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Stuck in Australia? International students can extend stay via COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa

COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa
Here’s what you should know about the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa that lets you stay in Australia to work if you’re employed in a critical industry sector. Source: William West/AFP

International students in Australia who are unable to depart the country due to COVID-19 travel restrictions can work in critical sectors under the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa. While the student visa allows up to 40 hours per fortnight during the semester, the Australian government has temporarily relaxed this rule if they work in the agriculture sector. This is to encourage temporary visa holders, which include international students, to support Australian farmers struggling to find workers during COVID-19. If you’re among the affected students who are stuck in Australia, here’s what you should know about the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa:

What is the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa (Subclass 408)?

It’s a temporary visa that lets you stay in Australia to work if you’re employed in a critical industry sector. Only those already in Australia can apply and the visa starts the day it is granted. 

Who can apply for this visa?

If you are applying for the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa because you can’t depart Australia due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, you must have 28 days or less remaining on your current visa or your last substantive visa expired less than 28 days ago. If you’re applying for the visa to remain in Australia to work in a critical sector, you must have 90 days or less remaining on your current visa or your last substantive visa expired less than 28 days ago.

What can I do with this visa?

You can remain in Australia if you have no other visa options and are unable to depart the country due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. You will be able to work in critical sectors, including agriculture, food processing, health care, aged care, disability care and childcare.

How much does it cost to apply?

According to the Department of Home Affairs, there is no charge for this visa. “Applicants must select ‘yes’ to the visa application charge concession question in the application and select the ‘Nil VAC’ option,” said the department.

How long does it take to process?

Unfortunately, processing times are not available for this visa at the time of writing.

How do I apply?

You can apply online. Click here for details.

How long will I be able to stay in Australia with this visa?

You may be granted a further stay of up to 12 months if you are employed in the critical sectors or up to three months if your departure from Australia is currently delayed by COVID-19 travel restrictions. Your visa grant letter will tell you how long you can stay.

How can I improve my chances of securing this visa?

You can improve your chances if you opt for seasonal farm work, according to Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Aff​airs Alex Hawke.