Migrant Workers – Factsheet – United Workers Union


1. JOB KEEPER

What is Job Keeper?

The JobKeeper payment is a wage subsidy which will allow some workers whose employer has been affected by the COVID-19 economic downturn to access payments of $1500 per fortnight.

I am a temporary migrant worker. Can I get the Job Keeper Payment?

Temporary migrant workers, such as workers on a Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482), Temporary Work (skilled) visa (subclass 457) or a Student visa (subclass 500) are not eligible for the Job Keeper payment.

To receive the Job Keeper payment you must be the holder of a permanent visa, a Protected Special Category Visa Holder, a non-protected Special Category Visa Holder who has been residing continually in Australia for 10 years or more, or a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holder.

Am I eligible for the Job Keeper payment if I’m in Australia with my partner and my partner is in full time study?

You may be eligible but it depends what type of visa you are on. To receive the Job Keeper payment you must be the holder of a permanent visa, a Protected Special Category Visa Holder, a non-protected Special Category Visa Holder who has been residing continually in Australia for 10 years or more, or a Special Category (Subclass 444) Visa Holder.

If you have a permanent visa such as a Partner visa (Permanent) (Subclass 801) or a Partner (Migrant) visa (Subclass 100) you should be eligible for the Job Keeper payment.

If you have a temporary visa such as a Partner visa (Temporary) (Subclass 820) or Partner (Provisional) visa (Subclass 309), then you will not be eligible for the Job Keeper payment at this stage. If you are listed as a dependent to a partner on a Student visa (Subclass 500) or a Temporary Graduate visa (Subclass 485) you will not be eligible for the Job Keeper payment as these are also temporary visas.

The union is pushing the government to expand eligibility to include all migrant workers.


2. CENTRELINK PAYMENTS

Do temporary migrant members get access to any Centrelink?

Members who hold temporary work visas are not defined as Australian residents and therefore are generally not eligible for Centrelink benefits.

Members on certain visas such as the temporary partner visa or certain bridging visas may be eligible for the Special Benefit Payment.

The Special Benefit Payment is for those who are not eligible for other Centrelink payments and are experiencing severe financial hardship due to circumstances beyond their control. The payment is the same rate as the JobSeeker payment plus the coronavirus supplement of $550 a fortnight will apply from 27 April 2020. There is generally a waiting period of 2-4 years for newly arrived residents before they can access the Special Benefit Payment but this has been waived due to the coronavirus crisis.[ii] The Assets test still applies for this payment.

For more information on the Special Benefit Payment, see:
https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/special-benefit

To make a claim for the Special Benefit Payment, follow the steps listed here:
https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/special-benefit/how-claim

The list of eligible visas for the Special Benefit Payment may be expanded in the future to include other work visas.

The union is pushing for government support for all temporary migrant workers.

Can New Zealanders access any Centrelink?

If the members have a non-protected Special Category Visa (SCV) they cannot apply for the JobSeeker Payment, unless they have lived in Australia continuously for ten years. In these circumstances, they can only apply for the Job Seeker Payment for one period of up to 6 months. These members will be eligible for other Centrelink allowances such as the Family Tax Benefit, Health Care Card and the Child Care Subsidy.

NZ citizens with a protected SCV can apply for the JobSeeker payment and are treated as an Australian resident for Centrelink purposes. Generally, protected SCVs were only given to NZ citizens who arrived in Australia on a New Zealand passport and were either:

– in Australia on 26 February 2001; or

– in Australia for 12 months in the 2 years immediately before this date; or

– assessed as a protected SCV holder before 26 February 2004.

NZ citizens who have a permanent resident visa can apply for the JobSeeker payment.


3. HOURS OF WORK

Have there been changes to hours of work for international students?

International students working in aged care, disability, and as nurses can work more than 40 hours per fortnight during the coronavirus crisis. International students enrolled in health care courses may also be able to work more than 40 hours.

International students working in the major supermarkets had also had these hours extended to help get stock on shelves during the high demand. From 1 May, their hours will return to the maximum 40 hours a fortnight as more Australians are being recruited into these roles.

