Can an Employee Work on a Working Holiday Visa? Work Rights for Working Holiday Makers in Australia

What is a Working Holiday Visa?

Working Holiday visas are designed to allow young people between the ages of 18 and 30/35 (varies by country) to travel to Australia for an extended holiday and support themselves by working in Australia.

There are two different subclasses which are available:

1. Working Holiday Subclass 417

This is the most common type of working holiday visa. It can be applied for electronically in most cases, and is available to passport holders from many European, East Asian countries and Canada.

Current working holiday eligible countries are:

Hong Kong
South Korea
United Kingdom
Countries eligible for 417 Working Holiday Visas

Holders of Working Holiday Subclass 417 visas who have completed specified work in Australia are able to apply for a second or third Working Holiday Visa which allows them to stay in Australia for an additional 12 months for each extension.

  • From 1 July 2023, UK passport holders can apply for a Working Holiday visa between the ages of 18 and 35 years inclusive
  • From 1 July 2024, UK passport holders can be granted up to three separate Working Holiday visas without having to meet any specified work requirements.

2. Work and Holiday Subclass 462

The Work and Holiday visa is similar, but is available to a different range of passport holders.

Citizens of the USA are eligible to apply online for a Work and Holiday visa in a relatively straightforward process.

For other countries, requirements for education and English language apply and in many cases an invitation from the home government is necessary. Numbers of visas issued are limited each year for each country.

Current eligible work and holiday countries include:

China, People’s Republic of
Czech Republic
Papua New Guinea
San Marino
Slovak Republic
Countries eligible for 462 Working Holiday Visas

Holders of Work and Holiday Subclass 462 visas can apply for a second or third work and holiday visa providing they have completed specified work in Australia, but the requirements are different to those for the 417 visa extension.

How Many Working Holiday Visa Holders Are There in Australia?

As of 31 July 2023, there were 131,300 subclass 417 and 462 working holiday visa holders in Australia.

How Long Does a Working Holiday Visa Last?

Working holiday visas allow the holder to remain in Australia for 12 months from the date of first entry.

If a second or third working holiday visa is granted, this allows a further 12 months in Australia.

Work Rights on a Working Holiday Visa – Primary (Main) Visa Holder

Working Holiday Subclass 417 visas and Work and Holiday Subclass 462 visas are both subject to condition 8547 which limits holders to working a maximum of 6 months with each employer (location).

Employers should ensure that staff do not exceed the 6 month limitation as this can result in cancellation of the working holiday visa and fines for the employer.

It is possible in some cases to apply for permission to continue working beyond the 6 months limitation – examples include:

  • Where the employee has applied for an employer sponsored visa
  • Work in flood/bushfire recovery
  • Work in certain industries in Northern Australia

Risk of Cancellation on a Working Holiday Visa

Working Holiday visas are cancelled from time to time. There have been some instances of cancellation where fraudulent employer references have been provided in applying for working holiday visa extensions.

Unless employers check visa status regularly, they will not be aware that a visa has been cancelled.

Further Visa Options for Working Holiday Visa Holders

Many working holiday visa holders want to remain in Australia. Examples of visas working holiday visa holders often apply for after being in Australia for some time include:

  • Extension to Working Holiday/Work and Holiday Visa – requires specified work requirement to be met, unless the holder is a UK national
  • Student Visa
  • General Skilled Migration
  • Employer sponsored (TSS visa)
  • Partner Visas
  • Occupational Trainee Visas

These visas may not have work rights as beneficial as the original visa held by the employee. Unless visa status is checked regularly, these issues will not be picked up by employers.

A good example of this is where a working holiday maker transitions onto a student visa. Working holiday visas allow the holder to work full time, but a student visa only allows work for 48 hours a fortnight.

Unless employers are checking visa status for staff regularly, they may face fines and other penalties. In particular, the Department of Home Affairs does not need to show an employer knew staff are working in breach to impose fines.

How Often Should I Check Work Rights for Working Holiday Visa Holders

At the very least, all employers should check visa status for staff before employment, and also at the time the visa is due to expire.

Because  working holiday makers regularly change visa status whilst in Australia, it is good practice to check regularly during employment as well.

We would recommend checking visa status for working holiday visa holders once a month.

Summary – Employing Staff on a Working Holiday Visa

Working Holiday visa holders are a large and skilled workforce which can be attractive for employers.

However, working holiday visa holders are  subject to work restrictions.  They often change status to another visa type which may not have work rights as beneficial as their original working holiday visa.

We would recommend checking visa status for working holiday visa holders before employment and once a month during employment.

How vSure Can Help

The vSure Work Rights app has been built to ensure Australian employers are compliant with the obligations to take “reasonable steps at reasonable times” to check employee work rights.

Rather than having to manually check individuals, vSure has been built specifically for employers with foreign workers to check and automatically keep checking work rights. The app will email or SMS you each time it checks (generally monthly), ensuring you maintain your compliance, without the manual effort.

If you want the easiest and most effective way to ensure work rights compliance, please click here to request a demonstration today.