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Various Support in Australia for Temporary Visa Holders – COVID 19 Pandemic

Leave or stay? If you are currently on a temporary visa in Australia, you’ve probably been thinking of those two options every day. Under this current COVID-19 pandemic situation where everything is uncertain and can change within days, your life is at stake. 

If you are an international student, it’s lucky if you still have access to support back home for your daily life or more money to pay for your study. But it will become a nightmare for those who only have a limited amount of support. 

So should I return to my home country directly? Before taking the final decision to leave Australia for good, you should consider some options which may be available for you by staying in Australia. 

To support temporary visa holders in Australia, the Australian government has made a number of changes and arrangements, including allowing temporary visa workers to access their superannuation to support their everyday life during the coronavirus crisis. Here we summarize some possible options available for those on temporary visas who need to stay longer in Australia.   

Australian Government Support for Student Visa Holders

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What is the government support for international students?

The government has given a flexible approach to class attendance or use of online learning where it could not be met under the current circumstances. International students who are currently working in critical sectors, ie nursing, aged care and some registered supermarkets, are also able to work for more than 40 hours per fortnight. 

These arrangements are for temporary and will be valid until a certain time. Under these arrangements, the approved employer will provide written advice setting out the temporary relaxation of working hours for student visa holders. 

What if my course has been deferred? You are still allowed to work for over 40 hours per fortnight in the registered sector to ensure the supply of essential goods and services to Australians are accessible as the COVID-19 situation develops. 

International Students can also work unlimited hours if their course is considered “out of session”, which may happen during course breaks or if the student has finished their course as scheduled. 

If you happen to work in a non-critical sector for COVID-19, the normal working hours set out on your student visa will be applied to you. 

Please note that you need to apply for a new visa if your study in Australia is ending but you are unable to depart Australia due to travel restrictions. There are visitor visa options (subclass 600) available for you to stay in Australia lawfully or you may consider extending your study in Australia by taking a higher education level with your current study.  

For your information, under the COVID-19 pandemic, some services relating to the visa application may be impacted and a range of services are becoming unavailable, such as panel doctors, English language test facilities and biometric collection. The Department of Home Affairs will give you additional time to complete checks and provide the requested information. Thus we suggest that you submit a new visa application six weeks before your current student visa expires. 

Support for International Students experiencing financial difficulties

The Australian government is also offering the International students who have been in Australia for more than 12 months to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation (which normally could only be accessed when the International student leaves the country) to assist them with managing the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Also, many universities and colleges in Australia work hand in hand together to help international students to go through their difficult times. Their support includes longer instalment plan, scholarship and bursary, tuition fee deferral, e-voucher that international students may use to buy groceries and pay their accommodation in Australia, etc. To be able to access the flexibility provided by a university/college, the students need to contact their own university/college and discuss their financial problem with the student service available in their university/college.   

Most importantly, you are encouraged to rely on your family support, part-time work where available, and your savings to sustain yourself in Australia. 

If you are unable to support your study and life while you are in Australia, even with all the support given by the government or your university/college, you are allowed to make arrangements to return to your usual county of residence.

You don’t need to notify the Department of Home Affairs if you return home, or your study situation changes. Your visa remains valid until you lodge another visa application, or your visa expires. The status of your visa will remain unchanged if you return home or defer your study. 

But if you are planning further study or you are currently on a bridging visa A because your new student visa has not been decided yet or you want to cancel your study in Australia, you should discuss your options with an Australian Registered Migration Agent or refer to the Department of Home Affairs website for further advice. 

Cancellation of your study means the university/college will cancel your e-COE which will also impact your current student visa. Once the visa is cancelled by the Department of Home Affairs, you need to depart immediately to your home country. If you want to enter Australia in the future, you need to apply for a new visa by providing some information related to your study cancellation so it may be used as a consideration by the Department of Home Affairs on your next visa application.  

Please note that if you are in Australia on a bridging visa, you can’t travel outside the country while you wait for your new visa to be issued. 

Support for  Working Holiday Maker Visa in Australia

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What is government support for Working Holiday Maker Visa in Australia?

Usually, Working Holiday Makers (WHMs) are allowed to work in Australia for six months with one employer. This visa will allow you to stay lawfully in Australia for up to one year and it can not be extended. However if you have completed the specific work requirements, you may be able to apply for a second or third visa. 

