The Australian government is set to eliminate the COVID-19 pandemic event visa (Subclass 408), impacting a significant number of temporary workers, including Indian international students, who will now need to explore alternative options to remain in the country, as reported by SBS.
The COVID-19 pandemic event visa (Subclass 408), also referred to as the Temporary Activity visa, was implemented by the federal government as part of its efforts to revive the Australian economy amid the pandemic. This visa enables individuals to work in Australia if they are employed or have received a job offer in a crucial sector.
Applicants who are interested in obtaining the Subclass 408 visa might need to consider applying for an alternative visa category, as the government’s initial intention for this visa was to aid individuals stranded in Australia due to COVID-19-related border closures.
In relation to inquiries regarding the end date of the Subclass 408 visa, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) informed SBS Hindi that they are presently evaluating its continued suitability. This evaluation includes deliberation on establishing a closing eligibility date for the Subclass 408 visa and outlining the proposed plan for returning to normal operations.
According to the DHA, individuals holding the pandemic event visa have the opportunity to apply for various permanent or temporary visas to continue their stay in Australia.
Presently, temporary visa holders in Australia, including those on student visas, may be eligible for the Subclass 408 visa if their existing visa, which permits work rights, is set to expire within the next 90 days or has expired within the past 28 days at the time of application.
Under normal circumstances, the Subclass 408 visa allows applicants to remain in Australia for a maximum period of 12 months. However, for holders of the Temporary Graduate (Subclass 485) visa, the pandemic event visa provides an extended two-year duration of stay.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Subclass 408 visa was introduced to provide individuals with an opportunity to extend their stay in Australia by 12 months if their visas had expired, and they were either currently employed or planning to work in the country.
Recognising the persistent shortage of labour and skills, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) implemented a more flexible policy regarding visa condition 8107, which pertains to work limitations for Subclass 408 visa holders. This less restrictive policy enables individuals with this visa to work without restrictions, addressing the needs of industries experiencing labour shortages.
The announcement regarding the visa changes coincides with the upcoming implementation of a new working hour limit for international students, set to take effect on 1 July.
As part of the 2023 Budget presented by the federal government on 9 May, several migration-related reforms were outlined, including the confirmation of a working hour cap for student visa holders. However, it is important to note that international students working in the aged care sector will be exempt from this cap until 31 December.