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COVID-19 and temporary resident visa holders in Australia

COVID-19 and temporary resident visa holders in Australia

There are currently 2.17million people in Australia on a temporary visa, some filling critical skills shortages in Australia including medical professionals, aged care professionals, agriculture and other essential service providers.

The Acting Minister for Immigration, Hon Alan Tudge, has announced the following today with regard to temporary visa holders in Australia and the impact of the COVID-19 situation.

Most temporary visa holders with work rights will now be able to access their Australian superannuation to help support themselves during this crisis.

Visitor visa holders

It is recommended by the government that the 203,000 international visitors in Australia should return to their home country as quickly as possible, particularly those without family support.

International students

Of the 565,000 international students currently in Australia, they 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 will be able to access their Australian superannuation.

The Government will also be flexible in cases where Coronavirus has prevented international students meeting their visa conditions (such as not being able attend classes). Students remain 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 as more Australians are being recruited into these roles.

New Zealanders on 444 visas

New Zealanders who are on 444 visas and arrived before 26 February 2001 will have access to welfare payments and the JobKeeper payment, however, 444 visa holders who arrived after 2001 have only access to the JobKeeper payment. They do not have access to JobSeeker or other welfare payments.

457/482 Temporary Skilled visa holders

There are approximately 139,000 temporary skilled visa holders. Any 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 sponsor breaching their sponsorship obligations.

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

Working holiday makers who are working in these critical sectors of heath, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing, and childcare 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.

Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme

Workers in the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme can extend their stay for up to 12 months to work for approved employers (ensuring pastoral care and accommodation needs of workers are met to minimise health risks to visa holders and the community).

Approved employers under the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme will need to continue engaging with the Department of Education, Skills and Employment on labour market testing to ensure recruitment of Australians first.

Conditions will be placed upon visa holders to self-isolate for 14 days before taking up employment in a different region (including termination of visas where there is non-compliance). To support implementation of self-isolation arrangements for visa holders and avoid spread of COVID-19 the government is working with states and territories on enforcement and sanction mechanisms.

Employers will need to commit to providing safe accommodation for agricultural workers that complies with social distancing requirements. Arrangement will also need to be in place for a declaration between employers and employees that all protocols necessary to ensure human health and accommodation requirements have been met.

This is a highly anxious and stressful time for all temporary resident visa holders in Australia. Please contact our office if you have any questions or require the latest news from the government.

You can read the full announcement here.

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