Immigration matters | Temporary Visa Holders impacted by COVID-19 in the workplace
On Saturday, 4th April 2020, the Australian Government announced some changes with welcome news for temporary skilled visa holders. This announcement is one that many have been waiting on for some weeks now, and assists employers with managing the COVID-19 related economic impacts for individuals on employer sponsored temporary visas.
Hon. Alan Tudge MP announced on Saturday that any temporary stand down (where this does not result in a cessation of employment) or reduction in hours for temporary skilled visa holders (Subclass 482 and 457) will not impact on ongoing visa validity or sponsorship compliance.
There are approximately 139,000 temporary skilled visa holders in Australia who have been employed to fill skills shortages and who hold sponsored work visas for either two or four years.
This announcement will provide some relief to these temporary visa holders and also employers who are trying to do the right thing by them and their families.
It was confirmed that these visa holders will also be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation if needed in this financial year.
However, the announcement did go on to say that those who have been laid off should be preparing to leave the country and return home if they are unable to find a new sponsor or apply for another valid visa.
If an employer wishes to re-hire a four-year visa holder after the pandemic, their time spent in Australia while temporarily stood down or laid off will count towards their application for employer sponsored permanent residency.
Other temporary visa holders in Australia
Other temporary visa holders who have been impacted by COVID-19, who are no longer employed or cannot find work are encouraged to return home as Government will not be able to support them during this time. The JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments will not be available to temporary visa holders (with the exception of New Zealand Citizen Subclass 444 visa holders) however as noted above temporary visa holders who have work rights will be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation.
Subclass 444 Visa holders – NZ Citizens
There are over 672,000 New Zealand Citizens in Australia on Special Category Subclass 444 visas. Those who were present in Australia before 26 February 2001 will have access to welfare payments and the JobKeeper payment.
Those who arrived after 26 February 2001 will be eligible for JobKeeper payments but are not able to access JobSeeker payments. It has again been recommended by the Government that any Subclass 444 visa holders who are unable to support their stay in Australia during this time should seek to return to New Zealand.
Working Holiday Visa Makers
There are currently 118,000 people in Australia on a Working Holiday (Subclass 417) or Work and Holiday (Subclass 462) visa and those working in defined ‘critical sectors’ will be given some flexibility over the coming months in relation to the standard employment restrictions and also stay periods.
Those visa holders who are able to support critical sectors of industry such as health, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing and child care will be exempted from the six month work limitation with one employer and will also be eligible for a further visa to allow them to keep working, in cases where their current visa is due to expire in the next six months.
Changes to working hours for some student visa holders
The Government over the last few weeks have also introduced some changes to working hours for student visa holders, designed to help key industries such as aged care, nursing/health, agriculture and food processing.
Student nurses and those working in aged care can have their hours extended by their employer to assist in aged care facilities. Student visa holders can also have their hours extended if they are going to work in supermarkets to assist with stocking shelves. This is a temporary measure only and from 1 May they would again be subject to the standard work restriction of 40 hours per fortnight (unless the Government announces a further extension to this).
If you are an employer who sponsors temporary visa holders, hopefully the above will take some of the pressure off the decisions you are making within your business. If you would like to discuss any of the above please contact us – we are here to assist you during this time. Please reach out to Sarah Pettit, Samantha Norman or Maree Elliott