27 May 2009

Australian working holiday visas won't be capped: Immigration Minister

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The Australian working holiday program has for the past decade more than doubled in size, and even during the global recession has proven to be the only sector of the Australian tourism industry to be showing positive results. But, fears were raised that the Australian working holiday program would also have its reins pulled in after the Australian government recently took measures to reduce the number of temporary Australian visa holders entering Australia through the 457 scheme.

At a recent backpacker in Darwin, the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) confirmed that the Australian working holiday program has become the backbone of the Australian tourism industry during the recession, by providing the smaller businesses off the beaten track with a constant stream of income, albeit a much smaller stream coming from the stretched wallets of backpackers. 

Amanda Gripske from the Australian Visa Bureau also confirmed that despite the recession more young travellers are now making their way Down Under on an Australian working holiday visa to enjoy some time in the sunshine while they are struggling to find permanent work in Britain.

"The recession in the UK and Ireland has given young people the opportunity to take twelve months off while they ride out the storm, and it's exciting to see that the numbers of Australian working holiday visa grants continue to soar in 2009."

According to Thumbrella, a travel and hospitality news provider, the Immigration Minister Chris Evans promised in a letter to the ATEC managing director Matt Hingerty that the government "recognises the important contribution of working holidaymaker visa holders to the tourism industry, as well as industries needing short term casual labour".

While Senator Evans has seen the benefits of restricting the Australian skilled migration and temporary 457 visa schemes during the economic downturn, he has also seen the value in keeping the Australian working holiday visa program open to young travellers. 

The 200,000 Australian working holiday visas expected to be granted this financial year will continue to be made available and uncapped to countries part of the working holiday program, Senator Evans added, and any new additions for countries to the program would be considered if the government thought the economic and labour market impact would justify bringing another country into closer and more open relations with Australia.

The Australian working holiday visa is a 12-month visa allowing travellers aged 18-30 years to work to supplement travel in Australia.  Working holidaymakers can work for any employer for up to six months and can apply for a second working holiday visa if they work in regional Australia for a specified occupation for three months or more. 

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their Australian working holiday.

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