Backpackers on a working holiday in Australia can now volunteer with bushfire recovery as part of their visa extension application.

Female worker using tape measure at site
Australia has made some changes to its working holiday visa ©xavierarnau/Getty Images

Under new rules, travellers will be able to extend their working holiday visa if they volunteer with bushfire recovery in some of the hardest-hit regions of the country. Before, travellers on this visa (also known as a 417 visa) had to put in 88 days of labour (usually in agriculture or specialist industries) to be eligible for a second or third-year visa. Now, paid and volunteer disaster recovery work in areas impacted by bushfires will also be counted as visa-eligible work.

The new rules will also allow travellers to work in the same job for 12 months, instead of the current six-month limit, if they are helping with bushfire relief. And construction has been added to the list of specified work travellers can participate in to extend their visas.

Sun setting in burnt smouldering mountain landscape with smoke filled valley after forest fire
It's hoped the new rules will allow for a more speedy recovery ©Andrew Merry/Getty Images

Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge said the new rules for working holiday visas will give much-needed support to farmers and regional businesses.

“These hard-working Australians have been hit by the recent bushfires, but from today they can employ backpackers for six months longer, helping them at a critical time in the recovery effort,” he said in a statement. “It means working holidaymakers can help rebuild homes, fences and farms, they can get onto properties and help with demolition, land clearing, and repairing dams, roads and railways.”

A wild koala walking and looking at the camera in South Australia
Backpackers will be helping communities at a critical time ©Felix Cesare/Getty Images

The 417 visa is open to passport holders from 16 countries, including Ireland, the UK, Germany, Denmark and Italy. Travellers between the ages of 18 and 30 can apply, or up to 35-years-of-age for Irish, Canadian and French citizens. 

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