In response to COVID-19, the Australian government encourages all WHMs to work in certain critical sectors (agriculture, health, aged & disability care, food processing, and childcare) to support the community with goods and services. By working on these sectors, WHMs will be exempt from 6 months of work limitation with one employer, on the grounds of exceptional and unforeseen circumstances, and are eligible to apply for further WHM visa. 

What are the industries and areas approved for specific work for Working Holiday Visa Holder? 

As you may aware, some areas which are approved for subclass 417 (Working Holiday) are:

  • Plant and animal cultivation in regional Australia;
  • Fishing and pearling in regional Australia;
  • Tree farming and felling in regional Australia;
  • Mining in regional Australia;
  • Construction in regional Australia; and
  • Bushfire recovery work in declared bushfire affected areas only, carried out after 31 July 2019.

While for subclass 426 (Work and Holiday) approved areas are:

  • Plant and animal cultivation in northern Australia and other specified areas of regional Australia;
  • Fishing and pearling in northern Australia only;
  • Tree farming and felling in northern Australia only;
  • Tourism and hospitality in northern Australia only;
  • Construction in northern Australia and other specified areas of regional Australia; and
  • Bushfire recovery work in declared bushfire affected areas only, carried out after 31 July 2019.

What happens if I work in a non-critical sector? As your WHM visa conditions remain the same as a normal WHM, you need to comply with the requirements stated on the specific work conditions to be able to apply for a second or third visa, otherwise you should apply for another type of visa if you want to stay longer in Australia or you can return to your home country if you don’t have any support in Australia while the pandemic still exists.

For those working in a critical sectors who haven’t completed the three or six months of specific work conditions and wish to return to the country of origin but unable to do so due to the travel restrictions, the Australian government is allowing you to apply for COVID-19 pandemic Temporary Activity Visa (subclass 408) Australian Government Endorsed Agreement Event (AGEE) stream visa with no application fee charge. This visa will allow you to stay in Australia lawfully until it is safe for you to return to your home country. 

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Support for a Seasonal Worker Program

The subclass 408 visa will also be valid for people in the Seasonal Worker Program (subclass 403) whose visa cannot be extended and is about to expire. Should you meet all the requirements set on this subclass, this visa will grant you an additional stay in Australia in order to continue working in the agriculture sector until the coronavirus has passed. 

What if I have visa conditions of 8503 (no further stay) and 8577 (changing employers)?      

Condition 8577 means that you are only allowed to work for one sponsor / approved employer, unless you are given an exemption by the Department of Home Affairs to change your sponsor. Condition 8503 means that you are not eligible to apply for further visa nor stay in Australia longer than your approved stay. 

Under the COVID-19 circumstances, the Australian Government has relaxed condition 8577 so you will be able to move between sponsors / approved employers, but employers are still needed to abide by all relevant Australian workplace laws. Meanwhile condition 8503 will be automatically waived based on the current regulation which will allow you to apply for a Temporary Activity Visa (subclass 408) Australian Government Endorsed Agreement Event (AGEE) stream visa.

What Happens When My Visa Has Expired

If you are in Australia and your visa has expired within the last 28 days, you can apply for a Bridging Visa E (BVE) immediately in order to become lawful. Please be mindful that a BVE is a short-term visa so you need to make an arrangement to leave Australia once the travel restrictions are lifted. For those whose visa has expired for over 28 days, we encourage you to contact the Status Resolution Service (SRS) for assistance to resolve your immigration status. 

We are hoping that this information can help you to determine your next option while maintaining your visa status in Australia amidst the pandemic of COVID-19. If we haven’t included your visa in this discussion, it does not mean that you don’t have another choice but to leave the country. We would happily discuss any matter related to your visa under these circumstances. 

Here at education ONE, our consultants work hand in hand together with Australian Registered Migration Agent (MARN : 0961448), as our inhouse migration agent, to give you the best visa option to stay safe and legal in Australia. We are offering complimentary visa consultations for those affected by the coronavirus as a way to assist our community. Consultations can be done by phone, skype or whatsapp. Shall you want to share your case, feel free to contact us through this phone number : 08 6102 1118, 02 8005 4777 or 03 9010 6100 or you can simply click here to book an appointment for FREE consultation with our Registered Migration Agent. 

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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.
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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.
if you wish to get help with your study and visa. Just book a call!