The Australian government has announced a new stream of the 408 Temporary activity visa as a result of the coronavirus with a nil visa application charge.
To be eligible for the new 408 visa, applicants must be in Australia and unable to depart due to the coronavirus pandemic. They must also hold a visa that will end in 28 days or less or have held a temporary visa that has expired no more than 28 days ago. Applicants also must not be able to apply for any other temporary visa besides the 408 visa. The new visa is designed to respond to workforce shortages in areas such as agriculture, aged care and public health. The new visa allows those with relevant skills to undertake critical work on the supply of essential goods and services.
Australian citizens that have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus have access to JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments. Most temporary visa holders are not so lucky. There is some help available however, depending on your visa type.
The JobKeeper payment allows eligible employers affected by the coronavirus to receive $750 a week to pay eligible employees for up to 6 months. Eligible employers are small businesses with less than $1 billion turnover whose revenue has dropped more than 30%. Large businesses with turnover more than $1 billion whose revenue has dropped more than 50% are also eligible.
Eligible employees for the JobKeeper payment are those that were employed on 1 March 2020 and includes employees that have been temporarily stood down. Eligible employees are full-time, part-time and causal employees that have been employed more than a year on 1 March 2020. Apart from citizens, the payment is also available for employees that are:
- Permanent resident visa holders; and
- New Zealand citizens in Australia holding a 444 special category visa.
Temporary visa holders are not eligible for JobKeeper payments. The Australian government has announced that temporary visa holders with work rights can access up to $10,000 of their superannuation. Temporary visa holders include 457, 482, 491, 494, 407,408 and 485 visas.
Holders of 457 or 482 visas that have been stood down, but not laid off, will still be able to maintain their visa validity. Businesses will able to reduce the hours of the visa holder without them being in breach of their visa conditions. Holders of a 457 or 482 visa that have been laid off and cannot find a new employer to nominate them will need to apply for another type of visa or leave the country. Their employment experience will still count under the temporary residence transition streams.
Working holiday visa holders (462 and 417 visas) working in critical sectors will be exempt from the six months work limitation with one employer. People in this group can also apply for another working holiday visa without doing regional work for 90 days. Critical sectors include health, aged and disability care, agriculture, food processing, food supply chains and childcare. The government said it will provide some flexibility on what is considered a critical sector.
The government wants working holiday visa holders that have lost their jobs to self-isolate for 14 days before relocating to help harvest food and produce. The government has threatened visa cancellation for people that do not follow the self-isolation rules. Guidelines are available for farmers in living and work arrangements to comply with social distancing. Interested working holiday visa holders will be able to register for this programme at www.australia.gov.au
Pacific and seasonal workers (403 visa holders) can extend their stay in Australia for up to 12 months to work with approved employers.
Student visa holders working in aged care and nursing can work more than 40 hours per fortnight without breaching their visa conditions. This also applies to student visa holders working in major supermarkets, but this will end on 1 May 2020. Students in financial hardship that have been in Australia for more than a year will be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation. The government has announced it will be flexible in cases where the coronavirus has prevented students from meeting their visa conditions – such as not being able to attend classes. For other students on a visa, the 40 hours per fortnight restriction will remain.
The government has advised visitor visa holders in Australia without family support to return to their home country as quickly as possible. Many people are unable to travel due to cancelled flights and travel bans in their home country. The immigration department has said it is taking a light-handed approach on granting visitor visas where a visa is about to expire and waiving no further stay conditions.
People on bridging visas that do not allow them to work can apply for work rights if they are in financial hardship.
Apart from the 408 visa, the above measures are policy at this stage. Parliament has not yet passed legislation to put the measures in place.
Stay safe. We will get through this. If you need further advice, please do not hesitate to get in contact McLaughlins Lawyers on (07) 5591 5099 and a member of our team will be happy to help.
Author: Sed Crest
Director: Ian Kennedy and Sophie Pearson
Date: 6 April 2020