See here for more information: https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/student-500/temporary-relaxation-of-working-hours-for-student-visa-holders


4. HEALTH/MEDICAL

Who can I call if I have health issues?
I don’t have a Medicare card, can I get one?

If you are a student from overseas on a temporary student visa, you can contact your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) insurance provider for advice on your health cover and services available to support you, including counselling and other mental health support. Your health cover may help you access and or meet the costs of medical and hospital care while in Australia.

You can apply to enrol in Medicare and get a Medicare card if you are an Australian citizen, a New Zealand citizen, a permanent resident, applying for permanent residency, or a temporary resident covered by a ministerial order (please see list below).

    • Fulbright scholars
    • Witness Protection (Trafficking) Temporary visa (subclass 787)
    • De facto partners of Australian citizens or permanent residents
    • Support for Victims of People Trafficking Program
    • Temporary Humanitarian Concern visa (subclass 786)
    • Contributory Parent visas (subclasses 173, 143, 884, 864)
    • Temporary Protection visa (subclass 785)
    • Removal Pending Bridging visa (subclass 070)
    • Illegal maritime arrivals holding a Bridging E (Class WE) visa
    • Illegal maritime arrivals holding a Humanitarian Stay visa (subclass 449)
    • Secondary Movement Offshore Entry visa XB (subclass 447)
    • Safe Haven Enterprise visa (subclass 790)
    • Skilled Work Regional Provisional visa (subclass 491)
    • Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional Provisional visa (subclass 494)

People need to fill in a Medicare enrolment form and provide other documents too. For more information about eligibility and how to apply you can go to https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/subjects/how-enrol-and-get-started-medicare/enrolling-medicare

In Victoria only: Department of Health and Human Services sent out a circular to all public hospitals stating that all patients presenting to public hospitals for diagnostic and other treatment for the novel coronavirus should be treated free of charge, even where a patient is from overseas and does not have private insurance and is not eligible for treatment under Medicare rules.

In Western Australia only: the Minister for Health has confirmed that those people who are not eligible for Medicare AND who present to WA Health facilities for assessment in relation to COVID-19 infection, will not be charged out of pocket expenses.

In New South Wales only: for those that do not have adequate insurance coverage, NSW Health will waive these costs. This includes the waiving of payment and debt recovery procedures for ambulance transfers of people suspected to have COVID-19 infection, who are taken to NSW Health facilities for assessment.

In the ACT only: Medicare ineligible people requiring testing, treatment or other public health supports related to COVID‑19 will have free access to medical care. This includes pathology, diagnostic, pharmaceutical and outpatient care in the ACT public health system.

What if I have questions about my OSHC?


5. VISAS

Where can I get migration advice and assistance?

If you are in NSW or work in farms, contact your union. Otherwise contact your migration agent.

UWU continues to campaign for visa amnesty and support for migrant workers.

Where can I get information on visas?

Check the latest announcements here beforehand: https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/

If your visa expires and you have questions, consult the union (if you are in NSW or work in farms) or your migration agent.


6. FINANCIAL DISTRESS

If you are a student check with your education provider as some providers offer Hardship Funds or instalment payments.

How am I supposed to meet my financial obligation to my bank during this period?

Many banks and providers of utilities have options for people who are experiencing financial hardship.

Commonwealth Bank

  • CBA customers who are unable to pay their home loans may be eligible for the following options: accessing their redraw facility, a repayment holiday, reducing repayments to the minimum monthly repayment amount, or applying to change repayments to interest only. For those unable to pay credit card debt or personal loans due to financial hardship, you may be eligible to have your repayments reduced or deferred. Commonwealth Bank suggests that customers contact their Financial Assistance Solutions Team to discuss their options on 13 30 95 (8am – 9pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 2pm on Saturday (Sydney/Melbourne time). For more information see: https://www.commbank.com.au/latest/coronavirus.html

