On Saturday 4 April 2020, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge, made the following announcements for those holding temporary visas in Australia.
1. Visitor Visa Holders – subclass 600
· Tourists are being asked to return to their home country as quickly as possible, particularly those without family support
See points 2 and 3 of our overall comments below.
2. International Student Visa – subclass 500
· Australian Student visa holders can work up to 40 hours per fortnight
· If you work in aged care and as a nurse you can work more than 40 hours per fortnight
· Until May 1, if you work in a major supermarket, you can work more than 40 hours per fortnight
· If you are experiencing financial hardship, you can access your Australian superannuation (up to $10,000), ask for family support or use your savings
Australian universities have made considerable efforts in marketing Australia as an attractive country for education. Most courses run from one year up to 4 years. During this time, international students are large contributors to the Australian economy. The ‘go home’ message could be very destructive for the future of Australia as a destination for study in Australia after the Coronavirus crisis.
3. Graduate Visa Holders – subclass 485
· If you are experiencing financial hardship, you can access your Australian superannuation
In the current Coronavirus climate, employers are unlikely to be recruiting new employees. Graduates may have difficulty in lining up a job that is closely aligned with their qualifications to use the work experience towards further visa applications.
For graduates who worked casually or part-time during their studies, the amount of superannuation that they have accrued may be inadequate to support them through the pandemic.
4. Temporary Skilled Visa Holders – subclasses 482, 457
If you have been stood down:
· You will be able to maintain your visa validity
· Businesses can extend your visa as normal
· Your employer can reduce your hours without breaching your visa conditions
· You can access up to $10,000 of your Australian superannuation
If you have been laid off:
· You should return to your home country if you are unable to find a new sponsor
· If you hold a visa that is valid for 4 years and you are re-employed after the pandemic, you can count time already spent in Australian towards the work experience requirements for permanent resident applications
Reduced Hours & Salary
For temporary skilled visa holders, such as the 457 or 482 visas, many questions are left unanswered. While it is confirmed that any time spent in Australia can be used for subsequent permanent residency applications, those who continue to work on reduced salary are left to wonder if they are eligible to count this for a Temporary Transition ENS 186 application.
The purpose of the subclass 482 visa is to fill temporary skills shortage in the Australian workforce. The process of recruiting skilled workers from overseas is expensive and time-consuming. While unemployment rates among Australian citizens and permanent residents have increased, this may not necessarily result in Australians who have the skills or are living in the relevant locations.
Advising temporary skilled visa holders to return home can result in skills shortage in certain areas for at least 6-9 months. In this case, there may be a lag to go through the visa application process to recruit these workers back to Australia. The impact on the Australian economy during this time can be significant.
There are also significant costs involved for employers to re-sponsor employees to fill the skill shortages. The option to stand down employees is much more attractive than the suggestion for them to return home.
5. Working Holiday Makers – subclasses 462, 417
· If you work in health, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing and childcare, you will be able to work for one employer for more than 6 months
· If your visa expires in the next 6 months and you work in these areas, you will be eligible for a further visa to keep working in these critical sectors
· If you do not have the capacity to support yourself over the next 6 months, you are encouraged to return to your home country
In the current circumstances, Australia’s Working Holiday Maker (WHM) program should be changed to Work and No Holiday (WNH) or Work and Self Isolate (WSI). The attraction with a working holiday visa is for backpackers to engage in paid work to supplement their travels whilst in Australia.
With the current restrictions in place, backpackers have to work for extended periods in regional areas. Any travels to different parts of Australia require self-isolation for 14 days. This option has become more unattractive as stricter restrictions are introduced.
Under normal circumstances, as backpackers leave after their visa expires; new backpackers are coming in to Australia. With the current circumstances and restrictions, there is unlikely to be an influx of backpackers coming to Australia. This could lead to labour shortages in areas such as agricultural production.
6. New Zealanders – subclass 444
· If you arrived to Australia before 26 February 2001, you can access the welfare payments and the JobKeeper payment
· If you arrived after 2001, you can access the JobKeeper payment
· If you arrived after 2001 and have lived in Australia for 10 years or more, you can access the JobSeeker payment for 6 months.
See points 1 and 2 of our overall comments below.
7. Overall Comments
1. Lack of Support for Temporary Visa Holders
Thousands of temporary visa holders in Australia pay tax, are now finding themselves without an income due to the Coronavirus restrictions. The announcement made on 4 April 2020 makes it clear that there is no government assistance for temporary visa holders.
Many are advocating for the inclusion of all workers in the Australian government’s wage subsidy scheme. If you would like to join the campaign, please sign the petition: https://www.megaphone.org.au/petitions/a-wagesubsidyforall-no-worker-left-behind
2. Financial Hardship
In lieu of government assistance, temporary visa holders are being asked to seek family support or to access their superannuation or savings for financial support. This suggestion is short-term and unsustainable in the long run.
3. Impractical to Return Home
Others who do not have the capacity to support themselves are being asked to return home. While some temporary visa holders may be willing to return home, this solution is not always practical or safe. With many countries imposing travel bans and stricter border control, commercial flights are unavailable or limited. Many temporary visa holders come from countries, such as Italy and Iran, where the risk of contracting the Coronavirus is high. It is dangerous to ask these visa holders to return to their home country where they are likely to contract Coronavirus.
If you wish to keep up to date with Work Visa Lawyers coverage on COVID-19 its impact on Australia’s immigration policy and current visa programs.
Read our rolling news blog here:
Watch our COVID-19 and Visa News Videos below:
Do you need help?
Our team of experienced Immigration Lawyers and Migration Agents look forward to assisting you with your Australian visa or appeal.
Based in Adelaide South Australia, we provide Australian Immigration advice to people and businesses from all over the world.
If you require further information regarding your Australia visa options you can contact us through: