Backpackers will have to pay an extra $130 for a working holiday visa, raising fears that foreign workers will not come to Australia.
The Working Holiday Maker visa will cost $640 – down from $510 – starting July 1, making it one of the most expensive in the world.
The visa may also be limited to a year, after a review of the migration system raised concerns about the exploitation of temporary visa holders.
Fruit and vegetable growers are struggling to recruit harvesters with unemployment at 3.6 percent nationwide.
Overseas backpackers in Australia will pay $130 more for a working holiday visa from this Saturday – a 25 percent increase as growers struggle to recruit fruit pickers (pictured papaya picker in Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands)
With rental markets tight across Australia, the opposition said it appeared Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was targeting backpackers on work visas, while the Treasury Department expected a record 400,000 new migrants to move in 2022-23.
Australia’s 112,000 Working Holiday Maker visa holders make up 80 percent of the harvesting workforce.
But they are only a fraction of Australia’s 1.8 million foreigners on temporary work visas.
Dan Tehan, the opposition immigration spokesman whose Wannon Liberal Party electorate includes south-west Victoria, said backpackers had been targeted by the permanent and protracted immigration.
How the Working Holiday Migration visa works
Recipients of the Working Holiday Migration visa – in categories 417 or 462 – can stay in Australia for one year, but they can apply for a second visa to get an extension if they work in certain regional areas.
A review of the migration system, completed in March 2023, raised concerns about the exploitation of temporary visa holders.
Starting July 1, the cost of the visa will increase by $130 or 25 percent to $640.
‘It is unbelievable that Labor is even thinking of reversing the Working Holiday Maker visa when backpackers spend most of their time in regional Australia, doing the critical jobs that support agriculture and tourism, and going home as their visa expires,” he said.
Under the existing arrangements, a holder of a Working Holiday Maker visa – in categories 417 or 462 – can stay in Australia for one year, but they can apply for a second visa to extend their time in the country if they work in certain regional areas .
But this is now under review.
“More worryingly, Labor is considering reducing the WHM visa to one year, which would devastate agriculture, tourism and hospitality in regional Australia, leading to increased costs passed on to Australians,” Tehan said.
With rental markets tight across Australia, Mr Tehan said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese appeared to be targeting backpackers on work visas, while the Treasury Department expected a record 400,000 new migrants to move in 2022-2023.
In the five years to July 2027, 1.496 million new migrants are expected to move to Australia, with backpackers being the ‘scapegoat’ for a major Australia policy.
“One point five million people will be coming to Australia in five years while Labor doesn’t have enough houses for the people who are already here and Anthony Albanese’s only plan to curb the record number of arrivals is to target backpackers,” Tehan said.
The national rental vacancy rate stands at just 1.2 percent, but it’s slightly higher in regional areas at 1.5 percent, data from CoreLogic showed.
Home Secretary Clare O’Neill ordered a migration system review that recommended reducing the Working Holiday Maker visa to one year, telling the National Press Club she was concerned about visitors working for little pay .
“Each year for a decade, a growing proportion of people entering Australia on temporary skilled visas have been funneled into low-paying jobs,” she said in April.
The Working Holiday Maker visa will cost $640 – down from $510 – starting July 1 – making it one of the most expensive in the world
Her review also recommended reinstating the visa program so that it focused on “cultural exchange and does not work to link migration outcomes to work performance.”
The Productivity Committee has also expressed concern about the impact on youth unemployment, as the working holiday visa increases the supply of low-skilled workers in areas outside major centres.
The migration review also raised concerns about “widespread exploitation of other temporary visa holders,” including the Working Holiday Maker.
It allows visitors from 48 countries to work in Australia, including from the UK, Ireland, Canada, South Korea, Sweden and China.
Visa holders must be 18 to 30 years old, but the limit is 35 for people from Canada, France, Ireland, Denmark and Italy.
Anyone visiting Australia can do that carry out short-term work and study of a maximum of four months.
From July 1, the six-month work limit will return, unless permission is requested from the Ministry of the Interior.
The Food Supply Chain Alliance calculated last year that Australia was 172,000 workers short, with the group including AUSVEG, the top organization for vegetable growers, and the National Farmers Federation.