For the past two years, travellers have been stuck in limbo due to travel restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. But with campaigns enforcing vaccination and additional measures ensuring public safety and concern, covid positive cases are declining; hence borders are opening up.
Among the major countries, Australia has been the one to facilitate international travel, albeit while following health guidelines. Following months of uncertainty, the Australian Government is currently offering a range of new visa support initiatives to international students and graduates. The initiative includes providing visa fee refunds to international students and temporary removal of limits on working hours for student visa holders(subclass 500), temporary graduate visas, and extended graduate ‘stay and work’ periods (subclass 485).
Student visa application fee refund and covid-19 visa application fee waiver
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that any international student visa holders (including dependents) arriving in Australia between 19 January and 19 March 2022 would get back their visa application fees (AUS$630). This refund is a way of saying thank you to the students who chose to continue their education in Australia. The refund applies to both current visa holders and new students who would come to the country within the relevant dates. Students need to create an account on the Home Affairs Visa Refund Portal and complete an online claim form to get the refund.
On the other hand, students already in Australia who held a student visa on or after 1 February 2022 and could not complete their course within the original visa time due to Covid-19. Now, they will be eligible to have their student visa application fee waived while applying for a new student visa.
International students planning to travel to Australia from their home countries need to check their visa status via the Visa Entitlement Verification Online website. Students interested in shifting to a lower-level or non-award course need to apply for a new student visa before changing their course, and their application needs to be granted.
Extra time allotted for English tests, biometrics and health
Due to Covid-19, many students could not take English language tests; as per the new rule, now students will have additional time to submit their English language test results. Similarly, extra time is also allotted for biometric collection and health check-ups, as the accessibility to the services was disrupted due to the pandemic. Students need to respond to requests for information via their ImmiAccount.
Removal of limits on student working hours
As a part of providing an appropriate student support system, the Australian Government has announced a further, temporary relaxation of work restrictions for international student visa holders. Therefore, this indicates no restrictions regarding the number of hours students can work in Australia currently. Simultaneously, students who have already arrived in Australia can begin working before starting their course, and respective authorities will review these changes in April 2022.
However, there are specific requirements for satisfactory course progress and balancing work/study commitments that students need to maintain. These include the students’ duties to maintain their course enrollment, ensure satisfactory course attendance, and ensure satisfactory progress.
Additionally, students would be in breach of their visa conditions if they fail to attend their classes, fail to meet satisfactory course progress and cancel their enrollment abruptly. But if the education provider has approved a course deferral or facilitated online classes, the student visa holder will not be in breach of conduction 8202.
Students who are working or have an offer of employment in the critical sector and have finished the course will be eligible for the COVID-19 Pandemic (subclass 408) visa. But they can only apply for the visa 90 days before the student visa is due to expire.
Assured workplace protection and support
Australis’s workplace laws are still in effect to protect international students from any unfair treatment and discrimination. In the account of any untoward behaviour, they can report to Fair Work Ombudsman.