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Changes to temporary visas due to Coronavirus

Changes to temporary visas due to Coronavirus

Posted on April 2020 By Nicholas Farley

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Stopgap employ people from all around the world, as both employees and contractors. It is important to communicate the latest government changes which will impact some temporary visa holders due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

This information was obtained off the Minister of Immigration's website. This can change at any time, so we always recommend staying informed by checking the immigration and government website frequently to stay up to date.

The Government is making a number of changes to temporary visa holder arrangements during the coronavirus crisis in order to protect the health and livelihoods of Australians, support critical industries, and assist with the rapid recovery post the virus.

There are 2.17 million people presently in Australia on a temporary visa.

In line with changes being made for Australian citizens and permanent residents, most temporary visa holders with work rights will now be able to access their Australian superannuation to help support themselves during this crisis. 

Temporary visa holders who are unable to support themselves under these arrangements over the next six months are strongly encouraged to return home.

Changes are also geared toward enabling temporary visa holders to remain in key industries, such as health, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing.

Visa changes

The following new measures will apply to the major classes of temporary visa holders. The situation will be reviewed periodically and further changes made if required.

Temporary Skilled visa holders

TSS visa holders who have been stood down, but not laid off, will maintain their visa validity and businesses will have the opportunity to extend their visa as per normal arrangements.  Businesses will also be able to reduce the hours of the visa holder without the person being in breach of their visa condition.

These visa holders will also be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation this financial year.

Those visa holders who have been laid off due to coronavirus should leave the country in line with existing visa conditions if they are unable to secure a new sponsor.  However, should a 4-year visa holder be re-employed after the coronavirus pandemic, their time already spent in Australia will count towards their permanent residency skilled work experience requirements.

Working holiday makers supporting critical sectors

To support the critical sectors of heath, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing, and childcare, some limited flexibility will be provided.

In particular, working holiday makers who are working in these critical sectors will be exempt from the six month work limitation with the one employer and eligible for a further visa to keep working in these critical sectors if their current visa is due to expire in the next six months.

In general, working holiday makers that do not have the confidence to sustain themselves over the next six months should make arrangements to leave the country.

There are another 185,000 other temporary visa holders in Australia, about half of them temporary graduate visa holders. They will also be able to access their Australian superannuation if needed for support.

Further announcements will be made with the Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister in relation to supporting the agricultural sector, including the operation of the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme.

International students

Students are encouraged to rely on family support, part-time work where available and their own savings to sustain themselves in Australia. 

Students who have been here longer than 12 months who find themselves in financial hardship will be able to access their Australian superannuation.

The Government will undertake further engagement with the international education sector who already provide some financial support for international students facing hardship. For example, we understand there are some education providers that are providing fee discounts to international students.

International students are able to work up to 40 hours per fortnight.

International students working in aged care and as nurses have had these hours extended to support these critical sectors.

International students working in the major supermarkets had also had these hours extended to help get stock on shelves during the high demand.

From 1 May, their hours will return to the maximum 40 hours a fortnight.

New Zealanders on 444 visas

New Zealanders and Australians have reciprocal arrangements whereby we can each stay and work in each other's country. There are more than 672,000 New Zealanders in Australia on a subclass 444 visa.

New Zealanders who are on 444 visas and arrived before 26 February 2001 will have access to welfare payments and the JobKeeper payment.

444 visa holders who arrived after 2001 have access to the JobKeeper payment. Those who have lived in Australia for 10 years or more have access to JobSeeker payments for six months.

New Zealanders are encouraged to consider returning to New Zealand if they are unable to support themselves through these provisions, work or family support.