Equal Financial Support for Temporary Visa Holders in a COVID-19 Australia.

Equal Financial Support for Temporary Visa Holders in a COVID-19 Australia.

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Following the announcement today by Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, that JobKeeper payments would be extended until March 2021 for all Australian Residents, but no mention or thought given to Temporary Resident/Visa Holders, the time has come to take a united stand in face of what is a clear breach of our human rights as tax paying members of this country. 

According to the Australian Parliament website as at 31 March 2020, there were 2.17 million temporary visa holders in Australia.

I have no doubt many included in the above figure will have had to quickly pack up and leave the country in the early stages of this pandemic when no support was provided. This isn’t something however that everyone is capable of simply doing for a multitude of reasons. We all have differing and unique circumstances of our own. But those who remain are unemployed & not eligible for jobseeker. Stood down while those on the Jobkeeper payment are put to work. Furthermore, we all have no idea of where our next pay check may come from.  We are now (Especially in Melbourne currently in a stage 3 lockdown) amounting more and more crippling debts. We are scared, hungry, penniless and some cases completely alone.

Please join me in spreading the word so you know you are not alone. All we wish for is to be aknowledged as equal residents of a country struggling through a global pandemic. Is that too much to ask? 

Below is an account of my story written 6 weeks ago. I would love to hear yours too. 

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To whom it may concern, 

This is the first time I have emailed a Local/State/Federal MP since I moved to Australia over 4 & 1/2 years ago, so I’m not entirely sure how this goes. I am reaching out to air some discontent regarding the treatment of Temporary Visa Holders currently living permanently in Australia, but I’ll start by introducing myself & my circumstances.

My names is Sam Hearn, I am a 27 year old British National. I have been calling Australia my home since January 2016 having legally resided here on 2, 1 year working holiday visa’s, 2 years on a 457 Skilled Workers VISA & soon to be a further 2 years on a 482 Temporary Skilled Shortages Visa. Since living in Australia I have been working 45 hours a week in the Hospitality Industry & paying my taxes to the full, like that of an Australian Resident. I have leased several houses across the city of Melbourne, never being arrears of rent, held positive accounts with several utility providers & banks, all the while putting my annual earnings directly back into the Australian Economy.

I am currently employed in a role which I held for roughly 2 years on a working holiday visa, after which I was subsequently sponsored in this role as the business deemed my skills to be greater than that of which the Australian job market was able to provide. I have paid in full, without delay, for all of the Visa’s I have held & I am currently awaiting the approval of a 482 visa.

Since COVID-19 and Scott Morrison’s announcement that temporary visa holders are not classed as Australians, myself along with a lot of my close friends & family around me (on a mixture of Skilled worker, working holiday & student visa’s) have struggled financially as there is zero support for the government we’ve been paying our taxes to. Despite the fact we were told to go home, it isn’t as simple as that. We have built our lives here over many years, paying for our visas and being elected for sponsorship through our employers. To leave everything you’ve invested in after contributing to the growing economy through work and leisure, how is it expected to forfeit our established lives, homes, families and belongings without anything in return. No one to purchase our furniture or take over our leases and

From the start, we have not been provided with any support from a government level to enable us to get through this incredibly tough time. We are not eligible for job keeper or job seeker & as I was just informed, we are not eligible to apply for early release of our Super annuation in the financial year of 2020 - 2021, only Australian Residents. We were eligible to access our Super for the previous financial year but given the further lack of support, this money has quickly been spent on rent, utilities & further costs which are associated with day to day living and remaining afloat.

With temporary visa holders getting no support, losing jobs, or in my case being stood down for 11 weeks without pay, not having the support of job keeper or job seeker, it makes it hard for us to regain/resume employment as we are classed as an extra expense to the business through which we seek employment. The difficulty we face, myself included, even as a FT Member of Staff, is that as long as the jobseeker remains in place for Australian residents & not temporary visa holders we will sufffer. Australians being paid from the government funds set up, regardless of their skill set, ability, prior experience or history with the business, will be utilised as “free labour” in order to allow said business to emerge from this pandemic alive. Companies nationwide will also not wish to be seen to be as ones to be making people of any nationality, let alone Australians on Jobkeeper unemployed during a pandemic.  All the while temporary visa holders will struggle to find employment & be unable to sign on to jobseeker to offset their loss in income but continued living expenses.

A couple examples below are countries, local allies to Australia, supporting businesses & people alike made unemployed due to the pandemic. The only qualification being simply that you were legally residing & working in said countries, regardless of your nationality or visa type. Also below is an article highlight evidence of an excess of government money in the Jobkeeper budget which could be used in order to support temporary visa holders 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-which-employees-you-can-put-on-furlough-to-use-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/covid-19/wage-subsidy/who-can-get-it.html#null

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-22/jobkeeper-numbers-cut-by-3-million-businesses-accounting-bungle/12277488

I myself have returned to work 3 days a week now, but I am again finding it tougher as the weeks go by and the uncertainty remains to keep up with my outgoings. This is beginning to affect mine and no doubt a lot of peoples mental & physical health, relationships Should the government, state or federal shut down the cities or suburbs again like we are beginning to see, I will once again as the Venue Manager of a successful cocktail bar & restaurant out of work, as being exempt from Jobkeeper means I serve as an unnecessary cost to the business over an Australian Resident supported by the Government.

In emailing across my account of things happening around me I know I also speak on behalf of millions of temporary visa holders, from every industry, every walk of life who call Australia their home. We are feeling very let down by the system which we have supported and provided to collectively for many years.

We all wish for something to change in order for the government support to rightfully apply to us and to enable us to stay and support this country in bouncing back from this. My two main questions are the following;

Why did the government take the stance of supporting only Australian residents, more so now following an announcement they miscalculated the budget spend on Jobkeeper payments, despite other countries providing support for Australian Residents residing in their countries?

Why are Non Residents excluded from accessing our Super Annuation Funds in the financial year of 2020 – 2021 when we are also suffering from the same financial hardship as Australian Citizens?

Thank you for taking your time to read my account.

Look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards

Sam Hearn
British National & Skilled Worked Temporary Visa Holder
Sam.hearn@hotmail.co.uk