29 May 2009

Australian working holiday visa program not a Swiss gov't priority

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The Swiss government is still not agreeing to participate in the Australian working holiday visa program with the Australian government. While 25 other countries allow their young nationals to take part in the Australian working holiday program, the Swiss government has decided that introducing the scheme would be too much bureaucratic trouble for their own legislative change.

The Australian working holiday visa program allows nationals from participating countries aged 18 to 30 years to travel in Australia and work temporarily to supplement their travels.  The Australian working holiday visa is a twelve-month visa, and holders can work for any employer they wish for up to six months.  While a person can only be granted one Australian working holiday visa per lifetime, if they work for a specified occupation in regional Australia, they are allowed to apply for a second Australian working holiday visa.

Around 200,000 Australian working holiday visas are expected to be granted this financial year; however, because of Switzerland's refusal to reciprocate a similar working holiday program for young Australians, they have not signed an agreement to allow Swiss travellers the opportunity to have a stake in the uncapped Australian visa program.

The Swiss government has had the offer for four years now, and has finally given four reasons as to why they will not participate in the working holiday program.  Firstly, Switzerland does not have "working tourist" as a legal status in its immigration law and the government says it would take years to have it introduced.

"The legal basis is not sufficient. A vote in parliament would be needed to change it, but that would take two to three years," said Roland Flükiger, head of the emigration service of the Federal Migration Office.

"In our opinion there's no point in changing the entire law over one article in it."

Secondly, the introduction of the European Union means that more people have free access to Switzerland, and adding countries other those in the EU would add stress to the immigration movement, and Australian applicants for a working holiday visa would be subjected to restrictions.

The government also felt that the 26 member states of Switzerland that are responsible for issuing work permits are at logger heads about the Australian working holiday program; two-thirds are opposed to implementing changes and the rest are interested in reading the details.

Finally, the Swiss government feels that the Australian working holiday agreement would open the doors to young people looking for work and during the economic recession it feels that they have a responsibility to restrict the numbers of people adding to the job searching numbers.

A spokesperson at the Swiss embassy in Canberra told reporters at Swissinfo.ch that the reasons for refusing the Australian working holiday agreement are unfounded and the Swiss government is essentially shooting itself in the foot.

Our cantonal authorities don't get out of Switzerland enough," Claude-André Barbey said. "Some of them seem to be terrified about being invaded by Australians. They have a completely warped view of the world, thinking that everyone wants to cling to the Swiss boat!"

"We've scored an own goal by depriving young Swiss people of an opportunity to travel the world and learn English."


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


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