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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 more than 40 hours a fortnight, to make sure there are enough staff to look after the elderly who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

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.

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

As of 15 March 2020 there is a full restriction on arrivals of any cruise ship that has left a foreign port. The restrictions are inclusive of direct arrivals and Round Trip Cruises (RTC).

This measure will be reviewed after 30 days.

The health, welfare and safety of Australians, both at home and overseas, is the highest priority of the Australian Government.

From 1am AEDST 16 March 2020, Australia will deny entry to any cruise ship that has left a foreign port, with the exception of:

  • Australian-flagged vessels.
  • International cruise ships en route having departed their last overseas port and destined for Australia.
  • Australian cruise vessels (domestic cruise ships) operating within the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone can continue to operate without restriction.
  • Round Trip Cruises that are already in progress and currently returning to Australia.

Cruise ships that do not meet the above exemptions, may be approved through the Maritime Traveller Processing Committee (MTPC). These approved cruise ships will be required to go to Brisbane or Sydney.

Crew

Cruise ship crew must self-isolate for 14 days or for the duration of their stay whichever is shorter.

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.

Airlines must contact the Australian Border Force Border Operations Centre prior to non-exempt travellers boarding the flight.

Airline crew (including medivac crew) are exempt from the travel restrictions. Airline crew are advised to take particular care on lay-overs, to use dedicated private transport and to avoid crowded public spaces.

Airline 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.

Airline crew are required to self-isolate in their accommodation, if they enter Australia, until their next work flight.

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