New Trade Deal Means Working Holiday Rules Relaxed for British Nationals in Australia

Working holidays are a right of passage for young Australians coming to the UK and vice versa. Not only do working holidays provide an invaluable opportunity to experience life and culture in another country, but they can also help build confidence and independence. And in many cases, if working holidaymakers enjoy the experience enough, they may even decide to stay. Until now, however, Brits travelling to Australia on a working holiday visa were restricted in terms of how long they could stay, depending on the type of work they took. Under the new UK/Australia trade deal, it looks like the new rules will be relaxed for British working holidaymakers in Australia. In this article, we will take a look at what the new Australia/UK trade deal means for young British nationals on a working holiday in Australia.

New trade agreement between Australia and the UK agreed in principle

On 14th June 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed on a new trade agreement between the two countries in principle. Details of the trade deal are still to be released. According to the press release published by the British government, “The new Free Trade Agreement means iconic British products like cars, Scotch whisky, biscuits and ceramics will be cheaper to sell into Australia, boosting UK industries that employ 3.5 million people across the country. The UK-Australia trade relationship was worth £13.9 billion last year and is set to grow under the deal, creating opportunities for businesses and producers in every part of the UK”. Hailing the new agreement, Johnson said, “Today marks a new dawn in the UK’s relationship with Australia, underpinned by our shared history and common values. Our new free-trade agreement opens fantastic opportunities for British businesses and consumers, as well as young people wanting the chance to work and live on the other side of the world. This is global Britain at its best – looking outwards and striking deals that deepen our alliances and help ensure every part of the country builds back better from the pandemic”. The announcement also stated, “British farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using tariff rate quotas and other safeguards. We are also supporting agricultural producers to increase their exports overseas, including to new markets in the Indo-Pacific”.

The agreement is of particular interest to the British government as it may help the UK access the economically expanding Indo-Pacific region and boost its bid to access the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

What Does The New UK/Australia Trade Deal Do For Those On Working Holidays?

The announcement states, “The deal also offers young people the opportunity to live and work in Australia and removes barriers for businesses”, but it does not expand much beyond this. As we know, British nationals between 18 and 30 can already apply for an Australian Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417). Within the scheme, it is possible to apply for a:

  • First Working Holiday visa
  • Second Working Holiday visa, and a;
  • Third Working Holiday visa.

Each visa lasts for 12 months, however, in order to access the second and third visa, working holidaymakers must have undertaken a certain amount of ‘specified work’ in approved industries; these include:

  • plant and animal cultivation in regional Australia
  • fishing and pearling in regional Australia
  • tree farming and felling in regional Australia
  • mining in regional Australia
  • construction in regional Australia
  • bushfire recovery work in declared bushfire affected areas only, after 31st July 2019
  • critical COVID-19 work in the healthcare and medical sectors anywhere in Australia, after 31st January 2020

Under the new proposals, the age range may be widened to include those under 35. It may also remove the requirement to work in specified work in order to be granted a subsequent visa for another year.

This second proposal has drawn some criticism from some, including farmers in Australia who see such a move as likely to reduce their pool of available low-cost labour. The argument, however, is that this is not a requirement for Aussies coming to the UK, and hence this should be reciprocated.

Will The Trade Deal Relax The Working Holiday Rules For Young Australians Coming To The UK?

It appears that the relaxing of rules will be reciprocated by the British government as it is likely that the age requirement will also be increased to 35 for Australians coming here. In addition, according to Dan Tehan, Australia’s minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, “Professionals will benefit from provisions to support mutual recognition of qualifications and greater certainty for skilled professionals entering the UK labour market”.

Wider Concern About The Implications Of The Trade Agreement

The Australian Council for Trade Unions (ACTU) is also concerned that the Australian government may remove the requirement to carry out a labour market test. This will mean that businesses can recruit British nationals without checking if an Australian worker is first available, effectively disadvantaging the local working population. According to ACTU president Michele O’Neil, “The Australian and UK governments have been secretive throughout the entire trade negotiations process, and there has been no independent, union or public scrutiny…We call on the governments to be transparent and immediately begin consultations with trade unions about the details of the agreement”.

Final Words

It remains to be seen how the new Australia/UK free trade agreement will be worded and the changes this will make to the immigration system on both sides. If it is introduced, the removal of the need for British working holiday makers in Australia to undertake manual agricultural work in return for being allowed to stay for an additional year or two may make staying in the country easier and hence make the working holiday scheme more attractive. We will keep you up to date with developments as they occur. Whether you are an Australian or a UK national embarking on a working holiday adventure on the other side of the world, we wish you the best of luck.