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Some travellers get their Working Holiday visa extension illegally – without doing the hard yakka – but what are the risks of getting caught? Gillian McVeigh goes digging around.

To extend your Working Holiday visa for another 12 months you are supposed to complete 88 days of work in a “specified industry in regional Australia” (more info at immi.gov.au). However, most of you will have heard stories of people gaining their second visa though “unofficial” means.

We spoke to “Shane” (real name withheld) who got his visa extension without having done anyregional work. “I had heard of so many who never did the work and got their second year the cheeky way,” he says. “Plus I really couldn’t afford to be earning a pittance. I didn’t pay a farmer – in fact I didn’t even know his name or where he was from.

“I got an ABN number and postcode from a friend who got it from someone he used to work with and we went from there.” And it worked. However, he warns there are no words to describe how nerve-wrecking the whole process is.

“You are praying everything goes your way. Next thing you know you could be packing your bags!” That said, he would still advise people to chance it. “It’s a 50/50 result. You don’t know which way it will go. Be prepared if you don’t get it.”

This is of course illegal and the implications of getting caught out are serious. There are plenty of rumours circulating about how many applications are checked, so we spoke to a spokesperson from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).

They told us: “The department scrutinises the specified work claims of all Working Holiday visa applications. In addition, it randomly audits one in seven of all applications to verify the specified work claims.”

They take all allegations of fraud very seriously. “Visa applicants found to have committed fraud will have their visa refused or cancelled, will have to leave Australia and may receive a three year exclusion period.

“Even after this exclusion period, someone’s immigration history will be considered when the department decides any future visa applications.” According to DIAC, in 2007-08 they received 13,020 second Working Holiday visa applications. Only 11,816 extensions were granted.

DIAC were not able to give us information on why more than 1,200 applicants (about nine per cent) were refused a second visa. For those weighing up whether to go through legal or illegal channels, bear in mind the views of another traveller, Sarah Gannon: “The risk isn’t worth it”, she thinks.

And she enjoyed it. “I couldn’t save a penny in Sydney and the thoughts of not being able to stay on for another year were unthinkable. “Although, don’t get me wrong, the work was bloody tough. I stayed in a hostel and it was good to be living with other backpackers who were doing the same job.”

Visa Victory

Successful visa extension applicant Laura Ratling gives us five tips...

1. The government’s Harvest Trail (Ph: 1800 062 332, jobsearch.gov.au/harvesttrail) offers good info. There’s no harm in inquiring at agencies too. Check the internet, hostel noticeboards and newspapers, as well
as wwoof.com.au.

2. It’s all about postcodes. The DIAC state that only seasonal work completed within specific areas (see immi.gov.au) count. Working outside these will be pointless visa-wise. Check for updates too.

3. Read the rules. You need to complete 88 days of seasonal work. However, regulations stipulate that if you are employed on a full-time contract, weekends count towards your total even if you do not physically work them. Don’t quote me on this though, read the website, check your contract, and chat to your boss to ensure he’ll sign you off for those days.

4. Don’t leave it till the last minute. There is no guarantee work will be available. Seasonal work is weather dependent, and thus unpredictable. I had to travel 3,000km by bus for my last six days. I don’t recommend that! And don’t wait till you’re overdrawn – the application costs $195.

5. We’ve all met somebody whose blagged it. But, they do check them. Mine was reviewed, and though I had done the work, awaiting my fate still wasn’t fun.


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