New visa to assist with COVID-19 pandemic: Subclass 408

By Mark Dunphy and Kristopher Kunasingam 

The Australian Government introduced a new visa to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic on 4 April 2020. Known as Subclass 408, this visa allows foreign nationals who have temporary residence status to continue remaining in Australia because of the Covid-19 situation. The main requirements are:

  • the person is physically in Australia;
  • will assist with addressing workforce shortages in areas such as agriculture, aged care and public health; and
  • unable to depart because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This application should only be made within 28 days or less of the current visa expiring. There is no visa fee charge.

Subclass 482 or 457 visas and their working hours

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has indicated that sponsored employees will be able to be stood down and not be in breach of their visa conditions. DHA has also indicated that sponsors will be able to reduce working hours (no limit has been set) without them or visa holders breaching their obligations.

DHA has not provided any recommendation on pay reduction. For now, our recommendation is for sponsors to reduce the working hours and pay proportionately instead of requiring sponsored employees to work full-time at a reduced rate.

Those who have been laid off (ie terminated or redundant) will have 60 days to either locate a new sponsor or depart the country.

JobKeeper, JobSeeker and temporary visa holders

It is expected that only Australian citizens, permanent residents and certain New Zealand citizens will be able to access the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments. However, Parliament is expected to confirm the scope of those eligible for these payments when the JobKeeper Bill is read on 8 April 2020.

Superannuation payments for temporary visas - examples include student, working holiday

Those on temporary visas have been encouraged by the government to seek the support of family members and rely on savings. The government has also suggested those who have been here for more than 12 months will be able to draw on their superannuation contributions but this is something individuals should query further with their superannuation provider.

Based on these comments, we think the JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments will not extend to temporary visa holders.

Student visa work hours

On 7 March, the government allowed international students working for major supermarkets to work past their 40 hour a fortnight restriction. However, this restriction will be reintroduced on 1 May.

International students working in the aged care and nursing industries will continue to have unrestricted work rights during this period.

Working Holiday Visa holders (WHV) employed in the agriculture, health, disability care, childcare, aged care or supermarket industry

WHV are limited to working with an employer for a maximum of six months. During this pandemic, those employed in the agriculture, health, aged, disability and childcare industries will be exempt from the six-month work limitation.

For everyone else, DHA has confirmed that WHV holders are allowed to continue working for the same employer past six months, provided there is a change in location of employment.

We will continue to bring you updates.


Mark Dunphy

Mark is an employment lawyer experienced in litigious and non-litigious applications of employment and industrial relations law.

Kristopher Kunasingam

Kristopher leads the firm's migration practice. He specialises in employment-related migration to Australia.

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