Working holiday visas for Australia are increasing in popularity with the latest figures from the Department for Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) showing an increase of 7% in applications in 12 months, as of June.
The visa allows young people aged 18 to 30 from countries with agreements with Australia to work while travelling in Australia for one year, with the chance of extending the visa for another 12 months under certain circumstances, such as working in remote, rural areas.
Visa holders can work in any job during their stay in Australia as long as they do not stay in the same job for more than six months.
The working holiday visas are popular with employers in regional areas who rely on young foreign backpackers to pick fruit, work on farms, in bars, serve at tables and clean hotels. They say that they do jobs that Australians don’t want, but critics say that they are taking jobs away from young Australian people.
Research from the Centre for Population and Urban Research (CPUR) at Monash University has found that Australia now has one foreign backpacker for every Year 12 school leaver and they are competing for entry level jobs in retailing, construction and hospitality.
‘Backpackers are not the traditional holiday and work seekers, but rather job hungry migrants anxious to maximise their income from work here,’ the report says. ‘In effect, the Australian economy is acting as a safety valve for the youth unemployment problems of other countries, at the expense of its own young people’s employment prospects,’ it adds.
The first working holiday visas were introduced in 1975 after reciprocal agreements were reached with the UK, Canada and Ireland. Since then agreements have been reached with Japan, South Korea, Malta, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Hong Kong, Finland, Cyprus, Italy, France, Taiwan, Belgium, Estonia and the Netherlands.
Citizens of all these countries can now apply for 417 visas and there is no cap on the number of 417 visas that can be issued. In 2012/2013 they were most popular with applicants from the UK, up 8.6%, South Korea, up 8.1%, Taiwan, up 57%, Germany, up 17% and France, up 22.6%.
DIAC figures also show that there were also large increases in the number of working holiday visas granted for Italy, up 64%, and Hong Kong, up 50%.
A number of agreements are currently being negotiated for other countries, including the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Vietnam.
Young people from Thailand, Chile, Turkey, the United States, Indonesia, Malaysia, Argentina, Uruguay and Bangladesh can also apply for working holiday visas but there is a cap on the numbers granted every year which vary from 100 in the case of Turkey to 1,500 for Chile.