Visa fee rebates to foreign students, backpackers

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference following a national cabinet meeting, at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, January 13, 2022. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

The Australian Government hopes to lure students and backpackers Down Under with the promise of visa application fee rebates, worth $630.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the scheme on Wednesday morning, with visa application fees for students who arrive from today to be subject to rebates.

The rebates will be available for the next eight weeks, Morrison said, noting there were around 150,000 students with visas who would be eligible.

The rebates will be processed through the Department of Home Affairs.

“That [rebate] is a ‘thank you’ to them for coming back and continuing to choose Australia,” Morrison said.

“But we also want them to come here and be able to fill some of these critical workforce shortages, particularly those who are working and being trained in health care, aged care – those types of sectors. That will be incredibly helpful.”

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Foreigners with backpacker visas would also be eligible for rebates for their visa application fees, with 23,500 backpackers already eligible, Morrison said.

“My message to them is, ‘Come on down’,” he said.

“Come on down now because you wanted to come to Australia, you got your visa. We want you to come to Australia and enjoy a holiday here in Australia, move all the way around the country and, [at] the same time, join our workforce and help us in our agricultural sector, in our hospitality sector, and so many of the other parts of the economy that rely on that labour.”

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The visa rebate scheme is expected to cost $55 million.

Tourism Australia will also receive a $3 million boost, to market Australia to backpackers and students.

It comes as Australia experiences a damaging worker shortage as Omicron’s rapid spread threatens to force as many as 10 per cent of workers, or 1.3 million into isolation and quarantine.

Unions have threatened to strike over concerns that lack of access to rapid antigen tests (RATs) is fostering unsafe workplaces.