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this month, DIAC director of working holiday section Deirdre Russack said increasing numbers of applications are being withdrawn since the crackdown, but refused to comment on industry rumours that up to half of all second year WHV applications are fraudulent.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