COVID-19 and Australian Immigration

Updates on Australian immigration amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic 
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Depart Australia

Temporary Visa Holders

Temporary visa holders to depart Australia at any time 

Following the impact of the COVID-19, temporary visa holders in Australia are now allowed to leave the country at any time, provided border restrictions in their home countries allow.  

 

There is no need for temporary visa holders to have an exemption to depart the country.  

 

Currently, commercial flights are available across several major airports in Australia. Airlines available are as follows: Air India, Air New Zealand, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, United Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Sri Lankan Airlines  

 

According to the Department of Home Affairs, individuals seeking further assistance are advised to contact their embassy or consulate in Australia. The DHA also advises temporary visa holders to constantly stay updated on COVID-19 related changes. 

Permanent Residents

Permanent residents prohibited from leaving unless exempted 

All Australian citizens and permanent residents are prohibited from leaving the country due to COVID-19 restrictions, provided they have an exemption. An exemption must be applied for at least 2 weeks, but not more than 3 months before planned travel.  

 

According to the Department of Home Affairs, to avail an exemption, a person must meet at least one of the following: 

 

  • your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid   

 

  • your travel is essential for the conduct of critical industries and business (including export and import industries)  

 

  • you are traveling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia  

 

  • you are traveling on urgent and unavoidable personal business  

 

  • you are traveling on compassionate or humanitarian grounds   

 

  • your travel is in the national interest.”  

 

Individuals seeking for an exemption must provide substantial evidence to support their claims. Evidence may include the following:  

 

  • passport/s  
  • marriage certificate/s  
  • birth certificate/s  
  • death certificate/s  
  • proof of relationship (for example, shared tenancy agreement, joint bank account etc.)*  
  • proof that you are moving to another country on a long term basis such as leases, job offers and evidence your goods are being transported  
  • proof of your current valid visa, including in Australia and/or overseas  
  • letter from a doctor or hospital about any medical treatment/condition with statements on why travel is necessary  
  • letter from an employer showing why the travel is necessary or that the work undertaken by you is critical  
  • statement or evidence to show when you wish to return to Australia  
  • any other proof you may have to support your claims.  

 

A person is automatically exempted if he or she is one of the following 

 

  • a resident in a country other than Australia  
  • an airline, maritime crew, or associated safety worker 
  • a New Zealand citizen holding a special category visa (subclass 444) who is engaged in the day to day conduct of outbound freight associated with essential work at Australian offshore facilities.  
  • traveling on official government business, including members of the Australian Defence Force 

Enter Australia

Travel Restrictions

Travel restrictions continue amid COVID-19 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia continues to implement strict border measures to safeguard public health and welfare. Travel restrictions continue to commence but are subject to change.  

 

All individuals entering Australia, including Australian citizens, are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period. They may be required to pay for the quarantine fees.  

 

According to the Department of Home Affairs, certain individuals are exempt from travel restrictions and can enter Australia without obtaining an individual exemption provided they are one of the following:   

 

  • an Australian citizen  
  • a permanent resident of Australia  
  • an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident  
  • a New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia and their immediate family members  
  • a diplomat accredited to Australia (holding a subclass 995 visa)  
  • traveller transiting Australia for 72 hours or less 
  • airline crew 
  • maritime crew including marine pilots 
  • recruited under the Government approved Seasonal Worker Program or Pacific Labor Scheme  
  • a holder of a business innovation and investment (subclass 188) visa.  

 

Some individuals may qualify for an exemption to enter Australia, but must apply at least 2 weeksbut not more than 3 months prior to planned travel. Individual exemptions must meet the requirements and qualifications as stated by the Home Affairs and must follow the necessary steps for an application.  

 

According to the Home Affairs, the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force may allow an individual exemption if he or she is one of the following:  

 

  • “a non-citizen travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response 
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations and delivering critical medical supplies 
  • a non-citizen with critical skills or working in a critical sector in Australia 
  • a non-citizen sponsored by your employer to work in Australia in an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) 
  • a non-citizen whose entry would otherwise be in the national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority 
  • military personnel, including those who form part of the Status of Forces Agreement, Commonwealth Armed Forces, Asia Pacific Forces and Status of Armed Forces Agreement 
  • a student completing year 11 and 12, with support from the relevant Australian State or Territory government health authority and education department 
  • travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons.”
Australian Citizen/Permanent Residents/NZ Citizens Usually Reside in Australia

Australian citizens, permanent residents, NZ citizens usually resident in Australia, allowed entry amid COVID-19 

In the middle of ongoing travel restrictions in the country, Australian citizens, permanent residents, and New Zealand citizens usually resident in Australia are all allowed to enter the country provided they undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. These individuals may be asked to pay for the quarantine fee.  

 

According to the Department of Home Affairs, Australian citizens may enter the country without a valid Australian passport in exceptional circumstances. For citizens who urgently need to travel before a passport can be issued are advised to inform their airlines that they are not required to present a visa upon entering Australia. These individuals are also advised to carry identity documents to verify their citizenship.  

