Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Peru – all part of the 462!

Recent changes to the 462 Work and Holiday Visa are likely to see increasing numbers of people from Asia, Eastern Europe and South America actively seeking horticulture work in Australia for periods of up to three years.

So what is the 462 visa and why is it becoming an increasingly important tool for growers looking to get the right workers to pick and pack their crops?

Almost everyone involved in the horticulture industry knows how valuable backpackers are. They provide many of the workers needed to pick and pack crops. Backpackers started turning up on farms in large numbers from 2005 when changes were made to the existing 12 month 417 Working Holiday Visa. The changes allowed  a 12 month extension if the visa holder did three months of specified work (mostly fruit picking and packing) in rural Australia. It was an instant success, culminating in 32,828 second-year visas granted in 2018. In 2019 a third year option was added.

Another option for growers to source suitable workers

Most backpackers doing horticulture work will be on a 417 Working Holiday Visa. They are most likely to come from one of the five countries where most workers who gain a visa extension come from – the UK, Taiwan, South Korea, France and Italy.

However a lesser known working visa – the 462 Work and Holiday Visa has also allowed people from a number of countries to come to Australia to work on farms, but because there was no opportunity for an extension, very few people chose to do harvest work. That’s now changing rapidly following the Federal Government’s recent changes to the 462 visa. Now these visa holders can also gain two 12 month visa extensions and work continuously for up to three years with the same business.

These changes also apply to 417 visa holders and are one of the main features of the proposed Agriculture Visa which has been proposed by a number of horticulture groups, namely the opportunity to work either continuously or intermittently with the one business for three years.

As well as being eligible for extensions, 462 visas are now available for a much wider range of countries, with Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Mexico, Spain and Argentina among the current group of 25 nations. The Department of Home Affairs is currently negotiating to allow more countries to access the 462 visa, with India, Brazil, Fiji and the Philippines likely to join the program in the next 12 months.

An important distinction between the two visa types is that the 417 visa scheme has no caps on numbers coming to Australia from any of the qualifying countries. However the 462 visa (which includes more developing countries) has individual caps for each country, for example 4,100 workers per annum can come to Australia from Indonesia, but only 200 from Vietnam. The caps are constantly reviewed and many have seen recent increases.

Additional requirements apply to 462 visa holders

Work and Holiday Visa applicants must meet minimum requirements before a visa can be granted, including having a functional level of English. They must also hold, or be studying towards, a tertiary qualification.

While the expanded and more flexible 462 visa will not be a silver bullet for solving the issue of labour supply in horticulture, it adds another option for growers who now have access to an increased number of seasonal workers.  This now includes 417 visa holders, Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme workers, Australian residents, and refugees or asylum seekers on Bridging Visas.

For further information on options for sourcing harvest labour, or to find workers, call the National Harvest Labour Information Service (NHLIS) on 1800 062 332. The NHLIS is operated by MADEC, a not-for-profit agency and a licensed labour hire provider in Queensland. There is no charge for using the NHLIS service.