The following programs have been made available for workers in Victoria who are unable to access other forms of Victorian Government and Commonwealth Government income support:
Support for job seekers The Victorian Government has established the Working for Victoria initiative to help jobseekers find new opportunities. Temporary migrants who have Australian working rights are eligible and encouraged to register. For further information or to register, please visit https://www.vic.gov.au/workingforvictoria. The Migrant Workers Centre can also assist to address problems encountered at workplaces and provide advice on migrant workers’ rights and available supports. The Migrant Workers Centre is staffed from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday and can be contacted by 03 9659 3516.
Extreme Hardship Support Program
The Extreme Hardship Support program is providing emergency financial assistance, information and referrals to people who cannot access Commonwealth income support or the International Student Emergency Relief Fund. It assists the most vulnerable temporary and provisional visa holders, including undocumented migrants, who have no or very limited savings, income and community support. People experiencing financial hardship can apply via the Red Cross website. More information is available at: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/financial-support-coronavirus-covid-19#extreme-hardship-support-program.
Support for international students
The Victorian Government has announced a $45 million International Student Emergency Relief Fund for international students facing financial hardship because of coronavirus. For more information, please visit Study Melbourne’s website: https://www.studymelbourne.vic.gov.au/help-and-support/support-for-students-coronavirus/international-student-emergency-relief-fund
Coronavirus (COVID-19) rent relief grant
We have also worked to ensure that renters in Victoria, including students and temporary visa holders, are able to maintain safe, secure and stable accommodation. This includes rules that protect renters from eviction as a result of financial hardship and a one-off rental relief payment for eligible households. There are no citizenship or permanent residency requirements for applicants. For more information about the relief fund and other dedicated support, please visit: https://www.housing.vic.gov.au/help-renting/rentrelief.
Emergency Relief Packages, Test Isolation Payments, Pandemic Leave Disaster payment
Community members in self isolation or quarantine without family or networks can access free Emergency Relief Packages. Further support is also available to people who are unable to work or care for themselves while they wait for a test result, or isolate or quarantine through Test Isolation Payments and the Pandemic Leave Disaster payment. Enquiries about eligibility for a package or access to the payments can be directed to the Victorian Government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) hotline on 1800 675 398.
Support for COVID medical advice or treatment
For all people in Victoria who need to seek medical advice or treatment for symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and do not have adequate insurance coverage, Victorian hospitals will waive the costs of treatment. These arrangements have been put in place to ensure that everyone can access Victoria’s healthcare system, including visitors, international students or temporary visa holders who fall ill in Australia and are not eligible for Medicare. This is in addition to the $59.4 million Mental Health and Wellbeing Response package, which will ensure that people, including temporary and provisional visa holders, can access critical mental health services. For details of this new arrangement, please visit www.dhhs.vic.gov.au.
There are a number of other government and non-government supports available including food relief, housing, healthcare and cash support. The Australian Red Cross website has information on the wide range of supports available to temporary residents. More information is available at: https://www.redcross.org.au/get-help/help-for-migrants-in-transition.
The Live in Melbourne website also provides a helpful summary of the types of support available from the Victorian Government: https://liveinmelbourne.vic.gov.au/news-events/news/2020/government-assistance-for-temporary-and-provisional-visa-holders-coronavirus-covid-19.
New Student Arrangements
The Morrison Government is making a number of changes to student visa arrangements to ensure Australia remains a priority destination for international students as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
These five visa changes will ensure international students are not worse off due to the coronavirus pandemic and that Australia remains competitive with other countries.
The changes include:
- The Government will recommence granting student visas in all locations lodged outside Australia. This means when borders re-open, students will already have visas and be able to make arrangements to travel.
- International students will be able to lodge a further student visa application free of charge, if they are unable to complete their studies within their original visa validity due to COVID-19.
- Current student visa holders studying online outside Australia due to COVID-19 will be able to use that study to count towards the Australian study requirement for a post-study work visa.
- Graduates who held a student visa will be eligible to apply for a post-study work visa outside Australia if they are unable to return due to COVID-19.
- Additional time will be given for applicants to provide English language results where COVID-19 has disrupted access to these services.
Hong Kong students relieved over visa and residency option
- Temporary graduate and skilled workers will be offered an additional five years of work rights in Australia on top of the time they’ve already been in Australia, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period.
- Students will be eligible for a five year graduate visa from the conclusion of their studies, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period.
- Future Hong Kong applicants for temporary skilled visas will be provided with a five year visa, based on meeting the updated skills lists and Labour Market Testing requirements.
- Existing arrangement will continue to apply for those applicants who study and work in regional areas to help address skills shortages in those areas, with pathways to permanent residency after 3 years.
- Current and future students from Hong Kong will be eligible for a five year temporary graduate visa on the successful conclusion of their studies, with a pathway to permanent residency after five years.
- Former students already on a temporary graduate visa will be eligible for an extension of five years from today in addition to the time they’ve already been in Australia, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period.
- Students who study at a regional campus will continue to be able to access a pathway to permanent residency after three years.
Temporary skilled visas
- Current temporary skilled visa holders from Hong Kong will be eligible for an extension of five years from today in addition to the time they’ve already been in Australia, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period.
- Future Hong Kong applicants for temporary skilled visas will be eligible for a five year visa, provided they:
- meet occupational skills lists and Labour Market Testing requirements; or
- qualify through the Global Talent temporary visa scheme, which is for exceptional talent where the sponsoring employer pays above the Fair Work High Income Threshold of $153,600.
- These future temporary skilled visa holders will also have a pathway to permanent residency after five years.
There are almost 10,000 existing temporary skilled, temporary graduate and student visa holders in Australia who will be eligible for these special arrangements, with a further 2,500 outside Australia and 1,250 applications on hand.
- New incentives will be developed to attract export-oriented Hong Kong based businesses to relocate to Australia. As well as economic incentives, there will be permanent visa pathways available for all critical Hong Kong based staff of the relocated business. The government will particularly target businesses that presently operate their regional headquarters out of Hong Kong who may be looking to relocate to a democratic country.
Proposed Changes to Subclass 485 Visa Requirements
According to media news articles published recently, international students who are enrolled in courses in Australia but are stranded overseas because of the COVID-19 crisis will be eligible for visa subclass 485 despite having undertaken part of the course online while overseas.
Currently, in order to satisfy the “Australian study requirement”, the studies must have been undertaken while in Australia.