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Students allowed despite Covid policies


Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday that Australia would reimburse visa fees for vaccinated backpackers arriving within the next three months.

The country – whose strict border and pandemic policies have locked down its citizens, and more recently one of tennis’s biggest stars – is encouraging backpackers to visit.

And he’s doing it because he wants to alleviate the labor shortages that have been made worse by Covid-19.

“My message to [backpackers] went down,” Morrison said this week. “You have your visa, we want you to come to Australia and have a holiday here in Australia, move… around the country and at the same time join our hand -work.”

The invitation applies to some 23,500 backpackers who already have a visa to enter Australia as well as “anyone who applies for one and shows up within the next 12 weeks,” Morrison said, via the TV announcement. .

Visas commonly obtained by backpackers – namely subclass 417 and 462 visas, known as “Working Holiday Makers” visas – allow young adults who are not traveling with dependent children to work and travel across Australia for up to a year.

Holders of these visas who arrive before April 19 can apply for a refund of their A$495 ($358) fee, according to the Australian Department of Home Affairs.

International students with visas to study in Australia can also get their A$630 ($453) visa fee refunded if they arrive within the next eight weeks, Morrison said.

Australian universities are currently on summer vacation, with many expected to resume classes between late February and early March.

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This decision is both “a thank you to them for coming back…but we also want them to come here and be able to fill some of these critical labor shortages, especially those working and training in health care, senior care, those types of sectors,” Morrison said.

He said “the crest of this omicron wave is either upon us now or upon us in the states over the next few weeks” and that opening borders to backpackers and students would support Australia with “the challenges facing we will face in the weeks and months to come.”

To entice backpackers and students to get to Australia quickly, the country is launching a $3 million marketing program through its tourism agency, Tourism Australia, Morrison said.

Wanted: travelers who will work

Labor and supply shortages have prompted major Australian supermarkets to reinstate purchasing limits on toilet paper, meat products and medicines.

Steven Saphore | AFP | Getty Images

The need for more help

Vaccinated eligible visa holders, including holders of Working Holiday Makers visas, can enter Australia without applying for a travel exemption from 15 December 2021.

Passengers from Singapore arrive in Sydney, Australia on November 21, 2021. For general tourism purposes, Australia is open to New Zealanders and vaccinated citizens – but not other residents – of Singapore, Japan and from South Korea.

Bai Xuefei | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Working holidaymakers are not required to have specific skills, but they are limited to the types of jobs they can do and where they come from.

Passport holders from 19 countries and territories, including Canada, France, Germany, Taiwan and the United Kingdom, are eligible for subclass 417 visas, while holders of subclass 417 visas class 462 can come from 26 countries, including the United States and Singapore.

A sharp increase in cases

The move to offer financial incentives to backpackers is apparently at odds with the behind-closed-doors tourism policy Australia has had in place for much of the pandemic.

Morrison’s announcement comes as he faces criticism over a rise in Covid-19 cases that has spiked infection and hospitalization rates, and led to a record death toll on Tuesday.

The country, which had few daily cases for much of 2020 and the first half of 2021, now has more than 550,000 active cases, according to the Australian Department of Health.

More than 80% of Australia’s total Covid infections have been detected in the past month.

Carla Gottgens | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Hospitals in the state of Victoria, home to Melbourne, this week moved to “Code Brown” emergency status, a level usually reserved for natural disasters or large-scale accidents, according to local media. This is the first time such a statement has been made statewide, according to local reports.

The Prime Minister’s ratings have plummeted this week, according to Reuters, months ahead of a vote where he will seek re-election.

The poll was taken before he ousted Djokovic from the country, a move popular among Australians.


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