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Temporary visa work arrangements 

We are making a number of changes to temporary visa holder arrangements during the coronavirus crisis in order to protect the health of our community, safeguard job opportunities for Australians, support critical industries, and assist with rapid recovery.

Employers are still required to abide by all relevant Australian workplace laws. Overseas workers, including international students, have the same rights under Australian workplace law as all other employees.

Agriculture

We will apply flexible arrangements to allow critical workers, including Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme participants and Working Holiday Makers, to extend their stay in Australia:

  • Seasonal Worker Programme workers with visas due to expire will be able to apply for a Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa in the Australian Government Endorsed Event (AGEE) stream.
  • Pacific Labour Scheme workers with visas due to expire can apply for a new Temporary Work (International Relations) (subclass 403) Pacific Labour scheme stream visa.
  • Workers currently in Australia under these programs will also be exempt from the requirement to work for a single employer and will be able to move between approved employers.

In addition, Working Holiday Makers who are working in critical sectors (eg agriculture, aged or health care) will be exempt from the 6 month work limitation with one employer and eligible for a Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa in the Australian Government Endorsed Event (AGEE) stream.

Supermarkets

On 4 April 2020, the Government announced it was ceasing the temporary relaxation of the 40 hour work limit for student visa holders working in supermarkets.

From 1 May 2020, the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force will exercise normal discretion in relation to student visa holders employed in supermarkets who exceed the work limitations of their visa.

The Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force officers will not seek to enforce these conditions for, nor initiate prosecutions with respect to, student visa holders who worked in supermarkets in accordance with this temporary measure between 7 March 2020 and 30 April 2020.

Aged Care

International students who work in aged care can also work for more than 40 hours a fortnight, to make sure there are sufficient staff to care for elderly Australians during COVID-19. This concession applies to student visa holders who are existing employees and were employed in the aged care sector before 8 September 2020.

All aged care Approved Providers or Commonwealth funded aged care service providers that have been issued with a RACS ID or a NAPS ID have been given access to the temporary relaxation of working hours for student visa holders. These aged care providers should see the letter provided to them by the Department of Health for further details.

These measures only apply to existing workers in their existing roles.

They are temporary measures and will be reviewed by the government regularly. Employers will be advised in writing when these considerations no longer apply.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa (subclass 408) also allows suitably skilled temporary visa holders to work in the aged care sector. These arrangements apply to those who have relevant skills and experience and an offer of employment from an approved aged care provider. For example, a visitor visa holder with nursing qualifications can apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa to work in the aged care sector if they have an offer of employment from an approved aged care provider.

Nursing

Student visa holders already enrolled in nursing can undertake work to help and support the health effort against COVID-19 as directed by health officials. We will not take any enforcement action regarding student nurses working in these circumstances.

Cruise ship industry

On 20 May 2020, the Minister for Health extended the restrictions under the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements for Cruise Ships) Determination 2020 for the operation of cruise ships in Australia. This includes:

  • extending to 17 December 2020, the current measures restricting the entry of cruise ships into Australian territory and entry at Australian ports; and
  • continuing the application of these restrictions to cruise ships capable of carrying 100 or more passengers.

The restrictions are inclusive of direct arrivals and Round Trip Cruises (RTC).

Maritime industry

Maritime crew (excluding crew on Cruise Ships) are exempt from travel restrictions, and do not require an individual exemption from the Australian Border Force Commissioner.

Exempt maritime crew include:

  • crew operating or providing services to support the operation of a commercial (excluding cruise and superyacht vessels) or a government vessel in Australian waters
  • marine pilots
  • marine surveyors

A commercial vessel is one that is engaged in:

  • commercial trade and movement of freight
  • the provision of port and maintenance services
  • providing support to important industries such as resource industries
  • marine surveying

If you are exempt under this category, you may: 

  • enter Australia where you hold an appropriate visa, and depart  
  • need to quarantine in the Australian State and Territory where you arrive. Many states and territories now require international maritime crew arriving in Australia (by aircraft), to undertake 14 days of mandatory quarantine at the first point of arrival

See COVID-19 requirements for maritime crew

Airline industry

From 2100 AEDT 20 March 2020, airline staff should ensure that only exempt travellers board a flight to Australia. Where possible, the Australian Advanced Passenger Processing system will be used to deny uplift for all other travellers.

The Australian Government will honour all “okay to board” messages that airlines receive.

Airline crew, including general aviation crew, medevac and air ambulance crew are exempt from the current travel restrictions.

All air crew who have been on international flights must self-isolate in their crew accommodation or home for 14 days after arrival, or until their next flight, whichever is shorter.

All air crew are advised to take particular care on lay-overs, to use dedicated private transport and to avoid crowded public spaces.

All air crew should monitor for symptoms and not fly if they are ill. This includes off-shift crew who are travelling as passengers on an aircraft to reposition at another location. The same process is to be followed for this cohort as on-shift crew.

From 24 June 2020, all air crew operating international flights between Australia and New Zealand, are exempt from home quarantine requirements, provided they have only been within Australia and New Zealand for the past 14 days.State and Territory governments may have additional requirements for air crew. Airlines and air crew should monitor individual state and territory government health sites for details and updates on additional measure.

Protecting vulnerable workers in operations and supply chains

Changes to business operations and structures due to COVID-19 may significantly impact some workers, in Australia and overseas, and increase their vulnerability to modern slavery and other forms of exploitation. The government is encouraging employers and industry to be aware of the risks and take steps to protect vulnerable workers.

See Modern Slavery Act: Information for reporting entities about the impacts of Coronavirus

Requesting approval for an international flight

All non-scheduled flights must make an international flight request at least 7 days before the proposed flight.

Requests, that do not contain the necessary information, will not be considered until all information is provided.

This request does not replace the need for other applications required by law for passengers and aircraft entering Australia, or Australian air space.

The charter/flight operator (the operator), that is, the person who actually owns or operates the aircraft used for the non-scheduled service, must make the application for an International Flight Request.

The charterer/airline is the person who is paying for or organising the service.

An application must be made for each individual flight leg through the portal and must be lodged with the ABF at least 7 days prior to the commencement of the proposed flights. Multi-leg flights can be linked together by entering the reference number from a previous flight request to a new flight request.

The application must have:

  • the name, address and contact details of the operator
  • the name, address and contact details of the charterer
  • the nationality of the interests which have substantial ownership and effective control of the operator
  • the nationality of the interests which have substantial ownership and effective control of the charterer
  • the type and capacity of the aircraft being used for the flights, and whether it is leased or owned by the charter operator
  • whether the flights will carry only passengers, cargo or mail, and if the services are carrying cargo, the type of cargo
  • a passenger list (a template is provided when you apply).

The operator must provide all passengers with the ABF Privacy notice (123KB PDF) when their personal information is collected. This outlines the purpose of collection and the ABF’s use of the passenger’s data. Charter Operators will be asked to acknowledge this information has been provided to passengers.

Final passenger lists are required no later than 72 hours prior to departure and your final seating plan will need to be provided prior to flight arrival via email.

A final seating plan must also be provided to the ABF before arrival via email by responding to your ABF flight confirmation email.

The ABF may seek additional information in order to consider the request.

Other necessary approvals

You will still be required to submit other applications separately for passengers and aircraft entering Australia through relevant authorities including:

  • the Civil Aviation Security Authority (CASA)
  • Air and Maritime Security within the Department of Home Affairs
  • the relevant state Airport, Infrastructure and transport authorities.

Further, the request does not replace existing reporting obligations under the Migration Act and Customs Act.