On the 4th April 2020 the Australian government announced policies and advice for various holders of visas in Australia.
Permanent visa holders are treated much the same as Australian Citizens for government benefits.
Temporary visa holders however are very different. There are over 2 million temporary visa holders in Australia. Almost 10% of the countries population at any one time.
The advice for each group was:
Visitor visa holders.
There are 203,000 international visitors in Australia, typically on a visa lasting three months or less.
International tourists should return to their home country as quickly as possible, particularly those without family support.
Thousands are already doing this and others should follow their lead.
There are 565,000 international students in Australia, mainly studying in the higher education or vocational education sector. They are an important contributor to our tertiary sector and economy, supporting 240,000 Australian jobs.
Students are encouraged to rely on family support, part-time work where available and their own savings to sustain themselves in Australia. As part of their visa application, international students have had to demonstrate that they can support themselves completely in their first year.
Students who have been here longer than 12 months who find themselves in financial hardship will be able to access their Australian superannuation.
The Government will undertake further engagement with the international education sector who already provide some financial support for international students facing hardship. For example, we understand there are some education providers that are providing fee discounts to international students.
The Government will also be flexible in cases where Coronavirus has prevented international students meeting their visa conditions (such as not being able attend classes).
International students are able to work up to 40 hours per fortnight.
International students working in aged care and as nurses have had these hours extended to support these critical sectors.
International students working in the major supermarkets had also had these hours extended to help get stock on shelves during the high demand. From 1 May, their hours will return to the maximum 40 hours a fortnight as more Australians are being recruited into these roles.
New Zealanders on 444 visas.
New Zealanders and Australians have reciprocal arrangements whereby we can each stay and work in each other’s country. There are more than 672,000 New Zealanders in Australia on a subclass 444 visa.
New Zealanders who are on 444 visas and arrived before 26 February 2001 will have access to welfare payments and the JobKeeper payment.
444 visa holders who arrived after 2001 have access to the JobKeeper payment. Those who have lived in Australia for 10 years or more have access to JobSeeker payments for six months.
New Zealanders should consider returning to New Zealand if they are unable to support themselves through these provisions, work or family support.
Temporary Skilled visa holders.
There are around 139,000 temporary skilled visa holders, on either a 2 year or 4 year visa. They were provided the visa to fill a skills shortage – a shortage that may still be present when the crisis has passed.
Consequently, those visa holders who have been stood down, but not laid off, will maintain their visa validity and businesses will have the opportunity to extend their visa as per normal arrangements. Businesses will also be able to reduce the hours of the visa holder without the person being in breach of their visa condition.
These visa holders will also be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation this financial year.
Those visa holders who have been laid off due to coronavirus should leave the country in line with existing visa conditions if they are unable to secure a new sponsor. However, should a 4-year visa holder be re-employed after the coronavirus pandemic, their time already spent in Australia will count towards their permanent residency skilled work experience requirements.
Working holiday makers supporting critical sectors.
There are about 118,000 people in Australia on a Working Holiday visa (or backpacker visa) – a visa which provides conditional work rights.
To support the critical sectors of heath, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing, and childcare, some limited flexibility will be provided.
In particular, working holiday makers who are working in these critical sectors will be exempt from the six month work limitation with the one employer and eligible for a further visa to keep working in these critical sectors if their current visa is due to expire in the next six months.
In general, working holiday makers that do not have the confidence to sustain themselves over the next six months should make arrangements to leave the country.
Other temporary visa holders.
There are another 185,000 other temporary visa holders in Australia, about half of them temporary graduate visa holders. They will also be able to access their Australian superannuation if needed for support.
Some Visa Applicants might find an Experienced Australian Migration Agent of great assistance.