Australia implements various visa initiatives to help Regional Australia during the COVID 19 Pandemic

Australia’s regional economy has been hit hard by the COVID 19 Pandemic.  This is mostly because much of regional Australia is dependent on the agricultural and international tourism industries.  As the world went into lockdown many farm and hospitality workers, the majority of which held temporary work permits returned to their home countries.

Most farming and tourism businesses have not been able to recruit the workers that they lost during the initial lockdown and increasingly suffer from critical skill and labour shortages as they attempt to recover the losses suffered in 2020.

Visa initiatives to help Regional Australia

Over the last 12 months, in an effort to try and minimise the devastating impact that the COVID 19 Pandemic and the consequential border restrictions have had on Regional Australia, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has amended numerous aspects of the Australian visa program.

The headline initiatives that the Australian federal government has implemented to support Regional Australia include:

  • Creating a COVID – 19 Pandemic Event Visa

This visa option allowed temporary visa holders, with work rights, to continue to work in critical sectors such as Tourism and Agriculture for another 12 months. This change was implemented by modifying the Temporary Activity Visa (408).

  • Classifying Agricultural Workers as critical

This allowed agricultural workers from certain pacific island nations, including Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, Nauru & Solomon Islands, to obtain travel exemptions and fly into Australia as critical workers needed to meet the agriculture labour shortages in Regional Australia These changes allowed approved farming business to continue to recruit staff through the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS)

  • Waiving student visa work limitations

The DHA waived the 40 hours per week work limitation for international students that are willing to work in the Agriculture, Tourism or Hospitality sectors.

  • Extending Graduate Visas:

International graduates that studied at a regional Australian university can now apply for a second graduate visa (485) provided that they continued to live in Regional Australia during their first Temporary Graduate Visa.

In addition to the above measures, the Australian Federal Government has established a regional migration program that aims to boost regional economies by attracting skilled migrants to regional areas.  More information about the Department of Home Affairs efforts to support Regional Australia can be found in the DHA’s latest:   Administration of the Immigration and Citizenship Programs Report 

We anticipate that the federal government will continue to develop a Regional Migration Program that will reward migrants, that are willing to live and work in Regional Australia, with access to permanent residency.

If you are interested in understanding how the Australian Regional Migration program may apply to your circumstances, please Contact Us to speak with one of our registered migration agents.