Many families of temporary work visa holders are struggling because of an uncertain future. COVID 19 has created a crisis for many work visa holders due to certain visa restrictions and lesser job opportunities especially in regional areas of Australia.
The lives of temporary visa holders are getting harder in Australia amid the COVID 19 pandemic under the shadow of uncertainty.
- Visa holders experiencing financial difficulties are advised by the Federal Government to consider their options
- Business can extend the visa, but cannot offer work anymore
- Mazer Husain stood down and waiting for a temporary skill shortage visa for several months
Temporary skill shortage visa holders are neither eligible for jobseeker/jobkeeper nor can they switch their jobs.
As of 31 March 2020, there were 2.17 million temporary visa holders in Australia. The figure contains 13,9331 temporary skilled visa holders and 28,1179 bridging visa holders. Many have no other earning for daily expenses to support their families.
Mazher Husain is one of them who arrived in the South Australian regional town of Mt Gambier in October 2017 on a working visa 457 as a chef.
His wife and infant son also joined him in September 2018. His sponsored visa 457 was abolished and replaced by a temporary skill shortage visa (subclass 482). Mazher applied for a subclass 482 visa just before the expiry of his 457 visa and has been currently waiting for more than ten months for his visa. He told SBS Urdu that he was stood down without wages in March and April this year and currently have very limited options of earning due to struggling business.
"Without cancelling my visa, my boss gave me a few options including a change of visa", he added.
Mazher has applied for a temporary skill shortage visa 482. He and his family are currently living on a bridging visa. Mazher's two-year son and wife are also suffering due to an uncertain future. Mazher says that uncertainty is very stressful for his entire family.
I am waiting for a visa for more than ten months while the waiting time of visa was 40-60 days when I applied for it in September 2019 and now every passing day my anxiety is increasing
"I have a good sponsor who supported me well, but the business has been struggling since COVID and now my hours are reduced drastically and before that, I was without any income for two months.
"COVID-19 has changed everything", he added.
Mazher has received some job offers but he cannot change the job on the same sponsored visa.
I do not want job keeper/job seeker, but a waiver in visa condition at this extraordinary time so I can work elsewhere after getting work visa
The Ministry of Home Affairs has advised that businesses will be able to reduce workers' hours without workers being in breach of their visa conditions or the business being in breach of their employer obligations. Temporary Skill Shortage and subclass 457 visa holders who have been stood down, but not laid off due to COVID-19, will maintain a valid visa. Businesses will have the opportunity to extend the visa as per normal arrangements.
Owais Shaheen is the principal solicitor of Shaheen legal Blacktown, in Sydney West. He says that sponsored visa holders can not switch the job without changing the sponsor. He observed first hand how COVID 19 has created a crisis for many work visa holders and bridging visa holders who are required to wait longer and that in turn creating anxiety.
Holders of temporary work visas currently employed in COVID-19 critical sectors – health care, aged and disability care, childcare, or agriculture and food processing – may be eligible for a Temporary Activity Visa (subclass 408) Australian Government Endorsed Agreement Event stream (COVID-19 Pandemic event visa).
Mazher had applied for a 482 Visa in September 2019 and could not take advantage of a pandemic event visa.
I have job offers and willing to contribute towards the recovery of the regional area's economy, but even after getting visa, I can not accept any other work offer without waiver.
Owais Shaheen told SBS Urdu that working visa holders are one of the hardest-hit classes.
"We have definitely noticed a slower response from the Immigration Department in regards to making any visa decisions, mainly due to COVID19 but there are options available", he added.
Owais suggests a follow up with the Ministry of home affairs if visa grant time taking too long.
If someone has not received a subclass 482 visa outcome within the nominated time frame, then they can contact the Temporary Skill Shortage team at TSS@homeaffairs.gov.au"
Visa holders experiencing financial difficulties are advised by the Federal Government to consider their options. If they have been stood down, but not laid off, and are unable to meet their immediate living expenses, they may be able to access up to $10,000 of their Australian superannuation tax-free in the 2019-20 financial year.
Mazher Husain has already taken out the money from the super but now he says he has not left much in super so options are limited.
If you need immediate help, it is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, anywhere in Australia.
In an emergency, call 000
Contact Lifeline for support if you are experiencing a personal crisis or have suicidal thoughts. You can call them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from anywhere in Australia.
Residents in metropolitan Melbourne are subject to stay-at-home orders and can only leave home for essential work, study, exercise, or care responsibilities. Check your state’s restrictions on mask-wearing and gathering limits.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 meters away from the others.
If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home, and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus