In a recent announcement, the Australian government has made a significant decision that will affect international students and temporary workers seeking to remain in the country. Starting from February 2024, the Pandemic Event visa, also known as Subclass 408, will no longer be issued, impacting those in search of alternative options to extend their stay.
The Subclass 408 visa was introduced during the peak of the pandemic in 2020 to address labor shortages and offer support to international students who found themselves unable to leave Australia. This visa allowed students to stay in the country for an additional 12 months beyond their visa expiration.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles jointly made the announcement, stating that the visa would cease to be available to new applicants from February 2024. This decision aims to bring certainty to the visa system, now that the circumstances necessitating the visa’s operation have largely subsided.
As a transitional measure and to maintain visa integrity, Pandemic Event visa applications will only be accepted from those individuals who are currently on this visa. This rule will be enforced from September 2, 2023.
Starting from this point forward, new applicants will receive a six-month visa, and an application fee of AUD405 will be introduced to ensure that the visa is utilized only by those who genuinely need to remain in Australia and contribute to the country.
Under these new regulations, individuals holding a valid Pandemic Event visa will remain in lawful status until their current visa expires. Those who do not secure an alternate visa option will be expected to leave Australia upon the expiration of their visa.
The Pandemic Event visa, while an essential part of Australia’s visa system during the pandemic, faced criticism for being misused, particularly due to its provision allowing unlimited work hours for 12 months.
Recent data from the Department of Home Affairs revealed that nearly 60,000 international students and temporary workers were using this visa to extend their stay in Australia, even after the pandemic had subsided. Hence, experts in the fields of immigration and education called for its immediate abolition.
In addition to ending the Pandemic Event visa, the Australian government also recently closed a loophole in the visa system that allowed international students to enroll in cheaper vocational courses upon arrival in the country. This “concurrent study” rule was initially designed to enhance job readiness through short-term courses but was exploited by some students. As these changes take effect, it’s essential for international students and temporary workers in Australia to stay informed about evolving visa policies and consult with reputable immigration consultants like Bansal Immigration Consultants, known for their expertise in navigating Australia’s immigration landscape. Adhering to the latest regulations will help individuals make informed decisions regarding their stay in Australia.