Since changes were introduced in 2005 for the 417 Working Holiday Visa, backpackers have been able to get a second-year extension by doing three months of specified work in a regional area. The three months is often referred to as ‘88 days’. Recent changes now allow a third-year extension for both the 417, and the similar 462 Work and Holiday Visa.

Why a third year?

After a slow start, since 2005 the number of second-year visa grants have steadily increased. In 2018/19 a total of 37,418 second-year 417 visas were granted. Additionally, in the same year 5,791 second-year 462 visas were also granted.  This followed changes in 2016 to allow 462 visa holders to also access a second-year extension by working in northern Australia.

There is an obvious demand from backpackers to get a visa extension, and many growers rely on them doing their ‘88 days’ to fill a large part of their harvest labour needs. So it was a win for both groups when in November 2018, the Department of Home Affairs announced the option of gaining a third-year extension for both 417 and 462 visa holders.

How do you get a third-year?

There is a sequential process to gaining a third-year visa. You will need to do 88 days of specified work in your first year to qualify for a second visa. Then you must work for six months (179 days) during your second year to apply for a third year. The days of work that count towards a third year could only start after 1 July 2019, so the first third-year visa extensions will not be granted until January 2020.

The specified types of work and regional areas eligible for the third-year visa are the same as for the second-year. See the Department of Home Affairs website for descriptions of both the types of work that qualify and the areas defined as regional. Most people are likely to do horticulture work for a third-year extension, as they do for second-year visas.

Working for the same employer

There are lots of variations for how you can organise work to qualify, and it is now even theoretically possible to work continuously for three years with the one employer. You can do your first three months at a farm (or farms – days on multiple farms can be added together), head off to do some sightseeing, and then go back to the same farm or to a different one.  You can also combine different farms in the second year to do six months work for the third-year extension. Once the third-year extension has been granted you can choose to continue working, just holiday, or do a combination of both for your remaining time in Australia.  There are no more work obligations, you just might want to keep the bank balance healthy!

Evidence of work done for a third-year visa extension

To apply for and gain a third-year visa extension you will need to provide a range of information to the Department of Home Affairs, including proof that you did six months of specified work in your second year. This is the same as that required for the second-year extension, except for the number of days worked. The proof must cover all periods you worked and can include any of the following:

  • pay slips
  • Australian bank statements covering the period of declared specified work
  • if you were paid piece-rates, the piece-rate agreement with your employer which must show the pay rate per piece and how it is measured
  • group certificates
  • payment summaries
  • tax returns
  • employer references
  • a written and signed agreement setting out any lawful pay deductions

Do your work early

The chance to get a third-year visa extension is a great opportunity that will suit some people. As with any visa related issues, do some thorough research before deciding to look for suitable work to get a visa extension.

A final tip from us at the National Harvest Labour Information Service – once you’ve done your homework and have decided to try for a visa extension by doing some regional work, start looking as soon as possible. Good regional jobs are not always easy to find, so contact the National Harvest call centre on 1800 062 332 so we can help you find that elusive job.