Since publishing the advice last week there have been further developments in relation to compliance aspects for employees on temporary visas, especially those that are on sponsored visas released on Saturday. The link to the Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs media release on Coronavirus and Temporary Visa Holders can be found here.

Phi Vo of Colin Biggers & Paisley Lawyers has kindly provided a summary for our reference.

Key points

  • Australians and permanent residents are the Government’s number one focus.
  • Most temporary visa holders with work rights will now be able to access their Australian superannuation to help support themselves.
  • Temporary visa holders who are unable to support themselves under these arrangements over the next six months are strongly encouraged to return home.
  • Changes are also geared toward enabling temporary visa holders to remain in key industries, such as health, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing.

What this means for employers

  • Employers can stand down or reduce the hours of the visa holder without the person being in breach of their visa condition. There is no further information at this stage as to how long you can stand down an employee. We expect there will be leniency provided given the extraordinary circumstances.
  • 457/TSS and 485 visa holders who require financial support during this period have the option of accessing their superannuation.
  • If a 457/TSS holder has been laid off, employers will need to pay their travel costs to return to their home country if you receive a written request from the visa holder.

Summary of the announcement

Temporary Skilled 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.
  • Visa holders will also be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation this financial year. This also extends to 485 Temporary Graduate Visa holders.
  • Businesses will also be able to reduce the hours of the visa holder without the person being in breach of their visa condition.
  • Visa holders who have been laid off due to coronavirus should leave the country in line with existing visa conditions if they are unable to secure a new sponsor.
  • If 4-year TSS visa holders is re-employed after the coronavirus pandemic, their time already spent in Australia will count towards their permanent residency skilled work experience requirements.

Working holiday makers supporting critical sectors

  • Limited flexibility will be provided to support the critical sectors of heath, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing, and childcare.
  • Working holiday makers who are working in these critical sectors 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.
  • Working holiday makers who cannot sustain themselves over the next six months should make arrangements to leave the country.

Visitor visa holders

  • Visitor visa holders should return to their home country as quickly as possible, particularly those without family support.

New Zealanders on 444 visas

  • New Zealanders who are on 444 visas and arrived before 26 February 2001 will have access to welfare payments and the JobKeeper payment.
  • 444 visa holders who arrived after 2001 have access to the JobKeeper payment. Those who have lived in Australia for 10 years or more have access to JobSeeker payments for six months.

Potential compliance implications for employers during and post COVID-19 coming soon.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2020.

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