The Federal Government has outlined changes to the Working Holiday Maker Visa (WHM), which aim to provide more support to the tourism and hospitality sectors as they continue their recovery from COVID-19 disruptions.
WHM visa holders working in the tourism and hospitality sectors in Northern, remote and very remote areas of Australia will be able to count this as specified work, making them eligible for a second or third WHM visa. This option will be available to WHMs who lodge their applications from March 2022 and will take into account work undertaken in the tourism and hospitality sectors in these areas from today.
As announced in October 2020, WHMs offshore who were unable to come to Australia or had to leave early because of COVID-19 will be able to apply for a replacement visa with nil Visa Application Charge (VAC) from 1 July 2021.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke said these changes build on those introduced from April last year to support WHM visa holders impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We recognise the important contribution Working Holiday Makers have made to critical sectors of the Australian economy throughout the pandemic,” he said.
“COVID-19 travel restrictions and economic shocks disrupted the plans of many visa holders. These additional measures provide the opportunity for a reset — helping Working Holiday Makers to stay and work in Australia.
“We will continue to monitor and adjust temporary visa conditions to ensure we have the right settings in place as Australia emerges from the pandemic.”
The move has been welcomed by the Australian Hotels Association, with CEO Stephen Ferguson saying it will help ease the hospitality skills shortage in remote areas.
“Many areas of remote Australia rely heavily on Working Holiday Makers to supplement their domestic workforce,” Ferguson said.
“Our first preference is always to hire Australians first. There are huge financial incentives for us to hire local – and they remain. For example, to bring in an overseas worker like a skilled chef can cost a hotel anything from $10,000 to $25,000 when you factor in visa fees, skills assessments, migration lawyers etc.”
“This will put more workers where they are most needed. It’s a ‘win-win’ as we work to rebuild our hard-hit sector and lead a world-class hospitality recovery.”
The move comes after the Government this week also announced changes to the Priority Skilled Migration Occupation List, with chefs now included.