NAB

  • NAB customers experiencing financial difficulty due to coronavirus may be eligible to apply to freeze home loan repayments for up to 6 months. Customers may also be able to access money in redraw and offset accounts, and apply for reduced repayments on variable home loans. Customers experiencing financial difficulties should contact the NAB Consumer Care team on 1300 683 106, Monday to Friday 8am-8pm (AEST/AEDT) and now Saturday 9am-1pm (AEST/AEDT). For more information see: https://www.nab.com.au/personal/customer-support/covid19-help

ANZ

  • Customers with a mortgage with ANZ experiencing financial hardship can apply for short term repayment relief, to increase the loan term or to pay interest only for a period. Customers with multiple loans and/or credits cards with ANZ may be able to consolidate their debt. Customers can contact ANZ on 0800 240 438 Weekdays, 8.30am – 8pm and Weekends, 9am – 5pm. For more information see: https://www.anz.co.nz/comms/financial-hardship/how-we-can-help/

WESTPAC

If you are with another bank, contact them to find out what provisions they have in place for customers experiencing financial difficulty.

Can I access my superannuation?

Most temporary visa holders with work rights will now be able to access up to $10,000 of their Australian superannuation this financial year.

Students must have been here longer than 12 months and find themselves in financial hardship to access their Australian superannuation.

Applications can be made from mid-April 2020. For more information see: https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Super/In-detail/Withdrawing-and-using-your-super/COVID-19-early-release-of-super/

What if I can’t pay my power, water or gas bill?

If you are unable to pay a power, water or gas bill, you should contact your provider to discuss your options. Your options could include:

  • an extension to pay
  • paying in instalments
  • Centrelink deductions (Centrepay)
  • applying for a utility rebate or voucher

To apply for a utility rebate or voucher, you will need to contact the agency in your state directly. The Australian Government’s Money Smart website has details of the relevant agencies: https://moneysmart.gov.au/managing-debt/problems-paying-your-bills-and-fines

What if I can’t pay my phone or internet bill?

If you are unable to pay a phone or internet bill, contact your provider to discuss your options. Your options could include a payment plan, changing the payment frequency, or downgrading to a more affordable plan. You can also ask your service provider to waive late payment and other penalties.

TELSTRA

OPTUS

  • Optus customers experiencing hardship may be able to have a temporary hold on bills, have their plan reviewed or have late payment fees cancelled. Optus customers can contact 1300 308 839 for assistance, Monday to Friday: 8.30am – 7.30pm AEST / AEDT and Saturday: 9.00am – 6.00pm AEST / AEDT. For more information see: https://www.optus.com.au/about/legal/financial-hardship

TPG


7. CONCESSIONS

State governments provide a range of concessions to assist with the cost of living. Concessions may include rebates for gas, and electricity, or help with rent.

Some concessions will only be available to those who receive Centrelink benefits; others will be available to anyone on a low income or suffering financial hardship. You will need to check the eligibility requirements for concessions in your state.

 

State-based links & information

VICTORIA

https://services.dhhs.vic.gov.au/concessions-and-benefits

NEW SOUTH WALES

https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/campaign/cost-living

SA

https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/care-and-support/concessions-and-grants

TASMANIA

http://www.concessions.tas.gov.au/

ACT

https://www.act.gov.au/assistance

QUEENSLAND

https://campaigns.premiers.qld.gov.au/smart-savings/

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

https://concessions.communities.wa.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx

NT

https://ntconcessions.nt.gov.au/?q=members/nt-concessions-scheme

Specific assistance in the NT

On 9 April 2020, the NT government announced the establishment of a $5 million Worker and Wellbeing Fund (the Fund) to support Territorians including international students and visa holders who are affected by the coronavirus crisis. Assistance includes financial support for basic necessities and emergency costs such as urgent medical expenses and rental support. The Red Cross has been specifically funded to provide emergency relief to VISA holders and international students in the Territory. Please contact Red Cross on +61 403 987 018 to access emergency relief and support.

Tasmanian government support for temporary migrant workers

On 22 April 2020, the Tasmanian government announced a $3 million package of support for temporary migrant workers in Tasmania including:

– Extension to the eligibility for Pandemic Isolation Assistance Grants to include temporary migrant workers who can demonstrate genuine financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This will provide an immediate payment of $250 per individual or up to $1000 per family. For eligibility and how to apply: https://www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au/stimulus-and-support/household/emergency-support-for-vulnerable-tasmanians

– Additional funding to non-government organisations to provide additional emergency relief and assistance where required.

