Australia and Italy have signed a reciprocal Working Holiday Maker visa arrangements between these two countries. The agreement, signed in Italy by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, and the Italian Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Margherita Boniver, was welcomed by the Acting Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Gary Hardgrave. He stated that the fact that Italy will be included in this reciprocal programme demonstrates the close relationship between the two countries.
This programme underlines the significance of interpersonal links between Australia and Italy and also creates opportunities for first-hand cultural exchanges to be experienced by young nationals of these two countries. In addition to the cultural benefits of this programme, statistics show that Working Holiday Makers have a positive effect on the Australian economy, by filling gaps in seasonal work shortages in areas such as agriculture, hospitality and rural industries.
Young people between the ages of 18 and 30 may apply for working holiday visas that allow a visit of up to 12 months. Employment can be undertaken in Australia as long as the main purpose of the visit is to supplement the individuals' holiday. One is also not allowed to work for more than three months with any one employer. Other criteria for such a visa include having no dependents, although spouses can apply under a separate application.
Since the introduction of the working holiday maker programme in the 1970s, the programme has expanded to include 17 countries, and in 2002-2003, Australia issued more than 88,500 visas.
Italy will become the 16th country to sign a reciprocal WHM arrangement. The others are Canada, the Republic of Ireland, France (from 1 January 2004), Japan, Malta, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, the UK, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, Cyprus and Belgium. The agreement with Belgium is expected to come into effect later this year, once the ratification process has been finalised. Italian nationals will only be able to apply from 1 January 2004.
Working Holiday makers can now also apply online for such a visa, making the process even easier.