In a bid to support its farmers and the agriculture industry as well as offer international students a chance to work more than 40 hours a fortnight. However, this opportunity will only be available to international students who choose to work in the agriculture sector. To facilitate this, the federal government made many changes to the visa conditions on 5th Jan 2021.
David Littleproud, the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management and Alex Hawke, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, released a joint statement announcing further flexibility in allowing temporary visa holders to work in the Agriculture Sector, where a lack of workers has been witnessed due to COVID-19. Along with international students, the temporary changes to the visa conditions will also affect international students working in the health and aged care sector as well.
In the statement, Littlproud highlighted that this change is built on the changes that were brought in earlier this year for international students employed in the health and aged care sector. This year, the federal government is expecting bumper crops, however, COVID-19 restrictions on international travel have resulted in a dearth of workers in the sector.
Hawke further added that the temporary visa holders will get the opportunity to earn a little more income while also helping farmers during the harvest season and reduce wastage of food. He also stated that while Australians will be prioritised in terms of jobs under the government, however, the government is taking this decision listening to the farmers who have urged for more workers as soon as possible. International students who do not want to or have not been able to go home will be greatly valued in the sector.
This change will also allow the temporary visa holders to avail the COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa, provided they choose to work in the agriculture sector. International students will be able to apply for the COVID-19 Visa, 90 days before their on-going visa expires, while also cancelling the need to demonstrate their attempts at leaving the country.
Currently, over 5,600 Pandemic Event Visas have been granted, in a bid to support the agriculture sector in the country since April 2020, when it was first made available. The Home Affairs Department released a statement highlighting that the exceptional circumstances due to COVID-19 along with the need of supplying critical services, the Department and the Australian Border Force will be more flexible to student visa holders who are working over the stipulated hours, however, only in specified industries.