Where to start with farm work and 2nd year visa requirements? I didn’t know. I tried a number of websites including the Australian government one before coming to Australia and all of them seemed to leave me more confused. In this post I will attempt to outline all the necessary key information that fellow backpackers will need to know when pursuing their 2nd year visa and completing farm work.
All in all, I have had an amazing time so far whilst doing my farm days. I’ve made some great friends and amazing memories! It really is mainly all about luck with farming, you may hear stories and meet people that have saved up to $5000 doing their farm days. However, this is purely dependent on which jobs you’re able to get and how long the jobs last for. I know some people at our hostel that have saved this much on a consistent hourly paid job and others which have had a number of different piece rate jobs and left Bundaberg with no more money than they arrived with 3 months earlier. Most working hostels are like a big family and because you’re all in the same situation for months, I pretty much guarantee you will make some great friends. There will be times when you want to quit and question how much you even want your 2nd year visa but if you get past those moments you will have one of the best travelling experiences possible!
There are so many different options when it comes to farm work in Australia but I will try to be as specific as I can. If you just want to do some farm work in Australia as a way of experiencing the country and saving money by not living in the cities, then it doesn’t really matter what type of farm work you do (if it counts towards a 2nd year visa or not). The main thing to research when considering your farm work is where to do it and what fruit will be in season when you arrive. However, with farm work nothing can be guaranteed, weather and other unforeseen factors can effect the amount of jobs that are available at the time of your arrival. It may be easiest to use the Australian government website to see which fruit is in season in a particular area, then research the town and climate to see how farm work can fit into your trip. For example, North Queensland usually has year round banana picking/packing jobs, but it is very humid and often has high amounts of rainfall. Although, as I said earlier, nothing with farming is guaranteed and when we called ‘Banana Barracks’ working hostel in Tully a couple of months ago they informed us that it has been unusually slow for bananas lately and would strongly advise us not to come up to the area.
- Working hostels cannot guarantee work.
- Be cautious of ads on gumtree and other similar sites.
- Try to have plenty of money saved as back up before traveling to a small town (some people have used the last of their money and got stuck).
- ALWAYS call ahead at a working hostel, ask how likely it is that you will that you will be able to get work and what type of work it is.
- Make sure that the work you’re doing is eligible for a 2nd year visa application if you intend to apply for one.
- Keep all of your payslips as proof of work.
- Know your rights, when you are entitled to breaks, minumum pay etc.
- Not all ‘piece rate’ or ‘paid by the bucket’ jobs are bad, but it is usually more beneficial to secure hourly paid jobs (piece rate varies depending on the fruit, hourly should be at least $21.60 an hour).
- Picking and packing fruit/veg seem to be the easiest jobs to find.
- Be wary of jobs/farmers that pay monthly as I’ve heard a number of stories where people have not been paid.
- Don’t assume that there are no dodgy farmers out there. There are quite a few who happily exploit backpackers because they know that we need the visa days. In my experience I have picked zucchinis for a week and never been paid by the farmer (who is now avoiding the hostel’s calls). Along with picking cherry tomatoes for $4.80 a bucket when the law is $6 a bucket.
- Don’t assume that farms will have toilet facilities and fresh drinking water, as many don’t. ALWAYS go to work prepared.
- You will need long sleeved tops to protect you from the sun, old trainers/boots, a sun hat, gloves (latex will do), sun cream, at least 4L of water and enough food for the day.
If you’re planning on doing some farm work while in Oz then my advice would be to get it done at the beginning of your trip. This way it’s done and out their way, leaving you free to enjoy the rest of your travels. Please don’t assume that because a lot of people do farm work that it isn’t hard work! The days can be long, it’s usually very hot even in winter (22-28 degrees in Bundaberg), in most picking jobs there will be a lot of bending, you need to be physically fit and there really are a good few snakes and spiders around. I would recommend doing farm work in Australian Autumn/Winter (April to September) as it’s much cooler and most of the big snakes are hibernating; so you’ll probably only get a few small ones (about 2ft). There are less jobs available at this time but you will more than likely be able to find something. In the North there are usually bananas to pick; a bit lower down the coast, Bundaberg has mandarins, avacados, macadamia nuts, tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers (capsicums), eggplants and sweet potatoes. Further down again, about six hours north of Sydney is Coff’s Harbour where you can pick berries amongst other fruits; other than that over in Victoria you have the Yarra Valley and the surrounding areas where you can find work on the vineyards.
I would recommend using a working hostel when farming as it can be somewhat of a risk traveling for miles to the middle of nowhere only to find that the job is no longer available or that the farmer isn’t willing to pay you properly (this has happened to a few people that I’ve met). With a working hostel you have a point of reference if you feel that the farmer is treating you unfairly or underpaying you and most working hostels provide transport to and from work. Most working hostels operate on the basis that they cannot guarantee work but will do their best to find you a job. These hostels cannot charge you to find work; when you arrive you will be put on a waiting list, farms will then contact the hostel as and when they need workers meaning you work your way up the list until you find a job. Be prepared!… Most working hostels are pretty dirty and in small towns/cities with not much to do; however they are usually filled with a lot of like minded people who will make your 88 days of farming a lot easier and lot more fun!
2nd YEAR VISA
Since starting my farm work I’ve realised that the 2nd year visa stuff really isn’t as overwhelming as I first thought, in fact it’s pretty straigh forward! The Australian government require you to do 88 days of regional/farm work to be eligible for a 2nd year visa. When looking for jobs you just need to check with the farmer that the work you will be doing does count towards your 2nd year visa, never assume that all farm work will count towards your 88 days. As the correct term is ‘regional’ work there are jobs you can do other than farm work; such as, an au pair, bartender/chef in a country pub, driver/cleaner in a working hostel, to name a few. Basically, if you’ve checked that the work will count for a 2nd year visa, the employer can provide you with payslips and is willing to sign your visa form on completion of the work, then that is all you need.
Key points for your 2nd year visa:
- Keep your payslips as proof of work.
- Always get your employer to sign off on your visa form (you can have more than one job on the same form).
- You can download the visa form from the Australian government website (working hostels will probably already have some for you).
- You do not have to do your 88 days all at once or all with the same employer.
- If you apply for your 2nd year in Australia then you must stay in Australia and go straight into your 2nd year; if you apply from outside the country you can apply at anytime and once granted your 2nd year will start from when you enter Oz.
- If you’re not sure if your work counts towards your 2nd year then give the Australian government a call to check.
- Your 2nd year visa will entitle you to the same visa as your first working holiday visa.
- You will only need your payslips and sign off sheets if the government decide to investigate you when you apply for the second year, but always make sure you have everything just in case.
- Decide how much you want your 2nd year visa before starting your farm work as it will usually take up at least 3 and a half months of your trip.
- If you work full time for one employer, they may be able to sign you off for 7 visa days per week when you have only worked 5.
- You do not always have to work a full day fo it to count as a visa day as long as the farmer is willing to sign you off for a day. Some people I know work for 4 hours a day and I have sometimes worked only 3 hours a day which still counts.
- Make sure the farmer that you’re working for has a ABN number to give you (it’s a kind of self employed national insurance number).