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COVID-19: Financial assistance, job support and health waivers now available for international students in Australia

Source: Reuters

International students are currently not eligible for the Australian Government's cash supplements, but there is help available in the forms of income assistance, job opportunities, health cost waivers and visa flexibility.

There were more than 565,000 international students in Australia when the coronavirus outbreak hit, many of whom have now lost their jobs due to the pandemic. 

While they have been left out of the federal government's JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments, income assistance has now started trickling in from the state governments and the Australian universities.


Highlights:

  • Over 565,000 international students are currently enrolled in Australian universities
  • International students who have been here for more than 12 months can access super
  • Some states are offering emergency grants, jobs, free training and health waivers to international students

Here’s a list of what's currently on offer for international students:

Superannuation funds:

International students who have been in Australia for more than 12 months who find themselves in financial hardship will be able to access their Australian superannuation. Apply at the myGov website from April 20.

Visa flexibility:

The government has declared that it will be flexible in cases where coronavirus has prevented international students from meeting their visa conditions, such as not being able to attend their classes.

Students who are concerned about their enrolment, fees or other issues related to their studies are encouraged to contact their education providers.

If the education provider cannot assist, they can call on (+61) 1300 981 621 or can also email international.students@dese.gov.au for further support.

An employee arranges vegetables on display inside a Woolworths grocery store in Brisbane
An employee arranges vegetables on display inside a Woolworths grocery store in Brisbane, Tuesday, April 19, 2011. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING
(AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING

Work hour relaxations:

International students can work up to 40 hours per fortnight as per their visa conditions. In the wake of the ongoing crisis, the government has extended these hours for students working in aged care as nurses and those employed with disability care providers to support the country’s healthcare sector.

 

International students working in supermarkets have also had their hours extended. But their hours will return to the 40 hours a fortnight limit from 1 May 2020, as more Australians will be recruited in these roles. Students who want to avail the extra hours available can contact their employer for more information.

Health waivers for those who do not have Medicare:

Most people who are not eligible for Medicare in Australia will have health or travel insurance. If they do not have adequate insurance cover, some states and territories, such as NSW, Victoria and WA have announced that they will waive healthcare costs associated with COVID-19, if a person is treated in a public hospital.

International students are also eligible to avail this waiver.

Free financial counselling:

International students who are facing extreme financial stress in Australia may be able to access financial counselling services from qualified professionals who can provide information, advice and advocacy to people in financial difficulty.

The National Debt Hotline is another free tool available to those who are struggling to pay their debts. Students can call 1800 007 007 to speak to trained financial counsellors who can offer guidance specific to their situation.

Insecure visas linked to poorer mental health for refugees
Mental health support is available for all international students.
Getty Images

Mental health support:

The government is also providing help to ensure students have the mental well-being support they need in the time of crisis. International students in need of mental health support can get help through Lifeline Australia (13 11 14), Youth Beyond Blue (1300 224 636) and Headspace (1800 650 890).

Help available from universities:

Australian universities have also stepped up to provide independent emergency monetary funds and food banks to help international students facing hardships. To date, Australian universities have committed over $110 million to assist students.

Job support from state governments:

Victoria:

The Government of Victoria has announced $45 million funding to support international students facing hardship during the ongoing health crisis. 

It has committed to providing $1,100 grants, equivalent of two weeks of JobSeeker payments that are expected to be cover 40,000 students from universities, TAFEs and private colleges.

The students have been asked to complete this webform to register their interest to be notified as soon as the applications open.

In addition, the state government is also creating job opportunities for international students through its 'Working for Victoria' program. The program is designed to get people who have lost work due to the COVID-19 outbreak to get back into the workforce.

The state government is also offering free online training courses for those registered with the program, so they are ready for the call up to work.

South Australia:

The government of South Australia has announced a new $13.8 million fund to support international students currently in the state and facing financial hardship due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The economic boost which is part of the state’s Community and Jobs Support Fund will include:

  • a $10 million fund for university students impacted by COVID-19 restrictions at the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the University of South Australia to distribute to their pathway and international students.
  • a $500 emergency cash grant to other international students, currently enrolled in a course, living in South Australia and who meet the criteria
  • a one-off $200 assistance payment per student living with South Australian families provided to homestay families.

Tasmania:

Tasmania is providing payments for cash-strapped temporary visa holders, including international students who have been affected by the lockdown in the small state.

One-off payments of $250 for visa holders suffering financial hardship and up to $1,000 for families are part of the $3 million packages that have already been rolled out.

Northern Territory:

As part of its $50 million Small Business Survival fund, the Northern Territory Government has announced that it will be utilising a significant portion of this fund towards keeping people in work who may not be eligible for the Federal Government’s JobKeeper payment, such as some casuals, recently-employed workers, and temporary visa holders, including international students.

Australian Capital Territory:

The ACT government has committed $450,000 in emergency relief support for temporary visa holders and international students after the federal government "refused" to act.

In addition, the state's 'Jobs for Canberrans' fund will provide work opportunities for people in the casual or semi-skilled workforce who have lost their jobs or have been significantly impacted due to COVID-19. Highest priority will be given to people ineligible for any Australian Government's support funds and to those who have relied on casual work.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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