The Hunter is expected to be among the nation’s regional areas to welcome more overseas workers this year.
In a bid to provide struggling farmers with more support, the Federal Government is adopting a more flexibility approach to temporary visa holders during COVID-19.
Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said the changes mean student visa holders will be permitted to work more than the usual 40 hours per fortnight limit during semesters if they are working in the agriculture sector.
“This builds on changes earlier this year for international students working in the health and aged care sector, and demonstrates the government’s commitment to supporting Australian farmers and visa holders wishing to take on more work while they live and study here,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Many regions are expecting bumper crops this year, but with COVID-19 travel restrictions international movement, there still aren’t enough workers available.
“This complements a range of other workforce measures we are delivering to support farmers this harvest season,” Minister Littleproud said.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke said the changes would not just give temporary visa holders the ability to earn more income, they would also help farmers this harvest season and avoid food going to waste.
“Australians will always get priority for jobs under this Government, but we’re listening to farmers who have been clear that they need many more workers, and they need them now,” Minister Hawke said.
“These temporary visa holders are already in Australia, many do not want to or cannot go home and they will be greatly valued in the agriculture sector.
“It will also be easier for temporary visa holders to access the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa, if they choose to work in the agriculture sector,” Minister Hawke said.
They can now apply for the COVID-19 visa up to 90 days before their existing visa runs out and they do not need to demonstrate their attempts to depart Australia. More than 5,600 COVID-19 Pandemic event visas have already been granted to support the agriculture sector since they were made available in April 2020.
Harvest Trail Services, administered by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, will assist temporary visa holders to find harvest work, while continuing its focus on linking Australian jobseekers with jobs in regional horticulture areas.
More information on the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa is available at the Department of Home Affairs website.