Holiday job boost for backpackers

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British backpackers working their way around Australia will soon be allowed to stay in the same job for up to six months, the government announced today.

Australia has deals with 19 countries allowing people to visit and work on a one-year visa provided they do not have the same job for more than three months. But from July, the government is doubling the length of time they can stay with an employer, says the immigration minister Amanda Vanstone.

"These changes will be a win-win situation for employers and working holidaymakers and will help boost the Australian economy," Vanstone, said.

Also from July, backpackers who work in industries such as fishing, pearling, sheep shearing, butchery and forestry, will also be able to apply for a 12-month extension once their visas expire.

"This will be a major boost to rural and regional industries, particularly those who are heavy users of backpacker labour to meet seasonal workloads," Vanstone said.

Australia has working holiday visa agreements with the UK; Canada; the Netherlands; Japan; Republic of Ireland; South Korea; Malta; Germany; Denmark; Sweden; Norway; Hong Kong; Finland; Cyprus; France; Italy; Belgium; Estonia; and Taiwan.

The working holiday scheme has grown from fewer than 50,000 people a year in the mid 1990s to more than 104,000 in 2004, according to government figures.