Visa Options for Working Holiday Makers

by Mark Webster, Acacia Immigration Australia, 2 December 2009

Many working holiday makers enjoy themselves so much in Australia that they don't want to leave after their visas expire!

This is entirely understandable - the only problem is figuring out which visa to apply for to extend your stay in Australia. The main options you could consider are:

Working Holiday Extension

You can get another 12 months working holiday visa - but the catch is that you need to do at least 3 months of "seasonal work". This would require you to spend the 3 months in a regional part of Australia - the main jobs you could do would be:

  • Harvesting or packing of fruit and vegetable crops
  • Pruning and trimming vines and trees
  • General maintenance crop work

Student Visa

If you would like to do some study in Australia, you can get a visa which is valid for the entire period of the course. There are a wide range of courses you can look at - from basic business or IT courses which can be done relatively cheaply to bachelor or master degrees which will help you in your career. The main advantages of student visas are:
  • You can work for up to 20 hours per week during semester, and full time in semester break
  • You can include your partner in your student visa application
  • A good visa use as a transition to permanent residence, for example through partner visas, skilled visas or business sponsorship
More information on studying in Australia is available at

Business Sponsorship

Many working holiday makers have been sponsored through the 457 visa program over the years. The 457 visa would allow you to stay in Australia for up to 4 years, but you could only work for your sponsoring employer. Only skilled positions can be sponsored, and there are minimum salary levels for the position as well. However, recent changes make it more difficult for employers to sponsor for 457 visas and the economic downturn certainly hasn't helped. You might wish to consider the following alternatives to 457 visas:
  • ENS (Employer Nomination Scheme): you can think of ENS as a permanent version of the 457 visa. You would usually need to have at least 3 years of work experience and qualifications in your field to qualify for an ENS visa straight away. However, you can also qualify if you have been on a 457 visa for 2 years. Strangely enough, at the moment it is easier to get an ENS visa than a 457 - mainly due to looser requirements on training and minimum salary. Geoffrey Nathan is now offering a service where they can sponsor you for an ENS visa - see for more information.

  • RSMS (Regional Skilled Migration Scheme): this is a permanent visa, but requries a job offer in a regional area of Australia. There is no occupations list or minimum salary for this option, but you would in general need to have a diploma or trade qualification to be eligible. You would be expected to stay with your employer for a period of 2 years after grant of the RSMS visa.

General Skilled Migration

General Skilled Migration (GSM) leads to permanent residence, but the main problem with this option at the moment is the very long processing times - we are talking 2-3 years at least here. If you do have an occupation on the Critical Skills List (CSL), the situation is much better. CSL occupations include accountants, engineers, IT professionals, teachers, doctors, nurses and allied health (eg pharmacy, physio) - for a full list check If you have a CSL occupation, you might get your Permanent Residence within 6 months. Otherwise, you are in for a long wait...

Partner Migration

If you are in a relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident, they can sponsor you. You would either need to be married or to have lived together for 12 months to apply on defacto grounds. Problem is, with a working holiday visa, it's only valid for 12 months so it makes the defacto option difficult. You will also need to stay with your partner for 2 years - if you break up during this time, your partner visa application will be refused and you will need to look at other options very quickly.


The difficulties in getting 457 visas and General Skilled visas mean that more and more working holiday makers are looking at study in Australia as a way to stay on after their working holiday visas. Student visas do let you work in Australia, and they give you more time to explore longer stay options such as business sponsorship, skilled migration and partner visas.

It's also good for your career options to have an Australian qualification - might give you that extra edge when applying for jobs.

Please feel free to contact us for any questions on immigration or education

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