How Remote Work Has Impacted Australian Visas & Migration

It is no surprise that the global pandemic has altered how employees work today and will continue to impact the shape of business structure in the future. According to the Australian Government, in Australia pre-pandemic, only 8% of people regularly worked from their home. However, during the pandemic’s peak, up to 40% of people were working from home following capacity restrictions and stay-at-home orders. 

This new working from home structure posed both challenges and benefits to employees and employers. While employees saw productivity increase and added flexibility to their lives, they also experienced a reduction in resources through saving time and costs from daily commutes. It also enabled individuals facing barriers to entry for labour force participation and those in remote regions to begin to seek out job opportunities and roles. 

Alternatively, employers saw savings in office rent, utilities, and electricity costs as their employers remained working from home. This switch to remote work and the rise of hybrid working styles have altered how businesses operate and the restriction on hiring new staff. Businesses are no longer limited to employing individuals in the same region, city or even state. 

So what impact did remote working have on immigrants? And how did this dynamic working style impact immigrating to Australia?

Australia is home to over 1 million temporary Australia visa holders. However, due to remote work coming into play, a major portion of temporary Australian visa holders was made redundant through casual industries such as hospitality and retail. These Australian visa holders experienced a lost stream of income and a lack of financial support from family overseas who were also experiencing hardship. As a result of this, remaining in Australia created compliance issues with current visa subclasses, particularly through employer-sponsored visas. So, workers quickly returned to their home country where possible. 

Another impact of this remote work structure was the ability for work to be completed anywhere and at almost any time, particularly for highly skilled knowledge-based jobs. In the short-term Australia has turned to employ permanent residents and current Australia visa holders to ensure operations run safely and smoothly. Though going forward, this can create new opportunities for talented international workers to obtain employment within Australian businesses through remote work overseas. 

However, in a bid to further increase migration and aid in Australia’s economic recovery, the government made visa changes and created new visa subclasses. It is vital employers understand these new changes and their effect on current visa holders to determine their wider impact on the business. These include the following:

Temporary Provisional Visa Changes

Individuals who hold an existing Temporary Skilled Shortage (subclass 482) in the short-term stream can now enter Australia without a travel exemption. This is also applicable to legacy temporary work skilled visa holders who no longer meet the age requirement. 

For Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa holders who remained in Australia and worked during the pandemic will now also be eligible for permanent residency. The update aims to recognise highly skilled migrant workers and provide new pathways for migrants looking to move to Australia or become permanent residents.

Regional Provisional Visa Changes

Individuals holding a regional provisional visa (subclasses 489, 491 and 494) can now extend their visa. A new permanent visa pathway beginning 16th of November 2022 will also be created for individuals who have lived, worked or studied in designated regional areas on previous eligible visas.  

New Zealand Temporary Visa Changes

The number of years an applicant with the subclass 189 visa will need to meet the specific income threshold will be reduced. This change to this visa subclass aims to assist temporary visa holders who are currently New Zealand citizens to obtain permanent residency in Australia.  

There is no limit on the time this visa holder can work for the same employer. This was previously a 6-month timeframe. 

In addition to these changes to current visa holders and subclasses, the Australian Government also announced the creation of new visa types due to the pandemic. 

Hong Kong Skilled Independent Stream & Hong Kong Regional Stream

The new visa subclasses 189 and 191 were introduced to offer specialised pathways to permanent residency in Australia for graduates and temporary skilled workers from March 5th, 2022. Due to Australia’s skilled labour shortage, this visa aims to work with Hong Kong to expedite the migration of experienced and talented labour into Australia. 

Covid-19 Pandemic Event Visa 

This subclass 408 enables visa holders to remain in Australia for an additional 12 months to continue working in critical sectors. This includes agriculture, food processing, health care, childcare, disability and aged care. For those not working within a critical sector, this visa extension will still be valid for up to 3 months. 

This visa subclass is also applicable if an individual currently holds this visa type and wishes to remain in Australia to continue working in a critical sector or cannot depart Australia before visa expiry due to travel restrictions. 

Skilled Migrants – Subclass 491, 494 or 190

Section S48 Bar has lifted providing skilled migrants with the opportunity to apply for subclasses 491 (Skilled Work Regional Visa), 494 (Skiller Employer Sponsored Regional Visa) or 190 (Skilled Nominated Visa), even if the individual is affected by section 48 of the Migration Act. This section did previously apply to applicants who have had a visa refused or cancelled since their previous entry to Australia. 

It is likely new governmental policies and reforms to existing visa subclasses will continue as the impact of the pandemic continues to unfold. As a result of these changes, employers who currently sponsor a visa holder or are looking to employ an overseas worker should consult an immigration partner. Migration experts and visa specialists can aid in analysing new strategies and assessing any risks associated with new remote work and hybrid working policies.  
If you would like to better understand these visa changes or determine if sponsoring a skilled overseas worker is right for your business, contact Techvisa online today.

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