There are approximately 1.6 million temporary visa holders in Australia and many of them work in the industries most affected by the current economic crisis such as hospitality and tourism.
Apart from potentially having access to some funds from their superannuation, to date none of the financial assistances announced by the Federal Government for individuals affected by the Covid-19 crisis are extended to temporary residents. These include temporary employer sponsored visa holders, international students, work and holiday makers as well as more than 600,000 New Zealanders.
Both Labor and the Migration Council of Australia have raised the issue with the Federal Government calling for the announced assistances to be extended to temporary visa holders. In a meeting with the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA), Mr Alan Tudge, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs indicated that this is being considered but to this date no further announcements have been made.
In addition to financial hardship there is also the issue of visa compliance. Many temporary visa holders are restricted to working in their nominated occupation and for the employer who nominated them. If their employment is terminated they are required to find a new employer sponsor within 90 days or depart the country.
International students also face visa compliance concerns with the prospect of school closures or being unable to afford school fees due to unemployment.
Travel bans and the cancellation of flights are also making it difficult for those affected who wish to return to their home countries.
In an interview with The Age, Migration Council Australia Chief Executive Carla Wilshire said: "We now have a group that is effectively trapped in Australia. Everybody within our borders in this global pandemic needs access to shelter and food regardless of their visa type."
There are also calls from Labor’s Home Affairs spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, for the government to assist temporary visa holders to return to their home countries. In her letter to the Acting Minister, she urged the government to consider using outbound flights, commissioned to bring Australian citizens stuck overseas back home, to provide affordable options for temporary migrants wishing to return to their home countries.
Migration Plus has been assisting and will continue to assist visa holders and employers affected by this crisis in relation to nomination and visa compliance matters as well as future visa options. We have also prepared Covid-19 Migration Matters FAQs for visa holders and sponsors which can be found on our website
Should you require assistance regarding financial hardship, we recommend that visa holders contact Centrelink directly, as this area is outside the scope of migration advice. More information is available on their website.
If you are an employer needing assistance regarding employment law matters, we recommend you contact Fairwork Australia. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) have also been assisting members with business resources and up to date information for employers on their coronavirus page.
If you are an employer or visa holder affected by this crisis and need migration related advice, please contact us.
We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.