Australia announces changes to visa categories in response to COVID-19
Posted on April 6, 2020
In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has announced several changes for visa holders of various categories. The changes are mostly positive, and the long-term impact of these changes will be known in the future.
Reprieve for temporary visa holders:
According to the DHA, there are around 139,000 temporary skilled visa holders in Australia, on either a 2 year or 4-year visa.
Temporary visa holders who have not been laid off can retain the validity of their visa and companies will extend their visa as usual. Businesses will also be able to reduce the visa holder’s hours without the individual violating their visa status.
Temporary Skilled visa holders will also be able to use their superannuation amount of up to $10,000 in this financial year.
Unless they can find a new sponsor, all visa holders who have been laid off due to Coronavirus will leave the country in accordance with the current visa conditions. If a four-year visa holder finds employment again after the Coronavirus pandemic, their time already spent in Australia will count towards their skilled work experience requirements for their permanent residence application.
Student visa holders who have been here for more than 12 months and who are in financial distress will be able to use their Australian superannuation.
The Australian government has promised to work in tandem with the international education sector which is already offering some financial assistance to hardship-stricken international students.
For situations where Coronavirus has stopped foreign students from fulfilling their visa requirements (such as not being able to attend classes), the State has promised to be flexible.
As normal, international students will work as many as 40 hours per fortnight.
DHA has announced that Australia has 203,000 international visitors, who come to the country on a visit visa that lasts three months or less. The government has advised that international visitors, particularly those without family support, should return to their home country as quickly as possible.
Rules for Working Holiday visa holders:
Working holiday makers who are working in critical sectors such as agriculture, food manufacturing, etc. will be excluded from the six-month time limit with the same employer and qualify for a further visa to continue working in these critical sectors if their existing visa is due to expire in the next six months.
Apart from this, the DHA announced that in Australia there are another 185,000 other temporary visa holders, about half of whom are temporary graduate visa holders. They’ll still have access to their Australian superannuation if they need help in the wake of COVID-19.
New Zealanders on 444 visas:
New Zealanders and Australians have reciprocal agreements whereby they can live and work in the country of one another. More than 672,000 New Zealanders are on a category 444 visa in Australia.
According to the government, New Zealanders who are on 444 visas and arrived before 26 February 2001 will have access to welfare payments and the JobKeeper payment. Visa holders who arrived before 2001 will also have access to the JobKeeper payment.
New Zealanders should consider returning to New Zealand if they cannot support themselves through such provisions or through support from work or family.
The DHA has announced several measures to help various categories of visa holders in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. The impact will be seen once thing return to normal.