If you are in Australia on a 417 working holiday visa (the majority of European nations) then it is highly likely that you are able to complete 3 months of regional, specified work to gain another 12 month visa to stay in Australia!
We get a lot of questions about all things regional work and wanted to lay out some of the most common ones so that people everywhere could brush up on their knowledge!
If you want to extend your stay in Australia, this is the way to do it as you can apply for the 417 visa again after you’ve completed the work. Who wouldn’t want an extra 12 months in this amazing country!?
So, without further ado, we’ll get down to brass tacks and answer some questions on regional work in Australia!
Where is Regional Australia?
Basically, imagine a bubble around Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. As long as you aren’t working within that bubble, you are in regional Australia.
The Department of Immigration gives you a handy list of all the areas that fall under regional Australia here. Make sure you check back to see if the list has been updated before you head out to your post-code of choice to complete your work.
If you complete any work in an unspecified area, even if it is specified work, it does not count as part of your regional work for a second year visa. The work has to be done in an area outlined by the Department of Immigration and in an industry specified by the Department too.
What is Specified Work?
There are five main areas of specified work, outlined by the Department of Immigration – Agriculture, Construction, Forestry and Tree Felling, Fishing and Pearling, and Mining.
If your job falls under any of these sections then you may be completing specified work. Bear in mind that all roles within these industries do not count as specified work. If you are a cook on a mine or a child-minder on a cattle station, for example, you are not completing specified work.
Do I have to do three months straight or can I break it up?
You can do either – if you want to hammer out three months straight then go for it but if you want to break up the work, travel around a little bit then that’s fine too.
Just make sure that each stop along the way is in one of the regional postcodes and counts as specified work. If you aren’t sure, get in touch with the Department of Immigration directly and they should be able to help you out.
If you do decide to break up your three months then it becomes a countdown of 88 days worked. If you opt to go for three months straight and start tomorrow, you finish in three months from that first date worked.
What Does Getting Signed Off Mean?
If you’ve spent any time in an Australian hostel, anywhere in the country, chances are you’ve heard the phrase signed off when talking about regional work. Well, what does it mean?
Put simply, when you are completing your regional work, you can download and print a government form to prove you are actually doing the work which your farmer or employer then signs for you.
The form is really straight forward and gives you a lot of handy information that can help you when you decide to do your regional work so it is definitely worth a look over and make sure that you print one off before you head to your first regional destination.
If you are already at the farm and haven’t got a form printed – don’t fret! You need to be able to prove your time living and working in regional areas so any kind of evidence helps. Whether it is a receipt from the local pub, travel tickets, bank statements that show ‘Bob’s Bananas’ has been paying you once a week for the last six weeks – everything counts as evidence.
The government form is the best kind of evidence as the farmer signs an official document. If you can’t get this document, try and get your boss to write you a bit of a reference with the dates you started and finished your regional work, the actual number of days you worked and make sure you get their Australian Business Number (ABN) as you will need this when applying for your next visa!
Actual Number of Days? What’s that? Do Weekends Count?
Actual number of days is just a posh way of asking how long you were at each regional stop you took. If you work full-time hours for the industry you are in (more than likely 40 hours a week plus, spread over five or six days) then, yes weekends do count against your total.
If you do spread out your regional work, completing a couple of weeks here and there throughout your first year in Australia then the actual number of days will become important to you. Then you are on the quest for 88 days! If you work full-time hours, Monday to Friday on a pecan farm in a regional postcode then Saturday and Sunday are included off your 88 days.
If you work Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a construction firm in Darwin then you only tick off three days from your 88.
If you work a double shift on the same day, that still only counts as one day worked so don’t be fooled into thinking if you smash out loads of hours in three days then take the next five off that they are covered in your 88!
Is There Any Way Around the Regional Work?
Legally, no there isn’t. Unless you can get sponsored by a company or the state to keep you in Australia for an extended period – the farm work is your only hope.
Don’t worry too much about it, you may hear some horror stories but it isn’t that bad. You may even enjoy the work or seeing a new side to Australia!
What Happens When I’ve Finished My Three Months Work?
If you’re anything like me, you get absolutely hammered and head for the nearest city as soon as possible!
In all seriousness, once you have finished your regional work it is time to get your second year visa!
You’ve got two options really, if you want to stay in Australia for another twelve months right after your first twelve months end you apply for your visa while you are still in Australia. You apply for your visa online so make sure you have all the documents and evidence you need before proceeding with your application.
You’re going to need an ABN number for each company you worked for, the postcode you worked in, how long you were at each place and the actual number of days you worked on each place. Once you fill out the online form, you send it to the Department of Immigration who check over it and will get back to you in the next couple of days with more information.
More often than not, the government will ok your application and your visa will start as soon as your old one ends. If the government require more evidence of your regional work then they’ll give you an address to send everything too (make sure you get photocopies before you send anything) and you will go from there.
As long as you did your farm work, you’ll have nothing to worry about. If you try and get around the system, you’re probably going to get caught and deported and you won’t be allowed back in Australia for the foreseeable future.
If you want to go home first, go and travel somewhere else or just want a break from Australia, you can apply for your visa outside of the country but you have to be outside of the country when your visa is issued. If you do this option, it is more likely that you’ll face a little bit more scrutiny than carrying over your visa so make sure you have all your evidence with you when you submit your application but also when you arrive back in Australia to start your second year.
Remember, you have to be back in Australia before you turn 31 or your visa is no longer valid. The same rules apply to your second visa as did with your first.
During my Second Year, Can I do More Farm Work for Another Visa?
No. You can do more farm work if you loved it and want to get paid to do it but you won’t be able to apply for another visa if you’ve already done it once.
Tell me your horror stories!!
Having completed my regional work, I can tell you that it wasn’t for me. I’ve met people who absolutely loved their time in regional Australia but I’m a city boy at heart and always will be!
That isn’t to say I didn’t have fun, it just wasn’t my idea of the best time in Australia! I spread my regional work over a six month period and stayed in New South Wales to complete the lot even though it is more common to head to Queensland to get the work done.
I started on a vineyard, moved onto a horse racing stud and then finished on a cattle farm – and I’d probably rank them in reverse order. The work, the people and the places got better as they went along and I ended up really enjoying my time on the cattle farm!
The vineyard was awful but that had more to do with the people than anything else (honestly, the worst people I’ve ever met so I reckon that was more unlucky than a state of things to come).
The stud was really interesting as I know nothing about horses but can now tell you a fair bit about the process of breeding race horses and the cattle farm taught me everything I’ll ever need to know about Angus beef!
You’ll see spiders, probably snakes and more weird Australian’s than you’ll know what to do with but it is definitely an experience! It isn’t something I’d rush back to but it gets you another visa and that’s all that really mattered to me.
I did some WWOOFing and it was great if you can find the right host family but I’d keep it as a last resort if you are running out of time to complete your farm work or already have enough money saved up from working in the city or from home. If you love the idea of organic farming and organic produce then it is definitely something to check out though.
A lot of people have the misguided idea that by doing their farm work they will earn a fortune. This isn’t always the case and farm work can be quite difficult to find. If you don’t put the work in and just sit around waiting for something to happen, there are another million backpackers out there that will do your job instead.
The regional work is a good way to save because there is nothing you can spend your money on but don’t turn your nose up because you are expecting $700 a week with your accommodation and food included because some guy from Birmingham told you about it at Side Bar.
At the end of it all, you are doing this for the visa so keep that in mind. It is another 12 months in a country that you obviously love (or more importantly, away from a country that you don’t) and as long as you can keep the end goal in sight you’ll be fine!