Australia announces visa changes as part of a draft free-trade agreement with the UK

Australia and the UK recently announced a draft free-trade agreement that included a number of proposed changes to make it easier for UK nationals to live and work in Australia. This deal will include a relaxation of the current Working Holiday Visa (Subclass 417) rules and aims to provide more young UK citizens with the option of working in Australia.

During a recent joint press conference with UK prime minister Boris Johnson, Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, unveiled details about the in-principle  Australia – United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that has been struck between the two countries.

FTA will encourage reciprocal work & travel between Australia & UK

The FTA between Australia & the UK includes a joint commitment to making it easier for both British and Australian nationals to visit and work in each other’s country.  Based on the information that the Australian Government has released so far, the proposed agreement to improve reciprocal mobility between Australia and the UK will require Australia to make several changes to its current visa program.

Australian visa changes will benefit UK Nationals:

To benefit UK nationals, the in-principal Australia UK FTA, published by the Department of Home Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will result in Australia making numerous changes to its current visa program.  These changes will include:

  • Working Holiday Visa (417) age limit increase to 35

The age limit to apply for an Australian Working Holiday Visa (417) will be increased from 30 to 35 for UK nationals.  This will see citizens of the United Kingdom join Ireland, Canada and France as a selected group of countries that can apply for W&H visa above the age of 30. With no annual cap on working holiday (417) visas, the Australian government anticipates that this increase in the age limit to 35 will result in a significant rise in working holiday visa applications from the UK.

  • UK citizens will be able to automatically renew their Working Holiday Visa (417) for up to 3 years

UK nationals will not be required to complete Specified Work before being eligible to extend their working Holiday Visa (417) for a second or third year.   Currently, anyone that wants to extend their W&H visa needs to complete 3 months of Specified Work before they can apply to extend for a second year and six months for a third year. Specified Work is usually labour-intensive employment in sectors such as agriculture, forestry, mining, fishing or construction.  The waiver of this requirement will be a unique benefit only available to UK passport holders.

  • No labour market testing required for UK sponsored professionals

Australian businesses seeking to sponsor a skilled worker from the UK will not be required to prove, through labour market testing, that the business was not able to recruit an Australian before seeking to sponsor the UK applicant. This will make the process of sponsoring a skilled employee from the UK simpler for Australian businesses.

  • A new visa to promote Innovation and early career skills exchange.

With only a reference to, “jointly exploring dedicated visa requirements”, it is unclear as to the changes that will occur in this area.  Perhaps the government will provide UK nationals with easier access to the Subclass 407 Training visa to create additional work-place based training opportunities in selected innovative industries.

  • Agricultural Work Visa

In this are that in principal FTA makes a short reference to, facilitating mobility for those involved in agricultural work”. There is not yet any information about specific changes that the government is proposing to make. The Australian government will need to come up with an effective solution that will provide the Australian agricultural sector with a labour force to replace all the UK backpackers that will no longer be undertaking agricultural work in return for the option of a second or third working holiday visa.

It may be some time before the above changes are implemented.  The Australian government has given itself 5 years to implement the rollout of each of the agreed changes.

Full details of the Australia-UK FTA negotiations can be found on the DFAT WEBSITE

Make sure that you keep checking our website for updates on how the Australia – UK FTA will bring changes to Australia’s visa program.  If you are a UK passport holder and have any questions about how to apply for an Australian visa feel free to Contact Us to discuss your questions with one of our registered migration agents.