page on immigration website says the following about the documents you need to provide:
- “If you are paid an hourly rate this must be shown on your payslip.
- If you are working in the horticulture (fruit and vegetable farming) sector your employer may offer you a piece rate agreement. Piece rate agreements must be made in writing, and before you start employment. You should provide a copy of any piece rate agreements with your visa application.
- Employers can only make deductions from your wages for things like meals, accommodation and equipment if you agree to them. If you have agreed to any deductions, that agreement must be made in writing and you should provide evidence of your agreement with your visa application.”
(source: Evidence of Payment, retrieved 13 Jul 2017.)
Where do I attach these documents?
When you apply for the second year visa you do not attach these documents to your application. You apply for the visa online and you only fill in to the online application following information: your employer’s ABN, day you started working, day you stopped working and the post code of your work place.
Only if you do get investigated you need to send out these documents. Nevertheless, you should have at least your payslips, piece rate agreement and the Form 1263 ready since these can be difficult to acquire afterwards if you do get investigated.
My situation is unclear, what should I do?
If you cannot find answer to your question from this or Australian immigration websites, or if your situation is unclear, my advice is to contact Australian immigration directly. You can contact them by:
- calling to 131 881 (open Monday to Friday 8.30am – 4.30pm)
- using their webform
- visiting their office
Here is some useful links where you can find more information:
- Australian Government, Department of Immigration: Working Holiday visa (417)
- Evidence of Payment
- Fair Work Australia: Harvest trail campaign
- Harvest Trail
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