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The impacts of COVID-19 on temporary visa holders – part 2

25 March 2020

3 min read

#Immigration Law, #COVID-19

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The impacts of COVID-19 on temporary visa holders – part 2

Over the past week we have seen businesses close and it is estimated that at least one million people could become unemployed as a result of the coronavirus.

International students and other temporary visa holders have also lost their jobs or could lose jobs in the coming weeks and months. To make matters worse, those temporary visa holders who have lost their jobs are having difficulty getting flights home and there are currently no support arrangements in place for impacted temporary visa holders. The Australian Government does not want to see temporary visa holders becoming vulnerable in the community and is working to develop strategies to protect visa holders.

Employers sponsoring 457/482 visa holders

With many businesses facing indefinite closures and downturn in work, employers are looking at every option from redundancy, stand downs, and even part-time working arrangements. Employers of 457 and 482 visa holders are reminded that the visa conditions and sponsorship obligations for these visa holders are different. For example, a 457 visa holder may reduce their working hours while a 482 visa holder cannot.

The Department of Home Affairs has been asked to provide guidance about how it will approach breaches of the sponsorship obligations and visa conditions, and while we do expect the Department will exercise its discretion at this challenging time, we don’t yet have any solid detail. 

We encourage employers of sponsored visa holders to be mindful of their obligations and seek advice where required.

Travel restrictions – inbound exemptions

Travel restrictions and bans remain in place with exemptions available for:

  • New Zealand citizens who are usually resident in Australia
  • immediate family members of Australian citizens or permanent residents
  • transiting travellers.

In addition, the Commissioner of Australian Border Force may grant exemptions for:

  • foreign nationals traveling at the invitation of the Australian Government for the purpose of assisting with the COVID-19 response or whose entry is in the national interest
  • critical medial services, including air ambulance and delivery of supplies that regularly arrive into Australia from international ports
  • people with critical skills – e.g., medical specialists, engineers, marine pilots and crews by exception
  • diplomats accredited to Australia and currently resident in Australia, and their immediate family
  • case-by-case exceptions may also be granted for humanitarian or compassionate reasons.

In most cases, travel exemptions are not automatic and must be granted to visa holders before traveling to Australia. 

International students and relaxation of work restrictions

Last week, the Australian Government announced the relaxation of the 40 hour per fortnight work limitation for international students who are:

  • working in supermarkets – that is existing staff in existing roles where that work assists to ensure the supply of groceries to and in supermarkets or online distribution facilities
  • working in aged care facilities

Supermarket employers must obtain approval from the Department of Home Affairs before allowing student visa holders to work more than 40 hours per fortnight. Employers can apply for permission from the Department through an online form here.

Aged care providers registered with the Department of Health do not need to register with the Department of Home Affairs. Instead, they will receive a letter outlining access to this measure directly from the Department of Health.

Author: Rebecca Macmillan

The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.

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