– Whilst many temporary migrant workers will be unable to return to their home country due to border restrictions, for those whose country is safe to return to we will assist with travel advice, and if necessary due to genuine financial hardship, the government will on a case by case basis assist with financial support to do so.

– The government will work with industry sectors or employers who want to retain their employees because of their specialist skills in the State for when their business is able to start up again and provide additional support in partnership with them so that the state doesn’t lose skilled workers.

South Australia support package for international students

On 21 April 2020 the SA government announced a support package for international students including:

– $10 million fund for university students significantly impacted by COVID-19 restrictions at the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and University of South Australia to distribute to their pathway and international students.

– A $500 emergency cash grant to other international students significantly impacted by the restrictions, currently enrolled in a course, living in South Australia and who meet the criteria

– And a one-off $200 assistance payment per student living with South Australian families provided to homestay families.

Members can register their interest in receiving help here: https://studyadelaide.com/issp

ACT support package for migrant workers

Temporary visa holders and international students affected by COVID-19 who are ineligible for Commonwealth assistance programs, will be able to access more support through a $450,000 ACT Government support package.

Under the new funding package, the RASH Coordination Committee – made up of groups working with asylum seekers including Companion House – will receive $140,000 to provide urgent support to asylum seekers living in Canberra. The Australian Red Cross will also see an extension to their existing emergency support program, receiving $160,000 to assist other temporary visa holders including people on temporary work visas and safe haven enterprise visas. The Red Cross will also work with tertiary institutions to provide $150,000 in ACT Government support to international students who have been impacted by COVID-19 and fallen onto financial hardship.

Contact Companion House: (02) 6251 4550

Contact Red Cross (Canberra): (02) 6234 7600

Victoria support for international students

International students will receive a relief payment of up to $1,100 as part of a Victorian Government emergency support package that will help tens of thousands of people across our state. The fund will provide a one-off payment to students in need while expanding emergency provisions for those experiencing exceptional circumstances.

Up to 40,000 international students enrolled at Victorian universities, TAFEs, private vocational education and training providers and English language colleges who have lost wages and work due to the coronavirus pandemic could benefit from the relief payment, which covers demonstrated lost income up to $1,100.

Members should complete this webform to be notify of when applications open: https://www.studymelbourne.vic.gov.au/help-and-support/support-for-students-coronavirus/support-fund-registration-form

Queensland support for international students

The QLD Government is offering isolation care-packs, pre-prepared meals and other living expense payments to international students. Students aged over 18 will be able to connect with professional support counsellors through a counselling service. A digital platform will link case workers with students to guide them through mental health, visa, crisis accommodation and other essential needs.

Members can access help here: https://www.studyqueensland.qld.gov.au/Live/Student-Support or call 1800 778 839.

Help with navigating hardship provisions

The National Debt Helpline is a not-for-profit service that can assist those who are experiencing financial hardship with free financial counselling and assistance. You can contact the Helpline on 1800 007 007, Monday to Friday, 9.30 am – 4.30 pm. For more information see: https://ndh.org.au/


8. ACCOMMODATION

 

I don’t think I will be able to pay my rent, what can I do?

If you are unable to pay your rent because of the coronavirus, we suggest writing to your landlord to request an extension or ask if they have hardship arrangements they can offer. If you need assistance, your Union can provide a template landlord letter for you here.

At the end of March, the Federal government announced a six month moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus crisis. All states and territories have now passed legislation placing restrictions on evicting tenants who are experiencing hardship due to coronavirus. The restrictions are different in each state and territory.

