Once you’ve found the right kind of job in the right kind of place, you need to make sure that you get the right number of days for your second year to be approved.
This is the tricky bit.
There are two ways that you can get the required number of days for your second visa. Either:
- Work full-time, continuously for a period of three calendar months, for one employer
- Work non-continuously, for a cumulative total of 88 individual days
(Fun fact: the reason it’s 88 days is because that is the combined length of the shortest three-month period.)
Option a) is obviously a bit easier. It’s easier to keep track if you are working for one employer, of course. And there is another perk: if you work full time, for a continuous period of three months, you are able to include days off in your total days.
Full time is roughly 35-40 hours a week, depending on what industry you are in. If, for example, you work five days a week for eight hours a day, that fills the full time criteria, and you can then include your weekends when counting up your days. So, your ‘88 days’ could theoretically be completed in just over 12 and a half weeks, with you only actually working roughly 64 days.
This rule follows whatever the usual pattern of work is for the industry you are in. For example, if you work in the fishing or pearling industry, and spend multiple days at a time at sea, followed by multiple days at a time at home, these days off would also count. As long as the work is continuous for three months.
Option b) is where most backpackers end up, for one reason or another, and this is where things get a bit complicated. I will do my best to state the rules in simple terms.
Farm work, by its nature, is very season-dependent, and often somewhat unreliable. If the weather is bad, you might get some unexpected days off. Sometimes the season starts unusually late or finishes unusually early. Depending on your timing, you might start work at the end of the season, and have to move to another farm or another job, or the work might dry up for another reason.
Unfortunately, the Australian government aren’t very accommodating to this. So, if you are off work due to sickness or bad weather, you cannot count these days towards your total.
This, people, is why they say you should start your regional work sooner rather than later.
88 days may not be all that much, but it is actually a hell of a long time when you are only able to work in certain conditions.
Another criterion for working days to be counted is pay rate. You must be paid award wage or more in order for the days to count, unless you have a signed piece rate agreement from your employer.
But to add to the confusion, the rules are slightly different if you are working a piece rate job. Piece rate means that you are paid depending on how much you pick, or equivalent (e.g. how many trees you plant, how many metres of vine you prune etc.)
Most backpackers will end up on a piece rate job at one time or another, so listen up.
First of all, if you are going to be working based on a piece rate, you are supposed to get this agreement in writing, before you start the job. This is so it can be used as evidence, should it be required, of you completing the appropriate work for the visa.
Secondly, the rate of pay, according to the government rules, should be such that an ‘average competent worker’ would be able to earn 15% above the minimum award hourly rate. For most farm work (according to the Horticulture Award) this would be $17.70 + 15% = $20.55 per hour.
Note: this wage is if you are working full or part time, rather than casual. Australian law dictates that casual workers get an additional loading of 25% because of the unpredictable nature of casual work. In this case, the hourly rate would be $22.13. However, employers may deliberately choose to classify you as full or part time for this very reason!
The application process
Now, once you’ve sorted out how you’re getting your days done, you need to look ahead to the process of application.
All second years are processed online (yippee!), which makes things a hell of a lot easier. You just need to log in to the Department of Immigration website using your Immi account, and go from there.
It’s pretty straightforward. Fill in all of your personal information, answer the given questions, and put in the relevant dates and ABN numbers of the places you worked. Then hit apply and keep your fingers crossed!
Sometimes, the visa will be granted straight up. Like, within seconds of applying (they are very efficient when they want to be, the Australian government!).
However, often you will need to provide evidence that you have met the requirements. The government website lists the following as documents that may need to be provided:
- pay slips or evidence of payment
- copy of piece rate agreement
- group certificates
- payment summaries
- tax returns
- employer references
- a completed employment verification form – this is form 1263 for visa 417, and 1464 for visa 462
- copy of your Australian bank statement for the declared period of work
They do not always require all of these documents but you might be unlucky. With this in mind, you might as well try to collate this evidence in advance of applying, especially if you’re going to apply a lot later on. It’s a lot easier to get employers to sign forms and provide references while you are still in the area, rather than off on holiday in Bali, for example.
When applying for your second year, you can either apply while you are still in Australia, or from elsewhere in the world. There are a couple of things to be aware of when making this decision.
First, whichever option you choose is where you have to remain while the application is processed and a decision is made. So if you apply in Australia, you have to stay in Australia. If you apply outside of Australia, you have to stay out until it is granted.
Secondly, if you apply whilst you are still in Australia, your second year will automatically follow directly on from your first. On the other hand, if you apply from elsewhere, the visa will begin whenever you re-enter the country (which has to be within a year). This is worth noting!
And as a note of reassurance, if you want to apply from within Australia, don’t panic – you won’t get kicked out even if you’re at the end of your first year! You will automatically get put onto a bridging visa, while they process and make a decision on your application.
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