 

For New Zealand citizens usually resident in Australia, proof of residency is required at check-in. For any doubts about whether documents fall under the definition of normally resident, the Home Affairs advises to request for an assessment at least two weeks prior to planned travel.  

 

Meanwhile, individuals holding a Refugee and Humanitarian (Class XB) visa, are not considered a permanent resident, unless they have already entered Australia.  

Immediate Family Member of an Australian Citizen/Permanent Resident

Immediate family members allowed entry to Australia 

Immediate family members of Australian citizens or permanent residents can enter the country provided they hold a valid visa and evidence of relationship.  

 

A person is considered an immediate family if he or she is a spouse, de facto partner, dependent child/ren, or legal guardian.  

 

According to the Department of Home Affairs, Partner (subclasses 100, 309, 801, 820) and Child (subclasses 101, 102, 445) visa holders are free to enter the country and do not need to request an exemption to Australia’s travel restrictions.  

 

However, individuals holding a Prospective Marriage Visa (subclass 300), need to request an exemption as an intention to marry is not recognized as sufficient evidence of being an immediate family member of an Australia

Australian Visa Applicants

COVID-19 continues to affect Australian visa applicants

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Home Affairs reminds applicants that a number of services relating to a visa application are still currently down. Some examples of these services include the following: overseas panel doctors, English language testing facilities, biometric collection, and paper application lodgement centers. These services while down, can affect how a visa application can move forward.  

 

Meanwhile, visa medical services are also disrupted. My Health Declarations is currently suspended. However, the department assures applicants that extended timeframes will be considered to compensate for the disruptions. 

 

Furthermore, applications that are under the exempt categories are prioritized to support urgent travels 

 

Home Affairs advises Australian visa applicants to regularly check for updates regarding application regulations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Enter Australia

Travel Restrictions

Travel restrictions continue amid COVID-19 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia continues to implement strict border measures to safeguard public health and welfare. Travel restrictions continue to commence but are subject to change.  

 

All individuals entering Australia, including Australian citizens, are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period. They may be required to pay for the quarantine fees.  

 

According to the Department of Home Affairs, certain individuals are exempt from travel restrictions and can enter Australia without obtaining an individual exemption provided they are one of the following:   

 

  • an Australian citizen  
  • a permanent resident of Australia  
  • an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident  
  • a New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia and their immediate family members  
  • a diplomat accredited to Australia (holding a subclass 995 visa)  
  • traveller transiting Australia for 72 hours or less 
  • airline crew 
  • maritime crew including marine pilots 
  • recruited under the Government approved Seasonal Worker Program or Pacific Labor Scheme  
  • a holder of a business innovation and investment (subclass 188) visa.  

 

Some individuals may qualify for an exemption to enter Australia, but must apply at least 2 weeksbut not more than 3 months prior to planned travel. Individual exemptions must meet the requirements and qualifications as stated by the Home Affairs and must follow the necessary steps for an application.  

 

According to the Home Affairs, the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force may allow an individual exemption if he or she is one of the following:  

 

  • “a non-citizen travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response 
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations and delivering critical medical supplies 
  • a non-citizen with critical skills or working in a critical sector in Australia 
  • a non-citizen sponsored by your employer to work in Australia in an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) 
  • a non-citizen whose entry would otherwise be in the national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority 
  • military personnel, including those who form part of the Status of Forces Agreement, Commonwealth Armed Forces, Asia Pacific Forces and Status of Armed Forces Agreement 
  • a student completing year 11 and 12, with support from the relevant Australian State or Territory government health authority and education department 
  • travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons.”
Australian Citizen/Permanent Residents/NZ Citizens Usually Reside in Australia

Australian citizens, permanent residents, NZ citizens usually resident in Australia, allowed entry amid COVID-19 

In the middle of ongoing travel restrictions in the country, Australian citizens, permanent residents, and New Zealand citizens usually resident in Australia are all allowed to enter the country provided they undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. These individuals may be asked to pay for the quarantine fee.  

 

According to the Department of Home Affairs, Australian citizens may enter the country without a valid Australian passport in exceptional circumstances. For citizens who urgently need to travel before a passport can be issued are advised to inform their airlines that they are not required to present a visa upon entering Australia. These individuals are also advised to carry identity documents to verify their citizenship.  

 

For New Zealand citizens usually resident in Australia, proof of residency is required at check-in. For any doubts about whether documents fall under the definition of normally resident, the Home Affairs advises to request for an assessment at least two weeks prior to planned travel.  

 

Meanwhile, individuals holding a Refugee and Humanitarian (Class XB) visa, are not considered a permanent resident, unless they have already entered Australia.  

Immediate Family Member of an Australian Citizen/Permanent Resident

Immediate family members allowed entry to Australia 

Immediate family members of Australian citizens or permanent residents can enter the country provided they hold a valid visa and evidence of relationship.  

 

A person is considered an immediate family if he or she is a spouse, de facto partner, dependent child/ren, or legal guardian.  

 

According to the Department of Home Affairs, Partner (subclasses 100, 309, 801, 820) and Child (subclasses 101, 102, 445) visa holders are free to enter the country and do not need to request an exemption to Australia’s travel restrictions.  

 

However, individuals holding a Prospective Marriage Visa (subclass 300), need to request an exemption as an intention to marry is not recognized as sufficient evidence of being an immediate family member of an Australia

Australian Visa Applicants

COVID-19 continues to affect Australian visa applicants

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Home Affairs reminds applicants that a number of services relating to a visa application are still currently down. Some examples of these services include the following: overseas panel doctors, English language testing facilities, biometric collection, and paper application lodgement centers. These services while down, can affect how a visa application can move forward.  

 

Meanwhile, visa medical services are also disrupted. My Health Declarations is currently suspended. However, the department assures applicants that extended timeframes will be considered to compensate for the disruptions. 

 

Furthermore, applications that are under the exempt categories are prioritized to support urgent travels 

 

Home Affairs advises Australian visa applicants to regularly check for updates regarding application regulations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Visa Extension

Temporary Visa Holders

Visitor Visa

Conditions on Visitor visa holders amid COVID-19 

Due to travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Home Affairs recognizes the inability of international visitors from departing the country. With this, the following visa conditions may apply:  

 

No Further Stay Condition (includes 8503, 8534, and 8535)  

  • Visa holders with this condition cannot apply for most other visas in Australia unless the condition is waived. If a request to waive this condition is granted, a person must apply for a new visa before current visa ceases.  

 

Condition 8531 (must not remain in Australia after stay period ends)  

  • Visa holders with this condition must apply before current visa expires. This condition cannot be waived but does not prevent a person from applying for further visa.  

 

Condition 8558 (can’t stay in Australia for more than 12 months in any 18-month period)  

  • Visa holders with this condition will have their visa ceaseonce permitted stay period is finished. However, the visa may not automatically cease if a holder has stayed in Australia for a cumulative period of more than 12 months in an 18-month period provided the holder did not exceed stay period on any single visit. 

 

 

Visitor visas and Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) are only applicable for temporary stay in Australia. Under Australian laws, Visitor visas and ETAs are not possible to extend. Holders must apply for a new visa before their current one expires.  

 

However, if the holder can support himself, he or she can remain in Australia as a visitor (tourist stream).  

 

For individuals whose visitor visa is expiring yet cannot return to home country due to travel restrictions, and are not eligible for another visa, they may be qualified for the COVID-19 Pandemic event visa. Applicants for this visa must prove their inability to qualify for another visa.  

 

Visitor Visa and ETA holders who are unable to support themselves can make arrangements to depart the country without the need for a travel exemption. 

Student Visa

Australia provides a range of support to int’l students  

In pursuit of being a ‘welcoming destination’ for international students, the Australian government has announced a wide array of visa measures to support international students in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

 

According to the Department of Home Affairs, international students no longer have to pay a student visa application fee. This is applicable to student visa holders who had their visas on or after 1 February 2020 but could not complete their course within their original visa validity because of the effects of the COVID-19.  

 

Meanwhile, requirement changes have also been implemented to the Temporary Graduate Visa (subclass 485) for those impacted by the COVID-19.  

 

Online study done outside Australia due to COVID-19 travel restrictions will still count as part of the Australian Study Requirement for existing and new student visa holders.  

 

Furthermore, graduates affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions will be able to apply for and be granted a Temporary Graduate visa outside Australia (where they have met all the requirements), according to the Department of Home Affairs. However, this change is not yet in effect.  

 

According to the Home Affairs, a student will not be in breach of his or her visa conditions if they have an approved course deferral or are studying online.  

 

Some student visa holders are also allowed to work more than 40 hours per fortnight if they meet the following conditions:  

  • employed in the health sector, enrolled in a health related course (such as nursing or medicine) and are directed by a health official to assist in the effort against COVID‑19 
  • employed in aged care by an Approved Provider or Commonwealth-funded aged care service provider before 8 September 2020 
  • employed by a registered National Disability Insurance Scheme provider before 23 April 2020. 

Other visa support measures for international students include flexible time frames for additional information such as English tests, biometrics, and health; and offshore visa grants, provided conditions are met.

Subclass 482 & Subclass 457

TSS, Temporary Work visa holders during COVID-19 

According to the Department of Home AffairsTemporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) and Temporary Work (subclass 457) visa holders who have been stood down but not laid off due to the COVID-19 will still maintain a valid visa. As per normal arrangements, businesses will have the opportunity to extend visa stay.  

 

However, if the visa holder has been laid off or is currently unemployed, he or she must find another employer within 60 days, or make arrangements to depart the country where this is possible.  

 

If the visa holder is unable to return to home country due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, he or she must maintain a valid visa and follow Australia’s health advice.  

 

Meanwhile, Home Affairs stated that temporary work visa holders