I desperately wanted to write a post about regional work and getting your second year visa in Australia, as I remember how frustrating it was trying to find clear information on the subject. When I first set out to find regional work I was so overwhelmed with the different options available, the contradictory stories I heard from other backpackers and the bias information given by farmers and working hostels. I have now had a lot of regional work experience within different roles, different areas and with different produce, so I feel I should share my experience and hopefully make it a little easier for anyone looking to get their second year visa.
For anyone who doesn’t know, in Australia you can apply for a Working Holiday Visa which allows you to work and travel within the country for one year. If you want to stay for another year you have to complete 3 months (or 88 days) of regional work to get another Working Holiday Visa.* Regional work is classed as work completed in regional areas with specific postcodes and is usually within the agricultural industry. There are a lucky few who get employed in hospitality or as au pairs (just a couple of examples) in regional areas and their work still counts, but these roles are usually hard to find so most people end up working on farms.
The main thing that confused me when I came to it was the length of time I would have to spend working before I got my visa. I didn’t understand what they meant by 3 months or 88 days, so I thought I would clear this up for anyone reading. If you complete your farm work with one employer in one go, you need to work there for 3 months exactly. If you decide to do your farm work in different places and spread out, then you have to complete 88 days of farm work. It means spending more time doing your regional work if you decided to do it over 88 days, so for most it isn't the preferable option. It does on the other hand give you the chance to change it up and spread it out over however long you like rather than doing it all in one chunk. There are a few grey areas with this, for example if you lose your job but secure another one immediately after. In this instance you may be able to get away with still working for 3 months exactly, but I would recommend speaking to the Australian Government for individual cases to avoid running into problems when applying for your visa. Also when it comes to applying for your visa, keep all payslips and any other evidence possible that shows you worked for your farm. The Government randomly investigates some visa applications, and you want to make sure you have sufficient proof if they choose you.
I personally had planned to do it all in one go, so I could get it over with, but unfortunately the decision was taken out of my hands. I was fired from my first farm when I was exactly half way through my time, you can imagine I was pretty upset, and it was for no apparent reason making it worse. You are very likely to get fired, whether it was deserved or not, and you may well be taken advantage of. There are so many backpackers in Australia who want to get a second year visa making you very easily replaced, so the farmers tend to view you as expendable.
You will hear a lot of horror stories surrounding farm work and some of them unfortunately are true. Being fired for no clear reason is very common, being taken advantage of is another regular occurrence and being generally treated like shit is also pretty likely. That being said I have had some very pleasant experiences doing my regional work and it obviously depends on where and how you secure your job, but I was just wanted to make the point so people are aware of potential issues. I’m not saying that it is okay or that you should stand for it don't get me wrong, but it isn’t uncommon.
Finding work can be the hardest part of the entire process. The general rule of thumb is that you need to be there to get the job. There isn’t really an application process when it comes to securing work on a farm (there may be for some but in my experience I didn’t have to do anything) it is generally a first come first serve situation. This means if you want a job you have to travel to where you want to do it and wait until something comes up. It can be very frustrating, especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere and they're having a bad season, but like I said there are so many backpackers looking for work you have to be there to get on waiting lists.
The easiest way to secure your farm work is generally to go through a working hostel. They cost you a little more (extortionate rates for shitty accommodation) but they make the process a lot easier. If they are good they will find you work as quickly as possible and will even find you new jobs if you are fired or the season is bad. One of the hostels I stayed in even found regular cash in hand jobs if you really needed to make some extra money. I have also been successful simply ringing the farms directly, but in some areas the farms will not speak to you and will only go through hostels so this isn’t always an option.
Working hostels can be great but they can also be worse than the farms in some instances. I would highly recommend doing your research before choosing one as I have personally experienced and known people who have majorly been taken advantage of, lied to and even been fired by the people running these hostels. Again it is so easy for them to replace backpackers and even mess people around who are desperate to get their visas, so it is worth being cautious.
I don’t want to sound completely negative about completing regional work as I actually had a lot of fun doing it, but I like to be honest about what it can be like. In my next post I will include my recommendations and where I had the better experiences so I don’t freak anyone out too much! I have had to divide this post into two as there is so much I can say on this subject but I will talk a little more about my personal experiences and give suggestions based on those experiences, so stay tuned if you’re interested in finding out more.
*Not all countries have this agreement with Australia so for some nationalities it is not possible to get a second year visa