To deal with the growing shortage of workers in the agricultural sector, the Australian government has introduced a new type of Australia visa: the Australian Agriculture visa.
Worker shortage due to the coronavirus
By only looking at the number of infections and deaths, Australia has come through the coronavirus pandemic relatively well. To date, Australia has almost 45,000 infections and fewer than 1,000 deaths from Covid-19. This is partly due to the very strict coronavirus measures (especially entry restrictions) that Australia took to suppress the virus. Many of these measures are still in place. Australia has a "zero-Covid" strategy, which means that firm measures, such as lockdowns, can be implemented immediately if even only a few infections occur in a certain region.
In the meantime, the healthcare industry is not the only one affected by the coronavirus. The agricultural industry is facing structural labour shortages. Australian farmers and growers rely heavily each year on backpackers and other seasonal workers to help with the harvest and other tasks. Australia is a very popular country for foreign students to take a gap year, where they usually support themselves by working in the country.
The Australian government has even made a separate type of visa available for this purpose: the Working Holiday visa. But now that the borders have been closed because of Covid-19, the Australian agricultural sector is faced with major labour shortages. Crops are dying before they can be harvested, and the sector is calling on the government to come up with solutions to this problem as soon as possible.
New visa: Australian Agriculture visa
With the introduction of this new type of visa, the Australian government partly meets the wishes of the agricultural industry. This Australia Visa for Agriculture will be made available to low-skilled foreign workers in the agricultural, fishing and forestry fields. Like the already existing programmes like the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS), the new visa also focuses mainly on the countries in or near the Pacific Ocean. These countries provide a large proportion of Australiaʼs seasonal workforce, and with the new visa, the Australian government aims to attract more workers from this region. The government estimates that the number of seasonal workers from these countries will double in the next year.
It will take several years before this new visa category is fully operational. The new visa is only available for countries with which Australia has specific agreements.
Working in Australia: Working Holiday visa
As mentioned before, Australia has a special type of visa for young travellers who want to work in the country during their holiday: the Working Holiday visa. As the name suggests, it is not just a working visa, but a way for young foreign travellers to combine a holiday with work. This is also reflected in the requirements for this visa type. For example, it is only available to travellers between the ages of 18 and 30. Often, the main goal for these travellers is to gain valuable life experience by working in another country for some time. Usually, they already have sufficient financial resources to pay for the stay and the return trip. Unlike work visas such as the recently announced Australian Agriculture Visa, the Working Holiday visa is actually intended for travellers more interested in a certain travel experience, and not for financial advancement.
eVisitor visa Australia
Of course, Australia is also a popular tourist destination. Every year, millions of holiday goers travel to this country to admire the beautiful nature or to explore lively cities like Sydney. Australia also has specific visas for this purpose: the eVisitor visa and the ETA Australia. These visas are mostly identical. The biggest difference is that the ETA is available for more nationalities, but it is also a lot more expensive than the eVisitor visa.
Therefore, the ETA is often only used if the traveller does not qualify for the cheaper eVisitor visa. Both Irish and UK travellers can apply online for an Australia eVisitor visa.