Tasmania

In Tasmania, renters cannot be evicted for failing to pay rent for during the next 3 months (until 30 June 2020). The Tasmanian government advice to tenants is to continue to pay rent where they can afford to as these emergency period amendments do not provide for a rent holiday. This means that a landlord can try and recover any unpaid rent, and evict tenants, after 30 June 2020. See this fact sheet for more information:

https://www.cbos.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/564063/Factsheet_Changes-to-residential-tenancies-in-Tasmania-COVID-19-Emergency.pdf

NSW

The NSW government passed a regulation on 15 April putting into place a 6 month ban on landlords applying to evict tenants due to rental arrears (if financially disadvantaged by COVID-19), though there are some exceptions for circumstances in which it is held to be ‘fair and reasonable’. There are also new requirements where a household is struggling to make rental payments and has suffered a loss of income equal to or greater than 25 per cent due to COVID-19, there is a new obligation to enter into negotiations with their landlord or managing agent, prior to seeking a forced end to the tenancy. Tenants will be protected from eviction until NCAT is satisfied that negotiations have concluded. Any unpaid rent will accrue as arrears during this period. Residential landlords will be eligible for a land tax waiver or rebate of up to 25 per cent if they passed the saving on to tenants in financial distress.

For more information see: https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/publications/coronavirus-covid-19/property/moratorium

South Australia

The government has passed legislation providing for:

  • a short-term moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent due to severe rental distress as a result of COVID-19
  • prevent landlords from increasing rent
  • allow landlords to use technology such as face-time, live video or time-stamped photos for routine inspections where possible, unless there are exceptional circumstances and sufficient safety measures in place for an inspection in person
  • extend the tenant’s ability to arrange to have repairs carried out by agreement with the landlord
  • provide a general protection for tenants who breach their agreement as a result of complying with a direction under law relating to COVID-19.

For more information see: https://www.cbs.sa.gov.au/rental-advice-due-covid-19

ACT

The ACT Government regulations came into effect on 22 April, and supports tenant under financial duress due to COVID-19 by including a short-term moratorium on evictions, temporary freeze of rental increases and prevention of ‘blacklisting’ as a result of being unable to pay rent.

Landlords in the ACT who reduce rents by at least 25% for tenants impacted by coronavirus will receive a rebate equal to 50 per cent of the rent reduction, capped at $1,300 per quarter (around $100 per week), for up to six months. This will provide rental relief to impacted tenants of up to $200 per week. If you are a tenant in the ACT who has been affected by coronavirus you should talk to your landlord about a rent reduction.

For more information: https://www.covid19.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/1536623/FINAL-Fact-sheet-residential-tenants.pdf

QLD

The Queensland government passed laws on 22 April 2020. The government is implementing a retrospective freeze on evictions, backdated to Sunday 29 March 2020. Property owners will be prohibited from evicting a tenant if their lease expires during COVID-19 public health crisis and must offer an extension to the tenant for at least a further 6 months. Alternatively, if a tenant cannot pay rent due to impacts of coronavirus and wants to end their lease early, they will be allowed to do so. If tenants are having difficulty paying their rent they can apply for a grant of up of up to four weeks rent, or a maximum of $2,000. Applications close at 5pm, 27 April 2020. Members can apply for the grant here: https://www.qld.gov.au/housing/renting/rent-assistance/bond-loan/covid19-rental-grant

Landlords may also be eligible for tax rebates if their tenant is affected by coronavirus.

WA

Legislation was passed on 23 April to put into place the following measures:

  • introduce a moratorium on eviction for six months except in limited circumstances including, for example, if a tenant is causing serious damage to the property or injury to the landlord or a person in adjacent premises; the landlord or tenant is experiencing undue hardship; a tenant is experiencing family violence and the perpetrator needs to be evicted; the tenant abandons the premises; or the agreement is frustrated;
  • prohibit rent increases during the emergency period;
  • provide that any fixed term tenancy agreement due to expire during the emergency period will continue as a periodic agreement;
  • relieve landlords of the obligation to conduct ordinary repairs if the reason they cannot do so is COVID-19 related financial hardship or a lawful restriction on movement; and
  • enable a tenant to end a fixed term tenancy prior to its end date without incurring break lease fees (tenants will still be liable for damage and rent arrears).

For more information see: https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumer-protection/covid-19-coronavirus-consumer-protection-faq

Victoria

Victoria passed rental legislation on 23 April 2020. The package of measures includes rent relief grants of up to $2000, a 25 per cent discount on their land tax for landlords if they provide tenants impacted by the coronavirus crisis with rent relief (with any remaining land tax able to be deferred until March 2021), a temporary ban on evictions and pausing rental increases for six months.

To apply for the rent relief grant you will need to have registered your revised rental agreement with Consumer Affairs Victoria or gone through mediation, have less than $5,000 in savings and still be paying at least 30 per cent of your income in rent. For information on the grant you can email [email protected]

For more information see: https://www.housing.vic.gov.au/help-renting/rentrelief

NT

The Northern Territory Government has not placed a 6 months restriction on evictions. The NT has extended the negotiation period between tenants and landlords on rent from 14 days to 60 days and the notice period for an eviction has also been increased from 14 days to 60.

NT has also introduced new laws for misleading landlords. Under the new laws, deliberately misleading your landlord as to your financial situation is an offence punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment or a $31,400 fine.

For more information see: https://consumeraffairs.nt.gov.au/rental-changes-due-to-covid-19/residential-tenants-affected-by-covid-19

Where can I get help with my tenancy?

If you are having a dispute with your landlord, please contact the following for free legal help: • Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service: www.tenants.org.au

The relevant authority for tenancies:

What if I am homeless?

If you are homeless, please contact Link2Home, open 24/7: 1800 152 152.


9. FOOD

I don’t have enough money to buy groceries or clothes. How can I get help?

‘Ask Izzy’ is an Australia wide online search engine that can let you know where you can access food clothing, shelter and other welfare support near you. You just click the category of help you are looking for (‘food’) and then enter your postcode. The search engine will bring up a list of services that operate in your area. You will then need to contact the service directly – https://askizzy.org.au/

Services will have different eligibility criteria and you will have to check this with them. Generally you must be on a low income or experiencing financial hardship.

If you are unable to access the internet, Foodbank can also put you in touch with services in your area that can provide you with free food/groceries. Foodbank is the largest hunger relief charity in Australia.

NSW/ACT – 02 9756 3099 VIC – 03 9362 8300
QLD – 07 3395 8422
SA – 08 8351 1136
WA – 08 9258 9277
TAS – 03 6274 1052
NT – 08 8947 3669

Note that Foodbank does not directly provide food to individuals. If member can access internet, Ask Izzy should be used.

Vinnies Vans is a free mobile service that supports those experiencing or are at risk of homelessness, marginalisation and social isolation: changes in operations due to Coronavirus, call the free Welfare Assistance Line: 1800 305 330 (Monday– Friday 10:00am to 3:00pm) or https://www.vinnies.org.au/findhelp

For international students in Sydney: https://www.study.sydney/student-welfare/emergency-food-assistance


10. LEGAL HELP

If you have a work related issue, contact your union. Community Legal Centres may be able to provide you with legal assistance on other issues. You can search by state here: http://www.naclc.org.au/


11. DIPLOMATIC ASSISTANCE

How to find the Embassy from your country: https://protocol.dfat.gov.au/Public/MissionsInAustralia (in order to register yourself in case of repatriation, loss of passports).


12. General help for international students

State-based links & information

If you are in NSW, please consult this page: https://www.study.sydney/news-and-stories/news/covid-19-international-student-welfare-support

If you are in Victoria, please consult this page: https://www.studymelbourne.vic.gov.au/news-updates/information-for-international-students-regarding-coronavirus

If you are in Queensland, please consult this page: https://www.studyqueensland.qld.gov.au/Live/Student-Support/Information-COVID-19

If you are in Western Australia, please consult this page: https://studyperth.com.au/

If you are in South Australia, please consult this page: https://studyadelaide.com/whats-happening/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-update-international-students

If you are in Tasmania, please consult this page: https://www.studytasmania.tas.gov.au/

If you are in the NT, please consult this page: https://studynt.nt.gov.au/

If you are in the ACT, please consult this page: https://www.education.act.gov.au/public-school-life/international_students

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