Temporary relaxation of working hours for student visa holders

Student visa holder work restrictions have been further relaxed for those working in supermarkets, or associated distribution facilities located in an area impacted by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, for the duration of the lockdown.

This relaxation of conditions are added to those of the aged care and NDIS providers, health care, agricultural, tourism and hospitality sectors.

The Government will remove existing work hour caps for Student Visa holders employed in the tourism and hospitality sector. A 40 hour fortnightly limit previously applied during study periods.

In addition, temporary visa holders will be able to access the 408 COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa for a period of 12 months if they work in the tourism and hospitality sector. This decision adds tourism and hospitality to the critical sectors of agriculture, food processing, health care, aged care, disability care and child care for eligibility for this visa subclass.

COVID-19 has introduced a lot of changes into migration law. One of the latest changes to the law is the relaxation of working hours for student visa holders. Together with the Australian Border Force, the Department of Home Affairs will be taking a flexible approach to student visa holders working beyond the usual work limitations in certain fields.

Student visa holders are not allowed to work for more than 40 hours per fortnight (8105 condition- work rights) as part of the visa condition. However, there is now a temporary relaxation of the rules in certain circumstance.

You can work for ​more than 40 hours a fortnight if you are:

  • employed by an aged care Approved Provider or Commonwealth-funded aged care service provider with a RACS ID or a NAPS ID
  • employed by a registered National Disability Insurance Scheme provider (NDIS)
  • enrolled in a health care related course and you are supporting the health effort against COVID-19, as directed by health officials
  • employed in the agriculture sector
  • employed in the tourism and hospitality sector
  • in a supermarket, or associated distribution facility, located in an area impacted by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions for the duration of the lockdown.
How to determine if you are working in agriculture or tourism and hospitality sectors?

The sectors are defined using the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) system.

For the tourism and hospitality sector, the definition also includes work for employers whose primary purpose is to directly provide a service to tourists, when their activities are not listed in the Division of Accommodation and Food Services under the ANZSIC system.

We have summarised the groups of work that belong to Agriculture, Tourism and Hospitality based on ANZIC for your reference as below

Agriculture Nursery and Floriculture Production Nursery Production (Under Cover)
Nursery Production (Outdoors)
Turf Growing
Floriculture Production (Under Cover)
Floriculture Production (Outdoors)
Mushroom and Vegetable Growing Mushroom Growing
Vegetable Growing (Under Cover) Vegetable Growing (Outdoors)
Fruit and Tree Nut Growing Grape Growing
Kiwifruit Growing
Berry Fruit Growing
Apple and Pear Growing
Stone Fruit Growing
Citrus Fruit Growing
Olive Growing
Other Fruit and Tree Nut Growing
Sheep, Beef Cattle and Grain Farming Sheep Farming (Specialised)
Beef Cattle Farming (Specialised)
Beef Cattle Feedlots (Specialised)
Sheep-Beef Cattle Farming
Grain-Sheep or Grain-Beef Cattle Farming
Rice Growing
Other Grain Growing
Other Crop Growing Sugar Cane Growing
Cotton Growing
Other Crop Growing n.e.c.
Dairy Cattle Farming Dairy Cattle Farming
Poultry Farming Poultry Farming (Meat)
Poultry Farming (Eggs)
Deer Farming Deer Farming
Other Livestock Farming Horse Farming
Pig Farming
Beekeeping
Other Livestock Farming n.e.c.
Accommodation and Food Services Accommodation Accommodation
Food and Beverage Services Cafes, Restaurants and Takeaway Food Services
Cafes and Restaurants
Takeaway Food Services
Catering Services
Pubs, Taverns and Bars
Clubs (Hospitality)
Employers whose primary purpose is to directly provide a service to tourists

​NDIS providers

There is no requirement for NDIS providers to register with the Department of Home Affairs. These providers should see the letter provided to them by the NDIS Commission for further details. See a list of NDIS providers​.

Employers​

Employers must continue to follow Australian workplace law. Overseas workers, including international students, have the same rights under Australian workplace law as all other employees.

These temporary measures will be reviewed by the government regularly. Employers will be advised when these measures no longer apply.

While these measures are in place, the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force will:

  • exercise their discretion under s116(1)(b) of the Migration Act 1958 to not cancel the visas of students who work in excess of 40 hours each fortnight to support your organisation
  • not refer student visa holders for investigation of any potential offence under s235 of the Migration Act 1958 that might relate to the hours worked by a student visa holder in breach of their visa conditions
  • not refer you or relevant third-party labour hire companies, as an employer, for investigation of any potential offence under s245AC of the Migration Act 1958 that might relate to allowing a student visa holder to work in breach of their visa co​ndi​tions.​​

Whilst there is a relaxation of the rules, employers are still expected to follow Australian employment law.

Students who intend to work more than 40 hours per fortnight should discuss an arrangement with the employer. Students are not required to place an application to work more hours.

During this period, Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force will exercise their discretion not to cancel a student visa if they work more than 40 hours per fortnight.

Previous update: Student visa holders able to work more hours

Student visas are subject to condition 8104 or 8105, which allow limited work in Australia. Under these conditions:

  • You (and your dependants, if any) can only work after you have commenced your course
  • You (and your dependants, if any) must adhere to the work hour restrictions set out in your visa conditions.

Student work hour restrictions

Student type When course is in session When course isn’t in session
Coursework students who have started their degree 40 hours per fortnight Unlimited hours
Graduate researchers who have started their degree Unlimited hours N/A
AusAwards or Defence students 40 hours per fortnight Unlimited hours

Dependent work hour restrictions

Dependent type When course is in session When course isn’t in session
Dependants of student visa holders enrolled in a Master or Doctorate degree Unlimited hours N/A
Dependents of all other student visa holders 40 hours per fortnight N/A

Voluntary work

One way to gain work experience and professional skills is to work as a volunteer. Hours spent volunteering will not count towards your student visa work hour limits, if:

  • your main purpose in Australia continues to be your studies (and any work remains a secondary activity)
  • the work is genuinely voluntary, and would not otherwise be undertaken by an Australian resident as employment
  • the activities are for a non-profit organisation and no remuneration (in cash or kind) is received in return.

For more information, see the Fair Work Ombudsman fact sheet on unpaid work.

More information

A fortnight is a 14-day period which starts on a Monday and ends on a Sunday. You may not work more than 40 hours during any fortnight.

For example, if you worked the following hours:

  • Week 1: 10 hours
  • Week 2: 30 hours
  • Week 3: 20 hours
  • Week 4: 20 hours

You would have worked more than 40 hours during the second fortnight (weeks 2 and 3) and would be in breach of visa conditions.

Your course is considered in session:

  • For the duration of advertised semesters, including examination periods (even if you do not have any exams) and mid-semester breaks
  • Any time you are enrolled in one or more subjects which will count as credit towards your main course.

To find out the Semester 1 and Semester 2 dates, as well as the examination period dates, see your University/college dates page.

Many organisations across Australia, including employers, recruitment agencies and banks, can also check your work conditions after getting your consent.

If someone wants to you to verify your work rights, provide them with a copy of your visa grant letter or a link to Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO).

Working in Australia after you graduate

If you’re interested in staying in Australia to work after you graduate, you’ll need to get a new working visa before your student visa expires. As a graduated international student you may be eligible for:

Extended Hours for Students Working in the Agriculture Industry

On Tuesday, 05 January 2021, the Morrison Government announced the relaxation of the 40 hours per fortnight rules applicable to student visa holders. Students working in the agriculture sector will be permitted to work for more than the usual 40 hours per fortnight limit during the semester.

This change is due to the lack of workforce available to support farmers in Australia. Traditionally, there would be many WHM who would work in the agriculture industry during harvest season, however COVID-19 has halted international movements and foreign workers are unable to travel to Australia. Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke said that 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.

Temporary visa holders can also apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa up to 90 days before their current visa runs out. Applicants are also not required to show the inability to depart from Australia. The government has stated that it will be easier for temporary visa holders to be granted the COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa if they choose to work in the agriculture sector.

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