FAQ: How to Do Your Farm Work in Australia
Much to the bewilderment of your friends and family overseas... yes, yes you are.
Why the kumquat would you do such a thing?
Because, like myself, you knew that one year in Australia wouldn't be enough. I was recently granted my second year visa, and now it's time to help you get yours.
I REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME I HEARD ABOUT THE WHOLE FARM WORK THING I THOUGHT IT WAS FREAKING HILARIOUS.
Picturing myself in knee high mud-covered boots and overalls, I laughed it off as a strange milestone I'd mentally dismiss until the time arose to accomplish it. Much like my student debt, I declared to my family that there was no point in allotting headspace to something I didn't currently have the means to amend.
And then one day. Voila. I decided to dive in.
I have so many things to say about farm work it's ridiculous. For the sake of your sanity I'll try to keep this post mostly informative. My advice, opinions and experiences are all, of course, subjective. As much as I can I'll keep it factual and offer you my opinions and advice with as much of an educated opinion as I can.
WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO?
- Within the first 12 months of your first year visa you must complete 13 weeks (3 calendar months) or 88 days of rural farm work (see below for the stark difference between those two options)
- Completing your farm work gives you the option to apply for a second year visa where you will not be required to do any more farm work :)
- If you've completed your farm work you do not need to do your second year straight away! You can hold onto your payslips and apply years later, as long as you still meet the visa criteria (IE age limit, clean criminal record)
WHAT COUNTS AS FARM WORK?
- Harvesting and/or packing of fruit and vegetable crops
- General maintenance crop work
- Feeding and herding cattle on a farm
- Immediate processing of animal products including shearing, butchery, packing and tanning
- Landscaping the grounds of a construction/house site
- Zoo work involving plant or animal cultivation
- Planting or tending trees in a plantation or forest that are intended to be felled
- Manufacturing dairy produce from raw material (FUN...not)
- Plant and Animal Cultivation
Fishing and Pearling
Tree Farming and Feeling
Mining and Construction
WHAT DOESN'T COUNT?
Unfortunately nannying, book-keeping, basic cleaning, cooking etc. does NOT count even if it's in a rural area. Of course, some people do get away with nannying gigs, but it's risky and I would highly recommend playing this one safe!
See HERE for more deets...
By far, the most common choice for travellers is to do fruit picking / farming. Considering this was my choice, it's also the industry I have the most insight on.
Where can you work?
4124 to 4125, 4133, 4211, 4270 to 4272, 4275, 4280, 4285, 4287, 4307 to 4499, 4510, 4512, 4515 to 4519, 4522 to 4899.
*Excludes Greater Brisbane area and the Gold Coast*
6041 to 6044, 6083 to 6084, 6121 to 6126, 6200 to 6799.
*Excludes Perth metro area*
Australian Capital Territory
None of the Capital Territory counts. Boo.
New South Wales
2311 to 2312, 2328 to 2411, 2420 to 2490,
2536 to 2551, 2575 to 2594, 2618 to 2739, 2787 to 2898
*Excludes Sydney, Newcastle, Central Coast and Wollongong*
3139, 3211 to 3334, 3340 to 3424, 3430 to 3649, 3658 to 3749, 3753, 3756, 3758, 3762, 3764, 3778 to 3781, 3783, 3797, 3799, 3810 to 3909, 3921 to 3925, 3945 to 3974, 3979, 3981 to 3996.
*Excludes Melbourne metro area*
The whole bloody state counts! Wee.
Yep. All of the North counts!
All of Tazzie counts too!
** The above info ONLY applies to the 417 working holiday visa. For those on a 462 visa (for travellers from Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Poland, Thailand, Turkey, the United States or Uruguay) farm work can only be done in certain parts of NT, North Queensland and WA. Check out the department of immigration site for the deets.**
How to Find Work
Most farm work blog posts and travel agencies will tell you to head to one of the following job boards:
While there's nothing wrong with that approach, it can easily feel like you're going in blind.
I actually found my job on Instagram... Let me explain.
Step one - Google
This might feel like an obvious suggestion but you need to know what you're looking for. The last thing you want to do is commit to a small town, arrive, get settled, and find out it's not the growing season in that area. Many states have something to offer year round, but in order to complete your full three months and make the most $$ you're going to want to pick a crop in peak season. I was living in Brisbane before starting my farm work so I knew I wanted to stay in Queensland. I came across this amazing growing guide. I scrolled down to QLD and because I love bananas I was stoked to see bananas. And so it was decided, I'd be working on a banana farm. Complex thought process, I know.
Step two - Find the Working Hostels
Once I'd settled on a fruit, I was left with the choice of Innisfail or Tully. The name Innisfail stood out, not only because it was hilarious but because a co-worker had actually mentioned it as a farm work hub. She recommended I head there, but to do some research about accommodation before arrival. I went back to my buddy Google and found a couple options for working hostels.
Not many people know about working hostels - and I'm so glad I did. Many of the posts on the above job boards are one off roles or small family farms looking for live-in workers. For social reasons, a working hostel offers a much more appealing experience. Many rural towns have working hostels, which house backpackers, all of whom are working on farms in pursuit of their second year visa. I was stoked to see about 4 working hostel options pop up for Innisfail.
STEP THREE - Get Social
Last but not least, I picked one of the hostels and scoped them on social media. By looking up the accom's specific hashtag I got a great feel for the culture. The working hostel I stayed at had tons of photos of fancy dress nights, goon olympics and general backpacker mischief. I was sold. If you're going to work on a farm you might as well have a little fun right?
Make it count
Now that you've found the job and made the move, it's important to make sure you do everything necessary to get your second year approved. Things can get a bit tricky due to misinformation amongst travellers and all of the loopholes in the visa application system.
In my personal opinion, the second year visa process is extremely flawed. I know a LOT of travellers whom didn't even finish their 13 weeks, yet had their application approved in 5 minutes. I also know plenty of folks who did their full stint and still underwent a lengthy investigation process. Why? It's almost like a lottery system. When you apply for your second year you either get approved instantly OR the Gov selects you for investigation (basically like a tax audit). Of course, investigating every application would be a lengthy process, but the current system allows for luck of the draw and cheating.
Regardless, it's important that you do everything in your ability to set yourself up for approval. First things first, make sure you work enough.
According to the Government website, you must complete 13 weeks of Continuos FULL TIME work (if not, 88 individual working days). What exactly defines full time? Depends on the industry. Due to the nature of seasonal fruit picking, my "full-time" working week was often only 2 days long. The safest and smartest way to find out what's considered "full-time" in your particular industry is to phone the Aus Gov directly.
In order for your farm work to be considered legit, you need to be paid an award rate. There are heaps of farmers who only need a couple of hours work done, and are willing to offer $15 or $20 bucks cash to backpackers. While that might sound appealing, it's actually below the award wage and would NOT count towards your second year visa. Make sure you're getting paid what you deserve, not only for your wallet but also for your visa needs.
HOWEVER, to make things more complicated, there is a chance you can work on a "piece rate" and still qualify. Piece rate means you're paid based on weight/quantity of items you pick/plant. If you're going to choose this option, know that you need to get this in writing. A written contract confirms that you were a legitimate employee and can be used as evidence if your application is investigated.