Australian Visitor Visas – Volunteer work allowed

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As you may be aware, Australian visitor visas are subject to condition 8101, which is the ‘no work’ condition. This condition basically prevents you from engaging in paid employment in Australia. We are often contacted by applicants who want to know if they can do any type of work in Australia while holding a visitor visa. The short answer to this is—yes, you can. But you need to be very careful not to breach your visa conditions.

The most common scenario we encounter is applicants who want to do some volunteer work. This is especially the case for applicants who may not be eligible for a working holiday visa, but would still like the ‘travel and work in Australia‘ experience (for example, Switzerland passport holders).

The bad news is that you can’t do ‘paid’ work. The good news is that you can do some limited volunteer work as the holder of a visitor visa with a ‘no work’ condition. The way the Australian government views this is that when you are doing genuine volunteer work, you are not taking away paid work from an Australian citizen and therefore not in breach of the ‘no work’ condition on the visa.

You should note the following important information (extracted from the government policy) about the limitations of engaging in volunteer work without breaching your visa conditions:

Voluntary work tourism schemes are becoming an increasingly popular option in the tourism industry in Australia. Several organisations now promote opportunities for tourists to visit Australia to undertake work activities in return for board, accommodation or reimbursement of basic out-of-pocket expenses on production of a receipt for living costs in return for voluntary work.

People who want to travel to Australia to undertake voluntary work may do so on a tourist visa (visitor visa), but only if the voluntary work:

  • is of benefit to the community
  • is a designated volunteer position (that is, it cannot be a position that an Australian would normally be paid for)
  • is genuinely voluntary (no financial payment to be received; however, board and lodging is acceptable) and;
  • is generally short-term (that is, no more than 3 months)

So, for example, if you are planning on coming to volunteer for an organisation, such as Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF), that is acceptable.

I note that voluntary work does not include unpaid work experience and/or ‘internships’.

Other types of limited work may be acceptable in some circumstances, such as some domestic work (for example, you may be coming to help a family member with a new-born baby for a few months). Some online work can be acceptable also; for example, a stockbroker who wants to check e-mails and share prices online, as long as the work is incidental to the holiday.

There is also some very limited scope to allow an applicant who is in financial hardship to work while holding a visitor visa in Australia. It is important to note that you must first make an application which meets the specific requirements to obtain the required written permission from the Department of Immigration to use this limited provision. Your case would need to fit within very strict guidelines to use this avenue.

As stated at the beginning of this article, you need to be very careful with working on a visitor visa that you do not breach your conditions. Breaching conditions can result in visa cancellation and a three-year ban from Australia (exclusion period). You should consult a migration professional to discuss your situation.

To start the process for your visitor visa application, go here:

I hope we may be able to help you with your application soon!

John Bell
General Manager and Senior Migration Agent
MARN 0321386

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John Bell

Migration Advisor at National Visas
John Bell has been involved in the immigration industry since 2000 and has practiced in Australia as an Australian Registered Migration Agent since 2003. John also worked in the UK as a UK immigration adviser between 2000 and 2002.

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