The current COVID-19 situation in Australia also affects most backpackers. Some have decided to return to their country and others have chosen to stay in down under. The government has announced measures for all young people on a Working Holiday Visa in Australia. Among them is the possibility of obtaining a new visa when working in certain sectors in Australia during the COVID-19 crisis.
Alan Tudge, the minister responsible for immigration and multicultural affairs, said the Australian government recognises that the 118,000 young people on a WHV are an important part of the Australian economy and society. Therefore, several measures have been implemented to enable temporary visa holders to overcome the crisis. We give you all the useful information in this article.
The new Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408)
Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, workers in critical sectors will be able to apply for a new visa in Australia to continue working in these sectors if their current visa expires in the coming months.
This visa will allow you to remain legally in Australia and work until the situation has calmed down and you can return to your country of usual residence. The request must be made 28 days before your current visa expires.
If you do not work in a field that allows you to be eligible for the 408 visa, you have two options:
- Leave the country OR
- Apply for another type of visa. If you have worked 88 days or 179 days of specific work in eligible areas, you can renew your WHV if you meet all requirements. For others, you should apply for another visa to remain lawful until you’re able to return to your home country. Check your visa options on the government website.
This visa is intended for temporary residents currently in Australia and working critical sectors (agriculture, food retailing, health or aged or disability care. Even if you have not completed your 88 or 179 days on your current visa.
- You must meet the language requirements, or “vocational English“.
- Have subscribed to a health insurance
- Have a minimum of funds to support yourself
- Not have had a visa cancelled or a previous application refused
- Have paid back debt to the Australian Government
The applications are obviously handled on a case-by-case basis, so it is difficult at this stage to clearly define more details on the eligibility conditions of this visa.
This new visa has just been implemented for the COVID-19 crisis in Australia, so changes may be made in the next weeks or months.
Apply for the visa
If you are eligible, you can apply for a Temporary Activity Visa (subclass 408) on the “Australian Government Endorsed Event” category. The visa application is free.
This visa is only available for people whose visa will expire within 28 days. So if you have 3 months left on your Working Holiday Visa, you will have to wait 2 months before applying.
Conditions put in place if you want to work on a farm
In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in rural and remote areas of Australia, the government has announced specific measures to which backpackers must comply.
Self-isolation for 14 days
If you are on a WHV and want to move from one region to another, you must register on the Australian government website. Registration is done via this link.
In addition, you will have to self-isolate for 14 days and do not leave your place of confinement during this period. This means that you will not be able to go out to shop or even see other people. This is a total containment.
Respect the social distancing rules
Employers must accommodate their workers in such a way as to apply social distancing measures. It is not possible to accommodate 4 people in a caravan for example. Protocols must be defined to ensure that these rules are respected while working.
Relaxed 6-month work limitation rule
Young people working in key sectors will be exempt from the six-month work limitation with the same employer.
These sectors are:
- health sector
- aged and disability care
- food industry
Access your superannuation
Like permanent residents and Australian nationals, temporary visa holders who have rights related to their employment contract will be able to access their superannuation. Right now, Skilled Visa and Student visa holders (in Australia for more than 12 months) have been cited among the list that can benefit from it. There is still confusion about Working Holiday Visa holders, but in the latest government declarations it was said:
“TEMPORARY VISA HOLDERS WITH WORK RIGHTS – INCLUDING INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS – WILL BE ALLOWED TO DRAW ON THEIR SUPERANNUATION FUNDS TO HELP THEM BUFFER THE ECONOMIC IMPACTS FROM THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC.”
Backpackers situation facing Covid crisis in Australia
Summary of the current situation in Australia
Since mid-March, many measures have been put in place in Australia. States have also agreed with each other to prevent the spread of the virus. Since April 3, 2020, Queensland has closed its borders to all people who are not resident in the state. Also note that since April 5, 2020, it is no longer possible to enter Western Australia. In addition, in WA, non-essential movement within regions is also prohibited.
Since March 23, 2020, social distancing measures have been in place. Non-essential businesses have closed their doors. Among them: pubs, gyms, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, restaurants and cafés are limited to take away and home delivery.
Each state or territory of the country applies more or less different rules. We invite you to read the rules in the state you are in.
Read more here: COVID-19 Work & Travel Info
The economic situation of backpackers on a Working Holiday Visa
With the closure of restaurants, cafés, pubs, etc., many young people on a WHV have lost their jobs. In addition, you will certainly find it difficult to find work. Check your bank accounts and estimate how long you can last without working.
Where to find jobs during the COVID-19 crisis in Australia?
All sectors in Australia that will need manpower to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Read more in our dedicated article.
The Australian Prime Minister said during his speeches that temporary visa holders in Australia, are not the country’s priority. For example, temporary visa holders are not expected to have access to unemployment insurance or government assistance (JobKeeper and JobSeeker). The Minister also asked young people who cannot find work and cannot support themselves for the next few months to leave Australia.