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More work hours for international students in Australia

hospitality and tourism
This was put forward to boost the tourism and hospitality sectors following strong industry feedback. Source: William West/AFP

International students working in Australia’s hospitality and tourism sector may soon be allowed to work more hours. Australia’s federal government is considering lifting the cap of 40 hours of work a fortnight by providing more visa flexibility during the pandemic, reported the Financial Review.

This new measure will be included in Australia’s federal budget on May 11 to offer hospitality and tourism operators some relief. Some 350,000 foreigners are in Australia on student visas.

The report adds that temporary visa holders will be able to shift to the COVID-19 “pandemic event visa” for a year if they take up jobs in hospitality or tourism. The hospitality and tourism sector have also joined agriculture, food processing, healthcare, aged care, disability care and childcare as critical sectors that allow workers to be eligible for the 408 visa subclass.

Temporary visa holders working in — or intending to work in tourism and hospitality — will be able to apply for the COVID-19 visa up to 90 days before their existing visa expires and then remain in Australia for up to 12 more months.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke was quoted saying in SBS News that the move will help fill staffing gaps in these sectors and support Australia’s economic recovery. “Government has listened carefully to the states, territories and industry and is introducing these changes to support critical sectors for Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery,” he was quoted saying. The decision also comes after international students, including those working in these sectors, were among the worst impacted by COVID shutdowns at the height of the pandemic last year.   

Easing restrictions in hospitality and tourism sector welcomed

hospitality and tourism

Removing the existing work hour cap for students in the hospitality and tourism industry has been lauded by some sectors. Source: William West

On Twitter, Australia’s Group of Eight (Go8) universities said they welcome visa flexibility for international students, adding that the decision to remove existing work hour caps for Student Visa holders working in hospitality and tourism is good news for international students and the economy.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief Margy Osmond welcomed the visa changes, saying some city hotels had been forced to limit occupancy on weekends because of staff shortages. “Extending the expiry dates for the visas of foreign students already in Australia and increasing the hours they are able to work will be a real boon for the tourism and hospitality sectors that are struggling to service the domestic market as we face a massive skill shortage,” she was quoted saying by the Financial Review.

In a separate report, Australia is scheduled to reopen its borders next year in a budget plan to bring back migrants and speed up the economic recovery. The federal government fears that growth cannot be sustained if travellers are kept away and citizens kept at home, reported The Sydney Morning Herald. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he believed in restoring migration to the levels seen before the pandemic as soon as the government’s health experts declare it possible.

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated on Facebook yesterday (May 9): “International borders will only open when it is safe to do so. We still have a long way to go, and there are still many uncertainties ahead.”