2 April 2020
COVID-19 Immigration Update: Client Alert
We thought we should provide you an update of what we are hearing and what we are doing to work with you and your employees in this period of turmoil.
FAQ, Webinars and Consultations
In addition to our regular client alerts and catch ups with you, we are offering the following additional services to help employers and employees:
- Free on-line FAQs that are updated daily: For Employees and For Employers
- Free weekly webinars with the latest information: Register through our website
- Discounted one on one consultations with our experts: Book through our website
Updates from Government
We are in regular discussions with Government about their approach to the crisis. This is the latest information we have:
- The Department is still open for business and is processing visas: temporary and permanent. Because of the travel bans, the focus has shifted to processing on-shore cases but offshore applications can still be lodged. Some delays in processing can be expected with offshore applications effectively frozen.
- No decision has yet been made on whether or not financial assistance will be extended to temporary visa holders. At this point in time, JobSeeker assistance and the newly announced JobKeeper wage subsidy are limited to Australian citizens and permanent residents and some New Zealand citizens. Details can be found here.
- There have been no significant changes to the usual rules for visas and sponsorship obligations. Visa holders and employers must still comply with visa conditions, and must still ensure that an application for another visa is lodged for any expiring visa holder. The usual rules for Labour Market Testing and justifying the need for a sponsored employee still remain and may even become more stringent as unemployment increases.
- Employers must still advise of changes to their business operations or to the employment conditions of sponsored visa holders. You should contact us before making changes or as soon as possible after these have been implemented so we can assist you with compliance.
What employers are doing
This is obviously dependent on the particular industry and unique business operations but broadly:
- Employers are trying to maintain the visa status of critical staff. Where financial circumstances of the company or the individual do not allow for renewals of sponsored visas, we are working with companies and their employees to find alternatives.
- Many companies are changing their recruitment strategies from offshore to onshore. We have noticed an increase in the number of nomination transfers as employers seek to sponsor workers already in Australia and expect this to increase further over coming months.
- Some employers are seeking to adjust working conditions by reducing hours and salaries or having employees take leave without pay. This can be accomplished in most circumstances and we can work with you on the best way to do this in a compliant fashion for immigration purposes.
What employees are asking
These are the questions we are being asked most often and our answers:
Q: Is there government financial support available?
A: No announcements have been made about financial assistance for temporary visa holders. At this time there is no assistance available.
Q: What if my visa expires?
A: You must either apply for a new visa, or depart Australia, before your visa expires.
As temporary visa holders, you can still depart Australia if you can find a flight but you should be aware that you will not be able to return to Australia until after the travel bans are lifted and we have no way of knowing when this will be. Also, if you are a sponsored worker, your return to Australia may be subject to your employer being able to show that there is still a genuine need for you at that time. You should speak to your employer before making this decision.
If you will be remaining in Australia, you will need to apply for a new visa before your current visa expires in order to avoid becoming unlawful. If your employer is unable to sponsor you, then the decision about what visa you can/should apply for will need to be determined on a case by case basis.
Q: What if I am stood down?
A: You must still abide by the work (or no work) conditions attached to your visa. For 457 or TSS visa holders, this means you can only work legally for your sponsor and cannot work for any other business or for yourself. Doing otherwise would be in breach of your current visa. We don’t expect the Department to cancel visas if you are temporarily stood down but they could consider doing this at some point if you have been made redundant and do not find an alternative sponsor.
Q: What about PR?
A: At this time we expect employer sponsored PR applications to be processed as usual. We do not know yet what, if any, impact temporary shutdowns and stand downs will have on PR applications. Provided you are still employed by your sponsor and they are able to offer you two years of employment, the impact should be minimal. You will need to speak to your sponsor about whether your PR application can still be lodged, as this is a decision to be made by your employer about whether they are in a position to support the application at this time.
Our advice to employers at this stage is to assume for the moment that all rules and regulations continue to apply as before and to speak to us if you have any questions or concerns. Please notify us immediately of any changes to your business operations or the conditions of any sponsored worker. This can be done via our Migration Desk portal or by email to our teams. Of course, feel free to call us as always.
We are expecting an update from Government any day soon so please be assured we will update you as soon as this is received.
We understand that this is a very difficult period for all and are here to support you and your employees in any way that we can. Don not hesitate to make any suggestions as to what more we can do or to just call and say hello. Together we will all come out of this on the other side.
DISCLAIMER This information is current as of 2 April 2020 and subject to change. The information contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It should not be used as legal advice. To the extent permissible by law, Ajuria Lawyers and its associated entities shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, defects or misrepresentations in the information or for any loss or damage suffered by persons who use or rely on such information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.