Queensland flood and cyclone reconstruction: Australia visa information

Reconstruction in Queensland after the record-
breaking Cyclone Yasi could take considerable time.

The business of reconstructing the areas of Queensland affected by the devastating floods or by Cyclone Yasi has begun in earnest.

Significant flooding occurred in many areas of Queensland during late December 2010 and early January 2011, with three quarters of the state declared a disaster zone. The state was hit yet again with another natural disaster, when a large cyclone struck Far North Queensland last week.

Yesterday, the Queensland Government formally expanded its disaster reconstruction authority established after January's floods to oversee the state's rebuilding after the cyclone devastation.

The Australian Government has also moved to fast track certain Australia Visa categories for workers needed in the recovery, and released information relating to how Australian Working Holiday Visa holders to get involved and use their volunteer or paid work to secure a second visa.

Information for Australia Working Holiday makers wanting to help

Australian Working Holiday Visa holders may choose to volunteer their time to help with the clean up and rebuild following the flood crisis, and they may also seek paid work related to this rebuilding effort.

If the clean up work falls within the definition of "specified work", which includes work in the construction industry such as demolition work or erecting new fences and is conducted in an eligible regional Australia postcode, the work may count towards the 88 days of specified work required in order to be eligible for a second Working Holiday visa.

The specified work need not be paid work as volunteer work also counts towards the specified work requirement.

However, it is important for working holiday makers to remember that metropolitan Brisbane is not included in the Australian immigration definition of regional Australia.

It is unlikely that this will change in the near future, as the government has concerns that if the second WHV regional postcode definition was expanded to include non-regional areas such as metropolitan Brisbane, working holiday visa holders would choose to work in metropolitan areas at the expense of regional Australia. Any review of the definition of regional Australia would have to be undertaken carefully and in consultation with state and territory governments. For a full list of eligible regional postcodes visit the Australian Working Holiday Visas frequently asked questions page.

The following types of work fall under the definition of specified work and may assist with flood cleanup activities in regional Australia:

  • Demolition of buildings;
  • Trench digging;
  • Land clearing and earth moving;
  • Residential and non-residential construction or renovation/repair, including of roads, footpaths, bridges, parking lots, railways, dams, irrigation systems, sewage and storm water drainage systems.

Fast-tracked applications for Australian 457 Visas 

Australian 457 Visas for reconstruction jobs in flood or cyclone affected areas will now be fast-tracked by the Australian Government, providing quick access to skilled overseas labour where there is a local shortage.

The 457 Visa is an employer sponsored visa, which means in order to qualify an employee must have an Australian employer who is willing to sponsor them. There are also other requirements an employee must meet, including having an eligible nominated occupation and English language proficiency.

Under this Australia visa, a wide variety of skilled construction and engineering occupations are available for sponsorship, and employers can sponsor skilled workers for up to four years with no limit on the number of workers they sponsor.

The Australian Immigration department will give these visas priority processing at each stage of the application process and once all the application steps are completed the visa will be processed within five working days.

If your Australian Visa is about to expire 

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) officers are currently visiting areas in Queensland affected by the recent cyclone,  including Tully and Innisfail,  to provide support to temporary visa holders who may be concerned about their immigration status.

“If people in the affected areas hold a visa which is about to expire, or work for a business which has been affected, the department urges them to contact DIAC as soon as possible to discuss their options,” a departmental spokesman said.

- Stephanie Bradley is Content and Communications Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.