Changes to Temporary Visa’s in response to COVID- 19; those who cannot support themselves under the new arrangements are urged to go home

Posted on April 6, 2020 by Benson Shi

It has always been a visa requirement and expectation that temporary visa holders support themselves. It is understandable that at this moment in time the temporary visa holders may not be able to support themselves because of the economic impact that the health crisis has brought upon the world.

Whilst the Government continues to make necessary arrangements to assist Australians in an attempt to respond to the Coronavirus crisis, the 2.17 million people on temporary visa’s in Australia may not have access to the benefits such as:

  • Unconditional work rights
  • Government payments (including the new JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments)

The Government announced valuable information for visa holders including new arrangements and guidance as to what action they should take amidst the health crisis:

VISITOR VISA HOLDERS

  • International tourists should return to their home country as quickly as possible, particularly those without family support.

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 e.g. education providers that are providing fee discounts to international students.
  • 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).
  • 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 as more Australians are being recruited into these roles.

NEW ZEALANDERS ON 444 VISAS

New Zealanders and Australians have reciprocal arrangements whereby we can each stay and work in each other’s country.

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

TEMPORARY SKILLED VISA HOLDERS 

  • Those visa holders who have been temporarily 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.
  • Visa holders cannot access Jobseeker or JobKeeper allowances
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Working holiday makers that do not have the confidence to sustain themselves over the next six months should make arrangements to leave the country. They will not receive government assistance.

Temporary visa holders cannot support themselves under these arrangements are ‘strongly encouraged to return home’ .

Other temporary visa holders in Australia (about half of them temporary graduate visa holders) will be able to access their superannuation to support themselves.

If you are a Temporary Visa holder and you need assistance at this crucial time, it is important that you get in contact with an expert to attempt to find the best option for you and to avoid undesired circumstances.

Contact us for expert advice.

Find more information on the above arrangements here.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not legal advice and is not intended to serve as legal advice. Immigration Solutions Lawyers do not accept any liability for any damages suffered by persons who rely on the general information provided on this website. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.