This page is to assist overseas nationals with working rights in Australia who have lost jobs or reduced hours due to COVID-19. I am a food writer who cares about your plight. I am not qualified to give you legal advice. Please use this page as a starting place. I can take no responsibility for your actions or the consequences that may arise from them. I wish you all the best and I want you to know that many people care about your situation!
Everything in blue has been added in the past 24 hours.
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What are the rules?
Contact your migration agent for information about your particular situation.
The new JobKeepers package announced March 30, 2020 does not apply to most visa holders. One of the eligibility criteria requires the applicant to be “an Australian citizen, the holder of a permanent visa, a Protected Special Category Visa Holder, a non-protected Special Category Visa Holder who has been residing continually in Australia for 10 years or more, or a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holder”.
Parliament is convening next week to debate the JobKeeper payment that is currently not available to most visa holders. Hopefully it will be expanded before it’s passed to include more groups of people. I encourage you to write or call your local Federal MP and ask them to vote to include all visa holders in the JobKeeper legislation. Here is a letter for you to adapt.
The visa holder rules have not changed, except in relation to the number of hours that those on student visas may work. Students are now able to seek employment in excess of 40 hours a fortnight at particular workplaces, including aged care homes and supermarkets. See here for more information.
The Federal government has made no announcements (as of Friday March 27, 2020) of any amendments to the visa obligations of foreign workers and the rules around employment and welfare relief. This means that you are still bound by the terms of your worker or student visa (other than the specific work hours change mentioned above). Here’s more info about visas and their conditions.
Overseas students are unable to attend their tertiary institution. However, the rules have not changed. We hope they will! But currently, they need to continue paying their tuition fees in order for them to continue being educated by the institution. If tuition ceases, then visas could potentially be cancelled as they are not meeting visa requirements.
Many New Zealand citizens are not entitled to benefits. Here’s an article about that.
This tip for sponsored workers was forwarded to me from a migration agent: If your sponsoring business has closed temporarily, talk to your boss and ask them to put you on paid leave or unpaid leave (according to your situation). This way, you will continue to receive your payslips (even if they have no amount) and potentially be useful in the future.
Here’s a handy Q&A from a migration agent relating to 457 and 482 visa holders.
Rent & evictions
Many overseas workers are very worried about an immediate loss of income which means they don’t have enough money to pay for rent, bills and food.
If you haven’t already, write a letter to your real estate agent or landlord asking for a rent reduction. I have written a template here which you can adapt.
New rules will make it harder for residential tenants to be evicted. “The measures would prevent landlords evicting tenants from both residential and commercial leases if those tenants can point to the coronavirus crisis as the cause of their financial stress.” PM Scott Morrison announced 29.3.20 that states and territories had agreed to a six month moratorium on evictions for renters in financial distress unable to meet their commitments due to the the impact of COVID-19. Details to follow.
Following the eviction moratorium, I’ve added this to the letter template:
“The Federal government has announced a moratorium on evictions. Although I will continue to seek employment and funds to pay rent, I must prioritise food and other essential day-to-day expenses. I seek your understanding as we all navigate this difficult time to the best of our abilities.”
Tenants Victoria is advocating for rent relief. There are other suggestions from the NSW Tenants Union. If you can get a letter from your employer saying that you have no/less work because of COVID-19, give that to your landlord too. Here is a template for the letter from your employer.
Things you can do:
– prioritise food and other essentials above rent as it will be harder for landlords to evict (see above re rent & evictions)
– ask your utility (electricity, gas, phone) providers for special consideration or payment plans for your bills because of financial hardship due to coronavirus. There are contacts for many providers here; otherwise look for a phone number on your bill.
– if you have any direct debits, stop them unless you really need them
– if you have Afterpay commitments, request a hardship payment plan via this form.
– contact your migration agent to ask for their latest advice.
– sign my petition and this petition advocating for support for temporary workers.
– look for other work.
If you are working, please keep yourself safe. Employers must do everything they can to ensure a safe working environment and minimise risks of spread of COVID-19. See these ACTU guidelines.
If you are a sponsored worker who has lost their job, there has been no official change to the requirement that you stay with that employer. This may change.
The Victorian government has announced a job matching scheme. Sign up here.
Project Displaced shares news of jobs. It’s been set up to support airline, arts, tourism and hospitality workers during COVID-19.
There are jobs here:
Coles is recruiting.
Woolworths is recruiting.
ALDI is recruiting.
Dominos is recruiting.
Blue Cross aged care is recruiting.
Pinnacle People may be hiring.
Linfox is hiring.
Don Smallgoods is hiring.
Services Australia is hiring (Centrelink etc).
NSW Government is hiring.
BHP is hiring.
Telstra is hiring.
Med-Con is hiring (mask manufacturers, country Vic)
Do you need help with job applications?
Melinda Davis works with Skills & Jobs Centre at Melbourne’s Box Hill TAFE. She has kindly offered free assistance with writing a resume, putting together a cover letter or anything to do with the job search process. Email: email@example.com or call 0429 341 755.
Do you need food?
- Hospitality workers impacted by the crisis can access a daily $25 voucher with Deliveroo to participating venues around Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. To redeem, simply email MealsForMates@pernod-ricard.com with proof of employment in the hospitality industry.
- The Salvation Army offers crisis and emergency support, including food and housing.
- Lentil as Anything is offering pay-as-you-feel food and meal delivery in Melbourne.
- Crossway is a church group that can assist with groceries in the south-east and Burwood areas of Melbourne.
- IssueX is a grassroots organisation in Melbourne cooking meals for temporary visa holders. Pick them up in Northcote. Follow them on Instagram @issuex and email: firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange.
- Atlas Dining (133 Commercial Road, South Yarra) has 20 produce boxes for visa workers today (Thursday) – call Charlie 0448 220 042 to get one
- Chef Josh is giving away free meal packs to heat and eat at 146 Martin Street, Brighton. Turn up or message him on Instagram: changz_yo
- The following charities are increasing capacity to cope with growing need. Contact them to find out about meals and groceries: Salvation Army Bourke Street Depot, St Vincents Food Vans, St Peters Eastern Hill, St Marys House of Welcome, Melbourne City Mission, Father Bobs. Many of them will do home delivery for isolated people.
- Hearth & Soul in Newtown, Sydney is giving away meals to anyone who needs them.
- Lentil as Anything in Newtown is offering pay-as-you-feel food and meal delivery.
- Ask Izzy is a great resource for organisations helping with food relief. Input your postcode and it will bring up a list of local charities that will help in your area.
If you’re a foreign worker, you are unlikely to be eligible for Centrelink. Learn more here.
Visa holders are not eligible for a new program that allows people to access $10,000 of their super. Here’s the ATO discussion.