Visa info for Hosts

VISA REGULATIONS

There are important visa regulations regarding work that WWOOF Hosts need to be aware of. The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP, formerly DIAC) allows visitors to Australia to WWOOF on Student, Visitor (formerly Tourist) and Working Holiday Visas.

Work is defined by DIBP as, "an activity that, in Australia, normally attracts remuneration". This means any activity that normally attracts payment, irrespective of whether you are paying money or giving some other kind of reward, (eg food and accommodation) it is still deemed to be work. If you are going to offer "work" as defined by DIBP you must ensure the WWOOFer has a visa that entitles them to "work". You can check this by ensuring their visa/passport is stamped appropriately. If they possess a Working Holiday Visa (WHV), 6 months is the maximum time they are allowed to work at any one establishment.

If you need to check on a WWOOFers visa there is a free, online facility, VEVO, that allows an employer to check visa entitlements of a non-Australian passport holders' visa. You need to register to use VEVO and will need the WWOOFers permission to check their visa details. You will need their: name, date of birth, passport number and passport country of issue.

IMPORTANT NOTE: DIBP change the rules from time to time about what activities are allowed on visas, it is important to confirm with DIBP that the type of visa your WWOOFer holds does allow volunteering in exchange for food and accommodation.

VISA Information

Visitor (Tourist) Visas and Student Visas

IMPORTANT NOTE: DIBP change the rules from time to time about what activities are allowed on visas, it is important to confirm with DIBP that the type of visa your WWOOFer holds does allow volunteering in exchange for food and accommodation. The information below is from DIBP's website as at January 2014, but can change any time.

WWOOFers with a Visitor Visa (Tourist stream), Electronic Travel Authority (subclass 601), an eVisitor (subclass 651) or Student Visa must not do any work that would normally be done by a paid worker, but are allowed to do voluntary work in exchange for their meals and accommodation. WWOOFing must be a part of their holiday, not the main reason for it. WWOOFers on this visa should do work that a Host would not normally pay someone to do. On Visitor visas any work must be genuinely voluntary and must be work that would not otherwise be undertaken by an Australian resident. This principle also applies for those intending to undertake WWOOFing with commercial operators (such as large organic beef farms). DIBP say that WWOOFers on a Tourist visa need to be careful about the Hosts they visit as commercial Hosts are more likely to give them work that they may consider is in breach of the conditions of their visa, so we now recommend they consider WWOOFing mainly on non commercial properties, hobby farms etc. WWOOFers undertaking work with commercial organisations risk being in breach of Visitor visa conditions which do not permit work. The Visitor visa does not offer the wide scope of options that are available to those who are holders of Working Holiday or Work and Holiday visas which permit work.

Visitor visa (subclass 600) Tourist stream

DIBP say this about Visitor Visas - Tourist stream:

This visa lets you:

  • have a holiday or visit family and friends in Australia
  • study in Australia for up to three months
  • work as a genuine unpaid volunteer, but only if an Australian resident would not otherwise be paid to do the work (you can be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses such as meals and accommodation).
  • See Visitor visa (subclass 600) Tourist stream, on the Visa Holders tab, under the Heading What this visa lets you do

    eVisitor (subclass 651)

    DIBP say this about eVisitor Visas (subclass 651):

    Volunteer work tourism schemes

    In general, an eVisitor does not allow you to work in Australia. However, you may be able to work as a volunteer if:

  • your main purpose in visiting Australia is tourism, and the voluntary work is incidental to tourism
  • the work is genuinely voluntary and you are not paid for it, other than for meals, accommodation or out-of-pocket living expenses
  • the work would not otherwise be done in return for wages by an Australian resident.
  • See eVisitor Visas (subclass 651), on the About eVisitor Holders tab, under the Heading What the eVisitor lets you do

    Can I work as a volunteer while on an eVisitor?

  • Voluntary work is only allowed on tourist eVisitor in very limited circumstances. You may be able to work as a volunteer whilst on a tourist eVisitor if:
  • your main purpose in visiting Australia is tourism, and any voluntary work remains incidental to tourism,
  • the work involved would not otherwise be undertaken, in return for wages, by an Australian resident, or
  • the work is genuinely voluntary and no remuneration is received in return for the activities. It is acceptable, under the conditions of an eVisitor, to receive meals, accommodation and/ or reimbursement of out-of-pocket living expenses in return for voluntary work.
  • Working Holiday Visas

    WWOOFing IS allowed on ALL Working Holiday Visas!

    The Department of Immigration and Border Protection say:

    “In recognition of the many legitimate and worthwhile agencies that employ volunteer workers to deliver valuable community services, Working Holiday visa holders will still be able to perform volunteer work should they wish to do so. The work will simply not count towards eligibility for a second visa.”

    The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) say "The primary aim of the Working Holiday Visa is a cultural exchange between reciprocal countries through an extended holiday with short term work to supplement funds."

    Most WWOOFers travel on a Working Holiday Visa, they are allowed to work or volunteer for a maximum of 6 months for any one establishment. Many of these WWOOFers are working towards qualifying for a one year visa extension.

    2nd Working Holiday Visa Extensions

    WWOOFing IS allowed on ALL Working Holiday Visas!

    The Department of Immigration and Border Protection say:

    “In recognition of the many legitimate and worthwhile agencies that employ volunteer workers to deliver valuable community services, Working Holiday visa holders will still be able to perform volunteer work should they wish to do so. The work will simply not count towards eligibility for a second visa.”

    IMPORTANT! Changes to rules for Second Working Holiday Visa applications came into effect on 31/8/2015.

    Volunteer work no longer counts towards the 88 days needed for visa extension applications unless WWOOFers were already with a WWOOF Host or had pre-arranged a WWOOFing stay with a Host. In these cases days can be counted until 30th November 2015 only.

    Please click on Second Working Holiday Visa bar below for more details

    IMPORTANT! Changes to rules for Second Working Holiday Visas came into effect on 31/8/2015.

    Volunteer work no longer counts towards visa extensions unless WWOOFerswere already with a WWOOF Host or had pre-arranged a WWOOFing stay with a Host. In these cases days can be counted until 30th November 2015 only.

    A Press Release was issued on 1/5/2015 by the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection stating that volunteering would no longer be counted towards Second Working HolidayVisa Extensions. If you are a current WWOOF member, please check the WWOOF Forum for updates. Also see the facebook pages started by a WWOOFer & Host: Senator Cash. Volunteering is NOT exploitation. and Keep Wwoofing as 2nd Year Visa Work - Australia

    UPDATE 28/4/2016

    The Senate Education and Employment References Committee has handed down their Report and Recommendations, unfortunately they have not addressed the issue of volunteering in their recommendations. however the Greens additional comments at the end of the report say:

    1.6 Overall we support the recommendations in the committee report, with minor additions and changes.

    Recommendations ...

    1.9 Replace Recommendation 10 with:

    The committee recommends that the reconstituted MACSM review the Working Holiday Maker (417 and 462) visa program. The review should include, but not be limited to, an examination of the costs and benefits of the continued operation of the optional second year extension to the visa, the costs and benefits of providing government with the ability to set a cap on the numbers of Working Holiday Maker program visas issued in any given year and whether volunteer work should contribute to eligibility for a second year visa.

    We are yet to hear if the Greens alterations will be adopted.

    UPDATE 26/11/15

    On Friday the 20th of November 2015 The Senate Education and Employment References Committee held a Public Hearing in Melbourne about The impact of Australia's temporary work visa programs on the Australian labour market and on the temporary work visa holders. (Transcript now available)

    Present at the Hearing were: Chair Senator Sue Lines, Australian Labor Party , WA; Deputy Chair: Senator Bridget McKenzie, The Nationals , VIC; Senator Deborah O'Neill, Australian Labor Party, NSW; Senator Janet Rice, Australian Greens , VIC

    Traci Wilson-Brown, Office Manager for WWOOF Australia, was invited to attend this hearing as a witness to advise the Committee of the impact on the WWOOF Program of the recent change to the eligibility framework for the 2nd Working Holiday visa program.

    Traci gave an outline of the WWOOF Program and spoke about the impact on the WWOOF Program, Hosts and volunteers of the recent changes. Each Senator then asked a series of questions.

    Many questions were asked about the WWOOF complaints process and how WWOOF ensured no criminals were in our program.... Senator O'Neill commented that people who weren't part of our program did not have a Complaints process or an organisation like WWOOF to help them, only Fair Work Australia who were overstretched and may not have the funding to cope with the volume of complaints they had to investigate.

    The Senators said they had heard some terrible stories and they knew that the criminal elements who ran labour hire companies were extremely clever & ready to exploit the tiniest loophole if they could find one and they we're not prepared to allow them to do this. Senator McKenzie asked what WWOOF would recommend to allow our volunteers to be part of the Second year visa eligibility framework without letting these criminals back in? Traci suggested the Government approve specific volunteer programs, with guidelines for Hosts and volunteers and complaints processes that Government had scrutinised and found were rigorous enough to meet their approval.

    Janet Rice's facebook page post talks about the Senate Hearing, this was also covered by the Weekly Times

    It was an excellent opportunity to have the WWOOF issue heard. We acknowledge and thank Janet Rice for her assistance to facilitate this and hope the Senate Committee will make positive recommendations to government to include our program in the eligibility framework for 2nd Working Holiday visas once again.

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