Migration Update: Temporary Visa Holders & Visa Applicants Affected By COVID-19 Crisis
In the last few days, the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) has attended meetings with Acting Minister for Immigration Tudge and with very senior managers within the Department of Home Affairs about measures to protect and preserve the entitlements of temporary visa holders and visa applicants affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Government does not want to see temporary visa holders becoming vulnerable within the community and open to exploitation. A whole of Government approach is being taken within Home Affairs, Health and Social Security developing strategies to protect visa holders.
The Border Force Commissioner has been given powers to approve travel in compelling and compassionate situations. The Government is likely to put a framework around that which may include critical infrastructure projects, health and essential services, split families and temporary visa holders with a prior established residence in Australia and who were caught offshore by the most recent travel restrictions. Changes to the travel restrictions need to be approved by the National Security Committee of the Cabinet.
The MIA is encouraging the Government to prescribe the coronavirus pandemic as a national disaster in the Migration Regulations and then adopt of range of measures to assist visa holders accordingly.
Some of the measures the MIA have asked the Department to implement include:
- Immediately waive visa condition 8503 for all visa holders currently in Australia so they can apply for other visas
- Create a COVID-19 specific fee-free visa solution which allows work rights and access to Medicare for the duration of the emergency
- Consider extending temporary visas automatically until 30 October 2020 in the first instance
- Immediately remove LMT and SAF requirements
The MIA has also raised many visa specific issues and business sponsorship obligations in relation to the part-timing of jobs, leave without pay, stand-downs and retrenchments. The Department is aware that the skilled workers stood down now due to the many forced business closures will need to be re-engaged when those businesses are permitted to reopen.
The MIA has also raised matters pertaining to eligibility for Subclasses 186/187 TRT provisions, moving from the Subclasses 188/489 provisional visas to the permanent Subclasses 888/887 visas, and other visa eligibility and sponsorship obligations.
They have also discussed possible solutions for international students who can’t apply for Subclass 485 visas caught offshore by the pandemic and travel restrictions.
The good news is that the Government doesn’t want to see people become unlawful non-citizens. Temporary visa holders are encouraged to retain lawful status.
We will keep you updated as things develop. If you have concerns or questions about the above please get in contact with us on +61 2 8904 0100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.