The federal government plans to use changes to three subclasses of temporary visas as a way to give local businesses access to more workers, particularly in the aged care and other critical sectors.
The minister for immigration, citizenship, migrant services and multicultural affairs announced changes to the temporary visa subclasses 467, 407 and 408 this week.
In a statement, Alex Hawke said a 24-month extension would be granted to people on skilled-recognised graduate visas; an extension will also be given to the temporary measure to allow international students to work extra hours in all sectors; and there will be no visa fee for 6-12 months for people who are only working for a commonwealth-funded aged care service at the time of application (or were in Australia prior to 21 February).
“With unemployment at record lows, the government is providing targeted incentives for skilled workers to remain in Australia,” Hawke said.
“There are more jobs now available in Australia than before the COVID-19 pandemic, and businesses across all sectors of our economy are crying out for skilled workers to fill vital roles,” he said.
The changes to the skilled-recognised graduate (subclass 476) visa will take effect from April and will mean visa holders can enter or remain in Australia until April 2024. The rationale of the extension decision is because many thousands of engineering graduates, attractive to Australia’s workforce, lost time in Australia due to state-imposed travel restrictions relating to the pandemic.
Since mid-December last year, fully vaccinated student, temporary graduate and skilled-recognised graduate visa holders were able to enter Australia after international border restrictions were lifted.
“This measure recognises the importance of qualified engineers to Australia’s economy, particularly as we continue to manage the COVID-19 recovery,” Hawke said.
The extension will also be available for 476 visa holders whose visas have expired if the pandemic impacted the full length of their original visa.
For holders of the subclass 407 visa, students will be permitted to work extra hours across all sectors of the economy, effective immediately and will be reviewed again in April 2022. This flexibility was previously only extended to visa-holders working in critical sectors.
Changes to the COVID-19 pandemic event (subclass 408) visa means visa fees will be waived for workers in agriculture, food processing, health care, aged care, disability care, child care, and tourism and hospitality jobs. The change will be subject to ‘ongoing review’ but the government is keen to use the measure to alleviate workforce pressures across local industries.
“Temporary visa holders working in or intending to work in any sector of the Australian economy, including commonwealth-funded aged care, will be able to apply for the Pandemic Event visa up to 90 days before their existing visa expires and then remain in Australia for up to 12 additional months if working or intending to work in a key sector (including agriculture, food processing, health care, aged care, disability care, child care, and tourism and hospitality) or six months if working or intending to work in any other sector,” the minister’s statement read.
“The Government is committed to supporting Australian jobs, supporting Australian industries and continually adjusting our migration settings to ensure that support hits the mark,” Hawke added.
More information about the changes can be found on the website of the Department of Home Affairs.