Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made an impassioned plea to international students and working holidaymakers to “come on down” to Australia.
To encourage more people to enter the country, Mr Morrison announced that from today international students and working-holiday makers who come to Australia would have their visa application fees rebated.
The announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison came on Wednesday as the nation saw record numbers of Covid cases surge through communities resulting in severe workforce shortages in every sector.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra, he said: “What we’ll be doing is we will be rebating the visa application fees from all those who arrive today.”
International students will have the visa fees waived for eight weeks from Wednesday, while the changes will be in place for 12 weeks for working holidaymakers.
Mr Morrison called on the visa holders to consider coming to Australia as soon as possible, as the nation struggles with workforce shortages caused by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
“My message to them is come on down,” he said.
“We want you to come to Australia and enjoy a holiday here in Australia – move all the way around the country and, at the same time, join our workforce.”
Thousands of workers have been forced off work due to the virus or been asked to self-isolate as a close contact.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters, “We are putting out the welcome mat.” He said he hoped changes to the visa application fees of an estimated 175,000 students and working holidaymakers would make a “big difference” to the current workforce situation.
Australia is witnessing massive workforce shortages, particularly in the health and aged care sectors. There is rising concern that more than half of all residential aged care centres in Australia will have COVID-19 outbreaks by the end of the week. Victoria has also announced a ‘Code Brown’ COVID emergency as more than 4,000 healthcare staff have been sent on leave due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The federal government had announced last week that a 40-hour per fortnight working cap would be removed for international students in sectors that have been affected by shortages.
Mr Morrison on Wednesday also announced $3 million would go to Tourism Australia to support a marketing program targeting backpackers, working holidaymakers and students.
Meanwhile, fully vaccinated international travellers will be allowed to enter Queensland without quarantine from 1 am on Saturday 22 January, with a rapid antigen test required within the first 24 hours. Unvaccinated international arrivals will be required to undertake 14 days quarantine in a government-nominated facility. Queensland currently has 88.8% of the eligible population fully vaccinated.