The Australian government is set to scrap the Subclass 408 or Covid work visa in a move that could see a sizable number of Indian students and temporary workers scrambling for other options to remain in the country, a media report said.
Also known as the Temporary Activity visa, the Subclass 408 allows applicants to work in Australia if they are employed or have an offer of employment in a key sector.
"The government is currently considering its ongoing suitability. This includes consideration of an end date for closing eligibility of the visa (Subclass 408) and proposed approach to returning to normal operations," Department of Home Affairs (DHA) told SBS, a multicultural, multilingual broadcaster in Australia.
The development coincides with the Australian government's move to impose a new working hour limit of 48 hours per fortnight for foreign students, beginning July 1.
The Covid work visa offered students freedom to work unlimited hours but now work hour caps will return, reducing their income.
However, international students working in the aged care sector will be exempted from this cap until December 31.
"The closure of this visa will affect many, including international students. They will be looking at a different visa to stay in Australia and for which they will pay," Suman Dua, a migration expert told SBS, adding that the Covid work visa was free to obtain.
The Covid work visa was initially introduced to provide relief for foreign students in Australia who were unable to leave the country during Covid-related border closures.
It allowed students to live in the country for an additional 12 months if their visas expired.In March 2022, the DHA announced that the Covid work visa would be extended as part of the government's efforts to revive the Australian economy hit by the pandemic.
To address the persistent shortage of labour, DHA implemented a more flexible policy regarding visa condition 8107, which relates to work limitations for Subclass 408 visa holders.
"There are a range of permanent or temporary visas that pandemic event visa holders may be eligible to apply for to remain in Australia," the DHA told SBS.