Working Holiday Visa Update: No More Farm Work, Free Visas and More

Darryl Newby
Darryl Newby

As with all things, you wait around ages for some good news and then it all comes at once. Two weeks ago we had news on working holiday changes for just Brits, now there is news for all Working Holiday Makers.

No More Farm Work

Up until now, people on a 417 visa (Working Holiday Visa) have needed to complete 3 months of specified work in a rural area (often known as farm work) to extend their visa for a 2nd year. Doing this work will still get you a visa extension, but as you can see from below, other types of work will be able to be carried out too.

  1. From 8 May 2021, WHMs working in the tourism and hospitality sectors anywhere in Australia may now work for up to 12 months with the same employer or organisation without requesting permission.
  2. From 22 June 2021, work undertaken in the tourism and hospitality sectors in northern, remote or very remote Australia can also be counted as specified work towards eligibility for a second or third WHM visa. 
  3.  ​This option will be available for WHM applications lodged from March 2022.
Taken from official government statement here.
That means if you’re in Australia you will be able to swap your farm work for tourism or hospitality, to get your third year visa. 😱
We’re still unsure if they’ll keep this for future travellers, but it is a really positive sign.
You could be a tour guide in Cairns and that will count towards extending your visa.


You may remember that last year the Australian government announced that people who didn’t use their visa, or people that had to fly home because of COVID would be eligible to a free visa in the future. I’m excited to let you know that the exact process for that has FINALLY been confirmed and announced this week.

Who Can Apply?
You must be outside Australia to apply for a nil VAC WHM visa.

You may apply if you hold or held a ‘COVID-19 affected WHM visa’. To hold a COVID-19 affected visa, you must meet all of the below requirements:

  • you were granted a WHM (subclass 417 or 462) visa before 20 March 2020
  • your WHM visa expired on or after 20 March 2020 while you were outside Australia or will expire before 31 December 2021 while you are outside Australia
  • you did not travel to Australia on your WHM visa or departed Australia before your visa expired.


To be eligible for a nil VAC WHM visa, you must:

  • be outside Australia and apply by 31 December 2022
  • hold a WHM eligible passport (subclass 417 or subclass 462)
  • be 18 to 30 years old (inclusive) at time of application, except for Canadian, French and Irish citizens who can be 18 to 35 years old (inclusive)
  • meet health and character requirements
  • not be accompanied by dependent children.

Visa Period

A nil VAC WHM visa, like all WHM visas granted to applicants who are outside Australia, is in effect for 12 months from the date you enter Australia.

You will have 12 months to enter Australia from the date your visa is granted.

How to Apply

All applicants must apply for this visa online​ and must be outside Australia at time of application.

Processing Times

Visa applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis, and processing times can vary due to individual circumstances.

Processing times have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and visa applications may take longer to finalise.

The Department is currently prioritising processing of visa applications for travellers who are exempt from travel restrictions and have an urgent need to travel.

For more information on travel restrictions, see COVID-19 and the border.

Applying for Subsequent WHM Visas

If you hold or have held a COVID-19 affected WHM visa, that visa will not count towards the total number of three WHM visas you may hold.

If You Are Not Eligible for a VAC WHM Visa

If you are not eligible to apply for a nil VAC WHM visa, you may be eligible to request a VAC refund or apply for a standard (full VAC) WHM visa.

For further information, see Refunds and waivers of Visa Application Charges.

WHM Holders in Australia
From March 2022, eligible current and former WHMs in Australia will be able to apply for a WHM visa with a nil VAC. This will provide them with another opportunity to meet the specified work requirements for a subsequent WHM visa.

Former WHM visa holders who have transitioned to another visa, such as the 408 COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa, may also be eligible to apply for an onshore nil VAC ​WHM visa.

More information on the onshore nil VAC WHM visa will be av​ailable on the Department’s website once arrangements are finalised.

Information taken from the government website.

Are you ready to start your working holiday?

Are The Borders Opening Up In March 2022?

This news from the government seems to suggest that the government will open Working Holiday Visa applications from March 2022, this is hugely positive…but this is definitely NOT confirmed.

We’re looking for any key dates which the Government mention and March 2022, is the first date they have mentioned with anything to do with working holiday makers.

There is a possibility it will be before then as there is huge pressure from the agricultural and travel sector (we’re doing what we can) to get you over to Australia.

When the borders re-open, Welcome to Travel is going to be so busy with fully booked tours in Melbourne and Sydney

Until then we want to keep you in the loop with as much as possible, so to make sure you are informed then sign up to our newsletter below.

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Darryl Newby

Darryl Newby

Travelled to Australia from the UK in 2010 for what was supposed to be a 6 month visit...that didn't quite go to plan. He now calls Melbourne home, co-founded Welcome to Travel and is a proud dog dad to his pug, Harvey.


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9 thoughts on “Working Holiday Visa Update: No More Farm Work, Free Visas and More”

  1. Hey guys. I was in australia from April 2019 to April 2020. Does anyone know if I’m applicable for the nil VAC WHM? My visa expired after 20 march 2020, and by my understanding it looks like I fit the requirements? If I’m missing something kindly let me know. Thanks

  2. Hi guys, do you know if Australia will increase the maximum age for Working Holiday Visa because of COVID-19? Many people (include me) can’t leave anymore because, due to COVID-19 and borders closed, now are more than 30 years old.

    1. Hi Johnny,
      I’m not sure that they will.
      On the immigration COVID-19 Visa page it states:

      “If you no longer meet the age requirement to apply for a nil VAC WHM visa, you can request a VAC refund. To do this, use the COVID-19 travel restrictions VAC refund request form.”

      Which makes me think that they’re not going to make adjustments to the age unfortunately.

  3. Hello,
    I am preparing my application for the visa and the home affairs page says that youre allowed to travel into Australia if you have a visa that allows you to. But here youre talking about how they only want to open up in march even though theyve been open since December already? Im curious where ur coming from with that. Im planning to do working holiday from July on so we will see if it works out.

  4. Hiiii, I applied for the WHV 417 in Oct, 2020 but still haven’t been granted.
    When the time I applied the max is 3 months and now is 5 months. I’m super struggling with the process, if it’s possible that I might need to wait for a year? Or is there any other option to faster the processing time? Thanks!

  5. Hi, what are the current age limits for working holiday visa’s from the UK and has the age limit been put upto 35 years old?


  6. Hi Darryl,

    I hope you can help. I’ve been dreaming about moving to Australia for so long but I don’t quite know where to start and what visa I’m eligible for. Its so many options and websites that ways different things. I’m 29, working as a Head of Events in London, I’ll be 30 in June this year. I’m originally from Poland and I don’t know if I’m eligible as a polish passport holder living in UK for 10.5 years. Any contact with you would be more than helpful, I’m just trying to post on websites like this hoping someone can help me. Thanks in advance. Best

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