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Coronavirus and Temporary Visa holders (a 4 April 2020 update)

By April 6, 2020No Comments

Whilst citizens, permanent residents and many New Zealanders have access to unconditional work rights and government payments (including the new JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments), temporary visa holders do not. This has placed both these visa holders and their employers in a difficult situation.

On 4 April 2020 The Hon Alan Tudge MP, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, announced some updates for temporary visa holders.

Updates for Student visa holders

There are a number of updates for Student visa holders including:

  1. Students who have been here longer than 12 months who find themselves in financial hardship will be able to access their Australian superannuation.
  2. 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.
  3. 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). We take this to mean that the Department will not initiate cancellations on this basis alone during this period.
  4. International students are generally 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.

The government’s general advice is that temporary visa holders who are unable to support themselves under these arrangements over the next six months are strongly encouraged to return home. There are many reasons why this is shortsighted, as set out by Reuben Saul here. In any case, speak to us immediately if you are facing concerns about your current visa situation for clear up to date advice.

Updates for NZ (Subclass 444 visa holders)

There are a number of updates for NZ (Subclass 444 visa holders) including:

  1. New Zealanders who are on 444 visas and arrived before 26 February 2001 will have access to welfare payments and the JobKeeper payment.
  2. 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.

Updates for TSS / 457 visa holders

There are a number of updates for TSS / 457 visa holders including:

  1. 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.
  2. Businesses will also be able to reduce the hours of the visa holder without the person being in breach of their visa condition (bearing in mind that the hourly rate should not be reduced). If an employer wishes to reduce salary disproportionately to working hours, a new nomination with the reduced salary and evidencing this is within local market rates would first need to be approved by the Department.
  3. These visa holders will also be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation this financial year.
  4. Those visa holders who have been laid off due to coronavirus should comply with existing visa conditions (including having to find a new visa or depart 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.

Please note that sponsorship obligations still apply, which include that sponsors must notify the Department within 28 days of the employee’s last day of work and employees who are made redundant will have 60 days to find a new sponsor or leave Australia. Redundancies will also have additional implications to a sponsor (for example limiting future sponsorship in that role). Other options including Leave With Out Pay (LWOP) are detailed in this article. Speak to us for up to date advice.

Updates for Working Holiday makers

Working holiday makers who are working in the 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 visa is due to expire in the next six months.

The Government has also announced temporary measures to assist this group, by way of the Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa under the Australian Government Endorsed Event (AGEE) stream to assist this group to remain lawful and remain to work in these critical industries where extensions to the above concessions are not available. Temporary Skill Shortage visa holders working in these critical industries may also be able to eligible to apply for a Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa under this stream.

Speak to us to consider any of the above options.

Next steps

Due to the fluidity of the situation regarding COVID-19 and Australia’s borders, the above should be seen as a guide only. We strongly recommend you speak to your Hannan Tew adviser if any of the above applies to you. Feel free to contact us by email at [email protected] or phone +61 3 9016 0484 for a confidential discussion.

THIS DOCUMENT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. PLEASE CONSULT AN IMMIGRATION PROFESSIONAL FOR UP TO DATE INFORMATION.
Mihan Hannan

Author Mihan Hannan

Formerly a Senior Associate in one of Australia’s most reputable immigration litigation and review practices, Mihan is solutions focused and well versed in all aspects of Australian immigration law. Mihan also has a subscription addiction, being obsessed with tools to improve the immigration work flow.

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