Australia Considers Ending ‘COVID Visa’, Restricting Options for International Students

Australia Considers Ending ‘COVID Visa’, Restricting Options for International Students

The “talk on the streets” is that the Australian government is currently deliberating the possibility of setting an end date for the COVID-19 pandemic event visa, also known as the Subclass 408 visa. This decision has significant implications for thousands of temporary workers, including international students, who will need to explore alternative pathways to remain in the country.

Important Changes on the government’s To-Do List :

  • As part of its ongoing recovery efforts, the federal government is reviewing the end date for applications of the COVID-19 pandemic event visa (Subclass 408).
  • Starting from July 1, student visa holders, except those working in aged care, will face restrictions on their work hours, limited to 48 hours per fortnight.

The COVID-19 pandemic event visa (Subclass 408), introduced as a Temporary Activity visa, was one of the measures implemented by the Australian government to facilitate the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic-induced downturn. This visa allowed applicants to work in key sectors if they were employed or had job offers in Australia.  As expected, the government now says the original intent of the Subclass 408 visa was to assist those stuck in Australia due to border closures related to COVID-19.  Therefore, as the government re-evaluates the Subclass 408 visa, individuals considering this visa may need to explore alternative options.

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) stated that various permanent or temporary visas could potentially be available for pandemic event visa holders to continue their stay in Australia. However, specific details regarding the potential end date for the Subclass 408 visa remain uncertain.  As we always say, “The Devil is in the Detail”.   

The immigration and education sectors admit concerns for International Students.  The potential closure of the Subclass 408 visa raises concerns for international students, who would need to seek alternative visa types to remain in Australia, possibly incurring additional costs. Additionally, the implementation of a working hour cap of 48 hours per fortnight, effective from November, will significantly impact the financial situation of many international students.

Many international students have relied on the Subclass 408 visa for its flexibility in allowing unlimited work hours, particularly during a period of escalating living costs.  Due to the impending roll back by the government, majority of international students are obviously considering their intentions to explore other avenues to stay in the country until they can become eligible for permanent residency.

The future visa changes coincide with the introduction of a working hour cap for international students, which will potentially reduce their weekly income by nearly AUD$600. This development raises anxieties about financial stability among students who are currently studying at some of Australia’s leading universities in major cities around Australia.

herefore, as Australia considers potential revisions to the Subclass 408 visa, it is expected to have a significant impact on the options available to temporary workers, including international students. The government’s focus on aligning the visa’s purpose with the unique circumstances of the pandemic underscores the need for affected individuals to explore alternative visa pathways to remain in the country.

The Australian government’s decision to roll back the concessions provided during the pandemic, including the potential end date for the COVID-19 pandemic event visa and the implementation of working hour restrictions for international students, may have significant and long-term consequences for the student market and the Australian economy. International students play a vital role in Australia’s education sector, contributing to its diversity, cultural exchange, and economic growth.

By narrowing the options available to international students and imposing stricter limitations, the government risks deterring prospective students and undermining the competitiveness of Australian universities and colleges. This could lead to a decline in international student enrolments, resulting in reduced revenue for educational institutions, decreased demand for related services, and a potential loss of jobs in sectors that rely on the spending power of international students.

The government must carefully consider the potential ramifications of these policy changes to ensure the sustainability and vibrancy of the student market and the overall strength of the Australian economy.

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