By Joy Hay – Registered Migration Agent MARN 1465325
After weeks of uncertainty, Australia’s temporary residents have finally received news on Government relief measures and visa arrangements that will impact them over the next six months.
There are currently 2.17 million people in Australia on temporary visas, from international students to tourists and skilled workers.
Many temporary visa holders have been living in Australia for several years, contributing to the country’s economic success by plugging skill shortages across many industries.
Key points of the Government’s announcement:
- Temporary residents can access up to $10,000 of their superannuation this financial year and $10,000 next year. This also applies to Australian citizens and permanent residents
- Visa holders who can’t support themselves for the next six months are being encouraged to return to their home countries
- Temporary skilled visa holders can have their hours reduced without breaching visa conditions
- Working holiday visa (417) holders working in ‘critical sectors’ will be exempt from six-month work limitations
Working holiday visa holders (subclass 417)
The Government has acknowledged the important role working holiday visa holders play in propping up certain industries; however, backpackers who aren’t confident they can sustain themselves financially for the next six months are being urged to depart Australia.
There are currently 118,000 backpackers residing temporarily in Australia on visas which offer conditional work rights.
Here’s what the Government’s offering:
- Some flexibility is being provided to visa holders employed in critical sectors including health, aged care, agriculture, food processing, disability care and childcare
- Backpackers employed in critical sectors can work beyond the normal six-month limit with one employer
- Early access to superannuation
- Eligibility for a further visa if you’re working in a critical sector and your current visa is due to expire within the next six months. The exact nature of this further visa has not been announced.
Backpackers moving between farms in regional areas will need to self-isolate for 14 days before starting work in order to protect these vulnerable communities.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said, “The primary producer, state and local governments [should] work together to provide accommodation — whether that be on a farm or in an accommodation that is suitable for them to self-isolate in the community for 14 days.”
Temporary skilled visa holders
Key points for temporary skilled workers:
- Early access to superannuation available
- Visas will remain valid for workers ‘stood down’, but not ‘laid off’
- Skilled temporary visa holders can work reduced hours without breaching conditions
- Visa holders who have been permanently laid off should depart Australia if they can’t find a new sponsor
- If a skilled visa holder leaves Australia, but is re-employed at a later stage, the time already spent here will count towards permanent residency (if the person is eligible for permanent residency
Australia is home to more than half a million international students. The Government has acknowledged the importance of international students in terms of the country’s economy. They support around 240,000 Australian jobs.
Key points to take away:
- Rely on family support and part-time employment
- Superannuation can be accessed early if necessary, but only for students who have been here longer than 12 months
- Flexibility will be offered if Covid-19 has forced students to breach certain visa conditions, such as class attendance requirements
- Students working in aged care, nursing and for major supermarkets can work longer hours
- The Government will further engage with the international education sector around the impact of Covid-19
Employers requesting a temporary relaxation of working rights for student visa holders must register and make an application to be considered. It’s not an automatic entitlement. Students do not need to apply themselves.
Visitors and tourists
There are 203,000 overseas visitors in Australia at present. Visitor visas are typically valid for three months or less. This group includes the thousands of people who experienced flight disruptions when airlines such as Qantas, Emirates and Singapore Airlines grounded hundreds of their planes.
Whilst there are still some commercial flights departing Australia, availability is limited. Qatar Airways is one of the only carriers still offering flights between Australia and Europe, with passengers still permitted to transit through Doha.
- Tourists should return home as quickly as possible, particularly anyone without family support
Visitor visa holders who are unable to – or do not wish to – travel at this time may be able to renew tourist visas onshore. If the current visa has an 8503 ‘no further stay’ condition attached to it, it may be possible to lodge a waiver request and have this restriction removed.
New Zealand citizens on 444 visas
New Zealand citizens on the subclass 444 special category visa can live, work and study in Australia, remaining here indefinitely. However, the 444 is not a permanent residency visa and holders of this subclass do not have the same rights as Australia’s citizens and residents.
There are more than 672,000 special category visa holders in Australia right now.
Support for New Zealanders:
- New Zealanders who arrived before 16 February 2001 can access Welfare payments and the newly announced JobKeeper payment
- Those who arrived after 2001 have access to JobKeeper payment
- New Zealanders who have lived in Australia for more than 10 years can also access JobSeeker payments for a period of up to six months
- Early access available to superannuation
New Zealanders who cannot support themselves with a combination of these provisions, family support and/or working, are advised by the Government to consider leaving Australia.
Other visa holders
Other temporary visa holders, such as those on subclass 485 graduate visas, can:
- Access their superannuation early, if necessary
Not everyone will fit into one of the categories above. There are thousands of people on bridging visas and temporary partner visas. We’re awaiting further details and will update this article in due course.
Covid-19 visa advice
If you’re currently in Australia and wish to discuss your visa options with a Registered Migration Agent, you can contact us for a free assessment. If you plan to stay in Australia and wait for the current crisis to ease, we can discuss all of the options open to you. It’s crucial to remain lawful and mindful of the conditions attached to your current visa.