Changes to the operation of Working Holiday Visas for UK passport holders

Australia and the United Kingdom signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) back in 2021 but it is only just now coming into effect. The FTA has been approved by both country’s parliaments and it will come into effect when offical documents are exchanged between the two countries. 

There are three main changes that will come into effect. 

An increase in the age limit for UK passport holders:

The current 417 Working Holiday for UK passport holders has a maximum age of 30 (inclusive). This is being raised to 35. So in effect a UK passport holder will be able to lodge an application right up until the day before their 36th birthday. 

Access to a third Working Holiday visa:

As part of the Covid concessions granted to applicants, the Department of Immigration allowed 417 holders to apply for a third 417 if they met certain Covid concessions criteria. 

For UK passport holders, once the FTA changes come in, they will be able to apply for a third 417 visa regardless of whether they meet these criteria. So UK passport holders will be able to stay in Australia for three years. 

No more requirement for specified (farm) work:

Another change is that UK passport holders will no longer be required to complete three months of ‘specified’ work (generally farm work) in order to be able to apply for a subsequent 417 visa.

Condition 8547 (6 month work limitation):

Neither the Free Trade Agreement nor the Department of Immigration has made any mention of the 6 month work limitation per visa. Consequently, it should be assumed that this will remain, meaning employers must remain vigilant to the length of time that a 417 visa holder has worked for them. 

There has been a concession where this condition has been waived over Covid however that concession means that the 6 month limitation is back in force from 1 July 2023. 

The condition renews with each visa granted however if they are in their first six months of the visa working for you and you would like to retain them, it will be necessary to sponsor them, generally on a 482. 

When will these changes come into force? 

The Free Trade Agreement will come into force when the two countries exchange papers and this is expected to be reasonably soon. 

However, these specific changes will only come into force within two years after the commencement of the FTA, at a date agreed between Australia and the UK. 

So it could still be some time before we see the changes reflected in legislation.

Employers should be aware that until these changes are legislated, it would be an offence to have a foreign worker in breach of their visa conditons, especially the 6 month limitation.

There is also a lot mis-informed online chat amongst visa holders that the changes are already in place. This is not the case. 

Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss these changes and the ramifications for your business in more details. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *