Second year WHVs: backpackers are only cheating because the system’s flawed

The backpacking industry needs to be very careful how it responds to news that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship is cracking down on fraudulent second-year working holiday visa (WHV) applications.  

Speaking to Thumbrella earlier this month, DIAC director of working holiday section Deirdre Russack said increasing numbers of applications are being withdrawn since the crackdown, but refused to comment on industry rumours that up to half of all second year WHV applications are fraudulent.

In many ways, it’s surprising DIAC has taken so long to wake up to the problem – a quick search online will find a number of forums with advice on how to rort the system. The worry is that if abuse is so widespread, the Government will simply withdraw the privilege and worry about labour shortages in regional areas later.

The industry has gone to great lengths to convince successive governments the WHV scheme is about cultural exchange, not cheap labour, and DIAC’s own research is evidence of the economic benefits backpackers bring to Australia.

But that could all fall on deaf ears if the problem really is as bad as some fear.

Clearly, the industry has a duty to work with DIAC in addressing the issue and urging backpackers to play by the rules, but that needs to be coupled with a strong message to the Government that young overseas visitors staying longer and spending more is a good thing.

And that they’re only fighting the system because it’s flawed.

The best way to stop deporting backpackers after 12 months because they falsely applied for a second year? Let them stay for 24 in the first place…

18 thoughts on “Second year WHVs: backpackers are only cheating because the system’s flawed

  • December 3, 2009 at 1:54 pm
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    We had a case where a backpacker was selling company details for cash so people could apply for the second year Visa with out leaving the city

    Reply
  • December 3, 2009 at 3:48 pm
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    The Working Holiday Visa takes small, but significant regulatory steps: 1-year stay, 3-months in one job. The 6-months and two-year stay. Then lots more countries are added. 88,000 people in 2002; 165,000 now. 21,000 2nd year visas last year.

    Then real data is published telling us only good news about the visa.

    It generates over $38 million in revenue for DIAC and 99% of applications take place on line. It generates jobs. People earn and pay tax and fill voids in employment hotspots.

    The problem I see is that with such huge numbers is that the 2nd-year visa is ripe for scam artists. Fraudsters only exist where there’s a market. And of course 2nd years need to work so is competition for the WHV type of jobs also hotting up thus exacerbating the problem of fraud?

    So on the face of it I tend to agree with Martin. Go for 24-months, but keep the 6-month work restrictions. Keeps them travelling and spending.

    Greg Cole

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  • December 3, 2009 at 5:00 pm
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    The majority of second year WHV applications are not scams. Instead of ‘beating up’ minor issues how about “the industry” go into bat for Working Holiday Makers on real issues such as their exploitation by Australia with regards Tax, Superannuation, Application Fees, Nil representation with regards unfair workplaces, pay, conditions, safety; expensive government sponsored shams such as the Harvest Trail and its network of so called “service providers” (nice little earn for those in the know) and on and on we could go. The cultural exchange opportunity for WHM’s as opposed short term tourists is that they get to experience the reality of Australia which is that its a giant bungling bureaucracy whose only real efficency happens when its thinking of new ways to suck more money out of production in order to pay for its obese, lazy, dumb, scamming self.

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  • December 3, 2009 at 6:58 pm
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    Lets not forget the love fellas. As I get about the bush I realise that love strikes like lightning over the ridge when backpacker chick gets her man. The Farmer truely does want a wife. Just get those lonely hearts to hand over their ABNs to the fraudsters and let the love go round. Don’t get too technical on all this just get those babes off the beach and out there committing their resources in regional areas that need it whilst lifting the spirits of our downtrodden & depressed man on the land. If it can’t rain it might as well pour. Lets all embrace cultural exchange and elevate it to new heights!

    Howie
    Jackaroo Jillaroo Australia

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  • December 4, 2009 at 9:36 am
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    Don, its not a beat-up. Its a real issue. The govt says it’s a real issue and govts don’t like people taking the piss out of what is a great and generous visa program.

    I agree with you regarding the other issues being just as serious, although somewhat overstated.

    .I think the problem on the non-DIAC issues though is that WHV’s are protected, but they just don’t know how so. But if you took some time to read DIAC’s website here
    http://www.immi.gov.au/visitors/working-holiday/417/working-in-australia.htm

    you’d at least find the basics. They have rights, the govt says so.

    greg

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  • December 4, 2009 at 6:55 pm
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    It’s hard to compare (name withheld for legal reasons) to any place in Canada to let you understand completely what it’s like here, but I will give it a go!
    For starters when I first got off the bus in (name withheld), I was greeted by a bunch of people who resembled hillbillies and were covered in dirt from head to toe. I was then picked up in a big dirty van by the Caravan park owners at the bus stop. Jo and I purchased some tents and set up our new home for the next 3 months…or so we thought. We were crammed in a tiny space along with many other backpackers who were all looking for work on a farm. It was strange to see that 95% of the people there were from either Korea or from Japan. The other 5% of the people were French, British or Canadian. I met some great people there whom I spent my long days with either playing cards or lounging in the pool. I didn’t have much to do since I was waiting for work and the campsite sets you up with work. There were so many rules at the campsite that it felt like a concentration camp. Our curfew was at 9pm and everyone had to be in their tent at that time. One day I was getting very frustrated about not having any work so I took off in a car with another guy from France and stopped at every farm on the way, asking if we could work for them. Unfortunately this town is so corrupt and backwards that the farmers all said that they couldn’t hire us because the hostel and campsite owners would be very upset with them if they didn’t take their workers instead. Finally at the very end of the day we drove out to 2 more farms with 2 other people from our campsite and 3 out of 4 of us managed to find jobs at the farms right beside one another.
    We started work the next day and I was busy digging holes, weeding and picking eggplants from 7am until 3pm in 30 degree heat dressed in a t-shirt, jeans and a hat. It was back-breaking work that I which I thought that I wouldn’t survive. When I got back from my first day at work I found out that I was evicted from my campsite along with my other colleagues who all found our own work. Actually, a couple were evicted because the owners are prejudice/racist against the French and the rest were evicted because they weren’t happy that we found our own work and they thought that it was going to make them look bad. Going back to the racist comment before, you wouldn’t believe some of the things that I heard the owners say. I was tempted to take a video and submit it to the police, but then I thought that it was no use since the police were probably friends of theirs since everybody knows everybody in this small town.
    So I was evicted…then what? Luckily I was evicted along with 2 other people on the same night so the 3 of us jumped in a car with our French friend and headed down to the next campsite. It was already dark and we wanted to move as quickly as possible since we just had a long day at work, so we decided to not even bother taking down my tent and instead just plop it on top of the car and hold on to the sides while we drove down the road.
    The next day at work was less painful. It’s surprising how fast your back can adjust to being bent over all day. I was picking eggplants for the entire day and the day passed by fairly quickly. This time when we returned to our new campsite the owner approached our car and said that he wanted to talk with us. I thought, my god, not again, I’m going to get evicted! The owner said that he received a phone call from the other caravan park saying that we were all trouble and that he should evict us. That’s just another small example of how corrupt this city is. Luckily the owner here was much more understanding when we spoke with him. We convinced him that we were all good people and that there was nothing to worry about. Now he loves us and has even given us a stay at reduced cost. At the other caravan park we were paying 100 dollars per week, here we are paying 35 dollars per week! We have access to a kitchen and I’m surrounded by very nice people, so I’m much, much happier here. The majority of the people here are French so I spend most of my day speaking in French. I didn’t think that I would have the chance to practice French in Australia of all places.
    My third day of work was as short day since the farmer that I am working for is very nice and doesn’t want to work us too hard. I laugh when I think of how my life has changed so drastically in the matter of one week. I went from the tourist capital where I got to surf all day to a small town with only a few things to do and working on a farm and coming home covered in dirt from head to toe.

    Reply
  • December 6, 2009 at 7:34 am
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    How sad it is to read that any worker has been mistreated let a loan a backpacker, a visitor to our country. In April this year 841 seasonal workers were reimbursed $70,000 after investigations by the Federal Fair Work Ombudsman. These investigations are on going which includes investigations into working backpackers. I do feel the Working Holiday visa is a success as for every bad story there are many more of a great working traveling experience into areas not normally would have travelled.
    The backpacker is in much need in rural and regional Australia not only to fill the short fall of labour but as many do on returning home act as ambassadors selling Australia’s tourism, produce and technology
    I do think to much emphasis goes on backpackers to work in the harvest industry and not advised on the “Specified Work” in regional industries the visa names to extend the working holiday visa.
    These include processing animal products including shearing, butchery in an abattoir. Operations relating directly to taking or catching fish, pearls and other aquatic species. Tree farming which includes planting, falling and transporting to the place where the trees are to be milled. Working in the building, construction and mining industries. Work dose not have to be paid work such as volunteering.
    I do think if the visa was made a 2 year visa without work in rural and regional Australia we will find many will arrive in Sydney or any other capital city and rent apartment or “share house” for the 2 years.
    I feel much of the problems could be solved if each capital city has a “backpackers hub” that a backpacker could go to make a complaint, to find the right employment and accommodation, to find assistance if need

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  • December 17, 2009 at 2:33 pm
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    I Have to say that trying to find work fruit picking has been an absolute nightmare. i had 5 months of my visa left wjich i thought was plenty of time having been assured by numerous websites that there was an abundance of work… it took me 2 months to find work, cutting it extremely fine but luckily just in time for my visa.

    I called the harvest Trail and Travellers at Work, neither of whom could help. I emailed every working hostel that boasted that they deal with farmers direct and get work for you, im yet to get a single reply, 4 months later. I joined the agency that places fruit pickers 2 months ago, yet to get a call….

    Its been beyond a joke, there is NO shortage of fruit pickers, the majority of workers are Korean students who arent even applying for 2nd yr visas, or they are grey nomads returning to the same places yearly, which means there is no work for us.

    I am yet to meet a single peson on their 2nd year that has done a single days work, because its just damned near impossible to get a job, i have luckily managed to find one through a friend of a friend of a friend,,, im sure there are many others who will not be…

    Reply
  • January 30, 2010 at 11:42 am
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    Greg, the fact you call a 1 year- WHV generous, completly and utterly disagree. I come from the UK where any Australian Backpacker visiting the UK is automatically granted a 2 year WHV without having to do any regional farm work! The fact in Australa, you have to give a total of one 8th of your 2 year holiday to back breaking work, in appauling work conditions, most of the time the farm screws you over and mainly poorly paid work.. How on earth is that generous in comparison to what Australians get when they visit my home country? Simply, It’s not… It’s just cheap labour for the government and the farmers to screw more golden aussie dollars from the backpacker

    Reply
  • January 30, 2010 at 2:13 pm
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    Farms aren’t 4-star resorts, Tom. They’re not a health spa for pampered tourists to get pedicure’s and learn about where food comes from. Farmers work just as bloody hard as any labourer and they can’t walk away when they get too dirty. Where does this notion come from that farm work isn’t backbreaking?

    As a % very few Working Holiday Makers do farm work in Oz, hence the reason for the 2nd year visa. Its an incentive to help an industry in a labour crisis. If you don’t like the work then don’t do it. The point is that if you want to, you can. The UK needs white, not blue collar workers. And up until the beginning of 2008 could not get enough of them – hence the 2nd year visa grant in the UK.

    I think the idea that govts and farmers are trying to “screw” everybody is utter nonsense not to mention naive. They are a low-margin business in a labour crisis which usually means wages are forced up. If they don’t try to pay as little as possible they go under and sell the farm. I don’t agree with people being ripped off (if indeed they are), but I applaud our govt for at least trying something instead of sitting down and whinging about how hard farm work is.

    I don’t think there’s a demand for regional farm work in the UK. English farmers are quite well off and well subsidised.

    Our WHV system is generous. And I think the Scandinavians, Germans, French, and Dutch et al would agree. Maybe just not one whingeing Pom?

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  • January 31, 2010 at 8:16 am
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    Tom take Greg advise. If you are going to do far work don’t bring your tennis racket and beauty case. There are many others ways in gaining your 2nd year.

    The Australia Government has looked at many of the mistakes made in the UK with the Australia backpacker.

    It was not long ago when the Blair Government threaten to drop one year for Australians working in the UK, until they took into account the jobs they were doing were jobs that could not be filled.

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  • February 2, 2010 at 2:47 pm
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    Greg – I am not sure where you information is from but I got a 2 year visa in the UK in 1999 as it has been since and was before, and what did I have to do for it? Nothing!
    Jill is absolutely right though in that it is a total lie that there is “loads” of work out there as I have been looking for a friend and have been looking constantly for the past 2 months when all this time could of been used actually seeing the country my friend came to see!
    It seems the only actual work that can be found is woofing which is great, and an ideal way to live and breathe an aussie farm. but no money can come in.

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  • February 2, 2010 at 7:46 pm
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    Plenty of work out there – yes there is and we have LOTS of it.
    OK you have to do something for it, we insist on the introductory safety course first, but then you are guaranteed a job which you CHOOSE while you are on the course.
    We do not touch fruit picking as it is far too badly paid – but we have work on cattle and sheep stations, farms and in rural hospitality – though most of the hospitality work has dried up as it is the end of the tourist season.
    So, if you want the guarantee of work that is definitely NOT fruit or vegetable picking, there is only one choice. Do the course and get the guarantee of a job.
    Visitoz have been guaranteeing jobs for over 18 years and never failed yet – even in the toughest times last year.
    You don’t have to wwoof, get a well paid job instead.
    Jobs are from 3 – 6 months, are fed and accommodated and the award wage paid in addition. There is nothing to spend your money on – unless you are a smoker.

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  • February 3, 2010 at 4:32 pm
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    Visitoz is to be congratulated on the service it provides to the backpacker. It is a petty such a service is not in the States that do not have a service like their’s

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  • February 9, 2010 at 1:37 pm
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    Interesting piece of wordage taken directly from the visitoz website:
    ‘There are very few jobs opportunities in this section for young men as the outback employers need girls to encourage the local young men into the pub – to drink and eat!’
    Oh gee that’s appealing for me as a male – and especially appealling for women to be used as bait for sexual exploitatiion!
    Great work guys!

    Reply
  • February 9, 2010 at 2:26 pm
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    Geez Andrew, you sound like a politcally correct overinflated city boy working for a Current Affair.

    VisitOz tell it how it really is. They don’t dress it up as something it isn’t. People go out there with their eyes wide open to this fact.

    Got anything to say about female cheerleaders at the State of Origin?

    Don’t drag down a reputable company that has done more for outback experiences and preparing people for outback employment than anyone I can think of.

    greg cole

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  • June 16, 2010 at 4:51 pm
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    Here is me looking for farm work and I come across this chat you’re all having.
    Me and my partner are from the UK, we have been living in Australia for six months.
    i actually think it is good that they make us do our regional work for our second year visa, it’s what makes Australia different to the UK, in the UK they’ll let anyone in for as long as they want using all the benfits that we pay for.
    However, like I was saying…six months I have been here! I have been working in offices in IT and for the six months I have been looking for work for me and my partner, not one job has come up.
    We have even said we don’t mind getting paid $10 an hour, we don’t mind working 12 hour days, 7 day weeks in the rain! We just want our three months work to stay here longer. But the place is so full of backpackers you can’t get it anywhere! If we were to have half a chance at it we’d have to split up and go seperate farms for 3 months, it’s ridiculous! Then you get yourself into a panic thinking you have to go back to the UK, which is what leads on to backpackers paying farmers off for there second year visa. It is literally the only way in some cases!
    It’s my last resort but if it comes to it, that may be what we have to do. There is no other way, and no one that can help or lend a hand. No agency is there for backpackers but there are some scummy hostels that take all the cash you earn and make you sleep with bedbugs for two months to then tell you that ‘sorry we can’t get you in any work’. It really is hard for us, we come here to have a new experience, work hard and have fun! But you spend the entire year looking for your 3 months and end up more stressed then when you arrived.

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  • July 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm
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    Greg your arguments are really not worth anything. You keep saying how generous it is… and in a theoretical way it is… but in reality it clearly isn’t.

    You havn’t done the work or looked for the work as a backpacker.

    Kim has wrote it exactly how all backpackers i come across, have to put ut up with.

    Me and my girlfriend looked for work the entire east coast for over 3 months, being messed around by farmers, agencies and hostels in each town. It seems the only thing they do is to get you to stay in worthless filth holes and never actually provide any work!

    We went further and further into the outback to waste more and more money and still no work.

    We tried and other then volunteer work there is no paid work. The only other options was to take under the legal wage…. so which is better the farmers for breaking working rights and wage laws or the back packer who forges there form because there is no legitamate work?

    Reply

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