Important Information Regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
In response to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Department of Home Affairs has introduced a new stream for the Subclass 408 Temporary Activity Visa. The new stream allows temporary visa holders who are unable to leave due to Covid-19, to lawfully remain in Australia when they would otherwise be required to depart Australia.
Who Can Apply?
The Subclass 408 COVID-19 Stream is available to temporary visa holders who:
- Hold a visa that will expire in less than 28 days; and
- Are unable to apply for the same temporary visa they currently hold or another subclass of temporary visa; and
- Are part of a workforce shortage to assist in critical sectors during COVID-19 pandemic including but not limited to agriculture, public health and aged care; and
- Who will be engaging in or have the skills to undertake critical work related to supply of essential goods and services
If you have any staff who may be eligible for the above, please contact our office for further information.
Updates for temporary Skilled Visa Holders
In a media release today 04.04.2020, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge confirmed temporary visa holders will be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation for financial assistance in this financial year.
Additionally, Tudge has advised additional new measures will apply for temporary visa holder’s current work terms and reviewed periodically.
He has announced;
- Temporary visa holders 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.
Please note there is no further information to date on the specifics or policy regarding the above or when this will come into effect.
Changes Working Holiday Visa Holders
Working Holiday Makers (WHMs) who work in agriculture or food processing 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.
The Australian government has announced today that a new Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Overseas Travel Ban Emergency Requirements) Determination 2020 will be coming into effect at 12pm today – 25 March 2020.
Key Considerations of the Determination are as follows:
- These are emergency powers only to be used where necessary to protect the health of Australians – they can override any Commonwealth, State or Territory law;
- Australian Citizens and Permanent Resident must not travel outside Australia (by air, sea or operator of outgoing aircraft or vessel) unless an exemption is granted to them;
- This will be in force for a period of 4 weeks, with further revision toward the end of the period to assess whether it continues to be necessary;
- Persons who fail to comply with the Determination may commit a criminal offence and be imprisoned for a maximum of 5 years or be fined 300 penalty units ($63,000)
The Determination does provide for exemptions to the travel restrictions, and they are as follows:
- Persons ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia;
- Persons who are members of the crew of an aircraft or vessel (other than an outgoing aircraft vessel) or a workers associated with the safety or maintenance of a the aircraft or vessel;
- Persons who are engaged in inbound/outbound freight on a day-to-day basis;
- Persons who need to travel for essential work at an offshore facility;
- Person travelling on official government business; or
- A person who has a compelling need to leave Australia.
From 9pm AEDT 20 March 2020, travel to Australia is only permitted for:
- Australian citizens
- Australian permanent residents
- New Zealand citizens usually residents in Australia
- An immediate family member of Australian citizens and permanent residents. This includes spouses, dependents or legal guardians
At this time, we are advised temporary visa holders will not be able to return to Australia. The Department of Home Affairs have advised there may be some exceptions and compelling circumstances considered on a case-by-case basis where temporary visa holders outside already have an established presence in Australia.
Everyone arriving in Australia must self-isolate for 14 days.
We have already started to experience delays with the following:
- Overseas Police Checks – Some government authorities have already closed their offices and as such, visa applicants may experience longer delays in obtaining their police checks from certain overseas countries
- English Language Test – Any visa applicants who are currently in quarantine cannot undertake an English Language Test until the relevant quarantine period ends
- Skills Assessments – VETASSESS has recently announced that they will be cancelling all offshore trade skills assessments effective immediately
Changes to business operations and visa holders
Businesses must continue to ensure they meet their sponsor obligations as a standard business sponsor and overseas employees understand their visa conditions.
As a reminder, 482 and 457 visa holders must:
- Continue to work for their current employer or associated entities, (exemptions apply for some Medical Practitioners, General Managers & CEOs)
- Remain working in their approved position
- Most not cease work for more than 60 days
- Any change in the position including work hours may require a new application to be submitted
- If the holder was outside Australia when the visa was granted, must start work within 90 days of arrival in Australia
TSS 482 visa holders must work full-time.
Under policy, positions should generally be considered full time where the employee works:
- 38 hours per week; or
- a period between 32 and 45 hours that is specified underan industry award or agreement; and
- is consistent with the National Employment Standards (NES).
Please note that reducing to part-time positions is only accepted by Home Affairs in very limited circumstances for academics and highly specialised medical practitioners
Leave Without Pay (LWOP)
LWOP is allowed for 482 visa holders and should generally not exceed three months, unless the sponsor is obliged to provide the leave under Australian workplace laws (such as maternity leave).
LWOP that is agreed upon between the visa holder and their sponsoring employer will not result in the breach of Condition 8607. Make sure that any such arrangements are properly documented and have gone through formal channels.
Home Affairs advise that where overseas employees are temporarily laid off due to seasonal downturn in the industry which they are employed, they may be considered to have ceased employment. The visa holder may be in breach of condition 8607 if more than 60 consecutive days have elapsed since lay-off.
Cessation of employment
Sponsors are required to notify Home Affairs within 28 days of cessation of employment.
Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) Refunds
In very limited circumstances, you may be able to obtain a refund for the SAF levy or other visa application fees:
- If both the nomination and application were approved but the overseas worker does not arrive or start work, then refund of the SAF levy can be requested.
- If the TSS visa holder leaves the sponsoring employer within the first 12 months of employment where the visa period was for more than 1 year,you can only request a refund of the levy for the unused years of the visa.
- If the nomination was withdrawn before a decision is made, then a refund can be requested.
It’s important to be mindful of current visa validity and not become unlawful or in breach of certain conditions. We recommend exploring possible visa options including applying for a temporary visitor visa.