Federal budget lifts cap on working hours for international students working in hospitality and tourism

May 11, 2021
By Ioni Doherty

Student visa holders employed in hospitality and tourism have had restrictions on their working hours lifted under a new measure included in the federal budget.

The cap on international students’ working hours will be lifted if they are employed in hospitality and tourism.

Media reports suggest that around 300,000 students in Australia who currently have a 40-hour fortnightly limit on their working hours while they are studying, according to government estimates.

The government is removing the existing cap for student visa holders employed in these industries and the move has been welcomed by the Australian Hotels Association.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke says, “Government has listened carefully to the states, territories and industry and is introducing these changes to support critical sectors for Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery.”

Mr Hawke said the tourism and hospitality sectors employ more than half a million Australians and these changes will help businesses supplement their existing workforce. Hospitality and tourism will now also be classified as critical industries alongside. 

The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) and Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) have welcomed the changes to visa holder conditions, which will alleviate workforce shortages in Australia’s accommodation hotels and hospitality businesses.

AHA CEO Stephen Ferguson said the Federal Government had heeded calls from industry about the growing problems associated with worker shortages and have responded with common-sense measures.

“Employing Australians is always our first preference, but permitting student visa holders to work more hours and allowing temporary visa holders to work in the tourism and hospitality sector under the COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa will help ensure businesses across Australia have access to the workforce they need,” Ferguson said.

“With reports that some hotels, bars, pubs and taverns have been reducing hours or even closing due to a lack of available staff, today’s announcement will be welcome relief for many.”

“The surge we have seen in domestic tourism is fantastic, however for it to continue we need to have enough people to pour beers, serve meals and service hotel rooms – providing flexibility to allow visa holders to do this work is essential.”

Mr Ferguson also welcomed the $10m in spending on regulatory technology solutions for modern award obligations.

“Anything which makes it easier for employees and employers alike to navigate the 126-page Hospitality Award is a welcome move. This measure will make it easier and cheaper to navigate complex awards, make it easier to hire and reduce unintended payment errors,” he said. 

The AHA and TAA welcomed other Federal Budget measures including: 

  • Temporary full expensing extended for 12 months to allow eligible businesses with aggregated annual turnover or total income of less than $5b, to deduct the full cost of eligible depreciable assets of any value. 
  • Temporary loss carry-back extended for 12 months
  • Aviation support continuing  
  • JobTrainer extended
  • Boosting Australian Commencement wage subsidy extended 
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