Tens of thousands of temporary migrants will be forced to apply for a different visa or leave the country after the federal government announced it was shutting down a special COVID-era visa program that was believed to be being widely abused.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles announced on Thursday that the 408 pandemic event visa would be closed to all new applicants from Friday, with only existing visa holders able to apply for short-term extensions.
The government used a short time frame to prevent a flood of new applications.
Figures released earlier this month by the Department of Home Affairs showed that almost 60,000 international students and temporary workers were using the permit to extend their stay in Australia, even though the conditions that led to the creation of the visa no longer existed.
The department issued 65,859 pandemic visas from June 2022 to March, including almost 27,000 in the first three months of this year, despite international borders starting to reopen in November 2021.
“The pandemic event visa was an important part of Australia’s visa system during the pandemic,” Giles said.
“Many people on temporary visas helped Australia during this period.
“We’re providing an opportunity for people who hold a pandemic event visa to explore another visa option, or plan to leave Australia.”