April 04, 2020 00:39:55
Backpackers will be allowed to extend their stays in Australia and temporary visa holders will get early access to their superannuation under changes being unveiled by the Federal Government today.
The move is to ensure farmers have enough labour to plant and pick their cropsThe seasonal workers will be exempt from a rule that normally prevents them from staying with the same employer for more than six monthsThe Government also announced most temporary visa holders will have access to their super
But people from overseas who cannot support themselves through the coronavirus pandemic have again been warned to leave the country.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said extending the visas of working holiday makers and seasonal workers would ensure farmers had enough labour to plant and pick their crops.
“What we are saying to those visa holders is that if you’re prepared to stay in this country and help us get through this coronavirus then we’ll extend your visa,” Mr Littleproud told Landline.
“Only if they are working in agriculture or a critical industry, that being health and aged care as well as agriculture.”
Mr Littleproud said the Government would make the workers exempt from a rule that means they cannot stay with the same employer for more than six months.
In a bid to protect regional communities from coronavirus, they will also have to self-isolate for 14 days before moving to a new region.
“We’re working with state officials to ensure there is policing of this and that any backpacker or seasonal Pacific Island worker that flouts it will lose their visa rights immediately and go home,” the minister said.
Skilled visa holders and international students get access to super
The Government has also announced most temporary visa holders with work rights will be allowed to withdraw up to $10,000 of their Australian superannuation this financial year to help them through the crisis.
The measure has already been made available to Australian citizens and permanent residents, as well as New Zealand citizens with Australian-held super.
Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said people on temporary skilled visas who have been stood down, rather than laid off, could have their visas extended under normal arrangements, while businesses could also reduce their hours without breaching conditions.
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But he said those who have been sacked and are unable to find a new sponsor should leave the country.
“However, should a four-year visa holder be re-employed after the coronavirus pandemic, their time already spent in Australia will count towards their permanent residency skilled work experience requirements,” he said.
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Coronavirus has also left hundreds of thousands of international students reeling, with many losing casual or part-time jobs without the ability to access welfare payments.
Mr Tudge said international students were “encouraged to rely on family support, part-time work where available and their own savings to sustain themselves”.
As part of their visa application, students have to demonstrate they can support themselves during their first year in Australia.
Those who have been here for longer than that will also be given early access to their super accounts.
Australians must be the number one focus, Government says
The Government said there were more than 2 million temporary visa holders across the country and Mr Tudge said there had always been an expectation that they could support themselves.
“Temporary visa holders are extremely valuable to the Australian economy and way of life, but the reality is that many Australians will find themselves out of work due to the dual health and economic crisis we’re currently facing, and these Australians and permanent residents must be the Government’s number one focus,” he said.
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The comments echoed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s warning on Friday that anyone who was not financially secure should leave.
He also urged any overseas visitors to go home.
“As much as it’s lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this if you’re a visitor in this country, it is time … to make your way home and to ensure that you can receive the supports that are available where they are in your home countries,” he said.