New visa rules encourage backpackers to help in Australia’s bushfire recovery

Volunteer work in the worst-affected regions can now count towards second- and third-year working holiday visas

Britons who plan on taking a working holiday in Australia can now volunteer to help with bushfire relief as part of their application – and be eligible for a longer working-holiday visa. The aim is to direct larger numbers of workers to areas where help is most needed, especially on a long-term basis. The changes come a month on from devastating bushfires which killed 33 people and around a billion animals, destroying more than 3,000 homes and 19.4 million hectares since July 2019.

Prior to the change, travellers had to put in 88 days of paid – usually agricultural – work to be able to apply for a second- or third-year working holiday visa. Also known as 417 visas, these are open to travellers aged 18 to 30, or up to 35 for Canadian, French and Irish citizens. Now, unpaid volunteer work in bushfire-affected areas can count towards the total number of days.

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