Similar policies have also been debated and introduced in Canada. Canada — which plans to attract a record 401,000 new permanent residents by the end of the year — had already granted more than half of those places to temporary visa holders by the end of August, according to statistics from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. This week, Canada’s Immigration Minister, Marco Mendicino, told Reuters that the country was considering extending the deadline and expanding the eligibility of a program that allows temporary residents working in key sectors to obtain permanent residency. It comes after the government offered 20,000 places specifically to temporary visa holders in the country’s healthcare system.
What about Australia?
The Australian government has introduced some arrangements, including a COVID-19 pandemic event visa that allows holders of temporary visas that are about to expire to extend their stay in Australia. In a statement to the ABC, a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said the government has been working with industry to provide more flexibility in relation to visas and conditions.
“There are a number of temporary visa holders in Australia who have skills that are in high demand, including in health, aged care, agriculture and other essential services,” the spokesperson told the ABC.
“The Australian government recognises, and is grateful to those temporary visa holders who have remained in Australia and contributed to the COVID-19 response, particularly in the healthcare sector.
“Those temporary visa holders who have supported Australia during COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to explore their visa options to stay, and further information is on the department’s website.”
In August, a report by a parliamentary committee into Australia’s skilled migration program was handed to the federal government. It recommended the government use the opportunity of the pandemic to give temporary workers and some international students clearer pathways to permanent residency through the skilled migration program and change the conditions “to provide a pathway to permanent residency for temporary migrants”.
Liberal MP Julian Leeser, who chaired the committee, said more than 500,000 temporary migrants had left Australia during the pandemic and “the lack of skilled migrants, coupled with record low unemployment, have led to major skill shortages in many sectors of the Australian economy”. Kirk Yan, a Melbourne-based migration agent and the organiser of the petition, told the ABC a government change in this area would be significant for the majority of onshore visa holders who see Australia as their home, such as Ms Cao.
“They have made enormous contributions to our communities during the pandemic, and hope the government can improve the policy to recognise them,” Mr Yan said.
Huge challenge finding local workers
Victorian businessman Zank Hu owned four hotels before the pandemic but closed two of them during the sixth lockdown in Melbourne.
One of Mr Hu’s properties in the inner-city operated as a quarantine hotel for medical workers and police officers who tested positive while serving on the frontline.
Mr Hu said nearly all of the 20 workers in his hotel were temporary visa holders, and the difficulty finding local workers was enormous.
“No-one wants to work in a quarantine hotel. The operation was severely understaffed,” Mr Hu told the ABC.
To fill the shortage, Mr Hu was working long hours to deliver food and beverages to guests in more than 70 rooms.
“I had to move at least a tonne of bottled water and deliver them to each room, it was overwhelmingly exhausting.”
Mr Hu said many visa holders who helped his hotel operate during the public health crisis had no capability to plan their future in Australia, and it made them less employable.
“They are not taking jobs from [Australians], but helping to do what Australians don’t normally do,” he said, adding that giving visa holders a pathway for residency would help ensure a stable workforce for Australia’s economic recovery.
Back at the hospital, Ms Cao said her workplace had been facing a shortage of medical workers, leading to huge workloads for nurses in almost every unit.
“Clearly we are not stealing anyone’s job,” she said.
The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.
Article from ABC: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-27/temporary-residents-australia-visa-permanent-residency-petition/100569166?fbclid=IwAR3vhKsKZI1Bo3mjbgwn9G5rVDYZI1ZDyTMhaoWsRj1ijSoT9NHmWjzfIj8
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