There will be more opportunities for young backpackers looking to spend a working holiday in Australia with changes to visas allowing them to extend their stay for a second or third year if they work in the agricultural sector.

Farmers in regional and rural areas around Australia have been struggling to find enough seasonal workers and there have been reports of fruit left rotting in fields and crops going unharvested.

Agricultural Worker

(NejroN Photo/​

Now it has been announced that there will be a number of changes to the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa programme to target genuine workforce shortages in regional Australia without displacing Australian workers.

There will be an increase in the number of visa holders and they will be allowed to extend their time in Australia by undertaking agricultural work in new areas across the country.

The changes mean that working holiday visa holders (subclass 462) will be able to undertake regional plant and animal cultivation work in additional priority areas to become eligible for a second visa.

Extension of the period a working holiday maker (subclass 417 and 462) visas mean that they may work with the same agricultural employer from six to 12 months and a third year option will be available from July 2019 for those who complete six months of regional work in the second year.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said agriculture was a critical industry which underpinned regional economies and empowering a flexible workforce to meet varied labour demands was critical to success.

He described the visa changes as a pragmatic solution to address the problem of filling workforce shortages in the Australian farm sector. 'Our considered and measured approach ensures we continue to back farm businesses and communities to continue producing and supplying the world's best food and fibre,' he explained.

Immigration Minister David Coleman believes that the changes to the working holidaymaker visa programme would help resolve agricultural labour shortages in regional and rural Australia.

'Lifting the annual caps on visas, expanding the number of regional areas where work and holiday makers can work for three months in specified farming work, and allowing 12 months of work with the same agricultural employer will assist farmers this growing season,' he said.

'These incentives will encourage more workers to the regions that need them and provide working holiday makers with more flexibility, as well as the opportunity to experience living and working in Australia's rural communities,' he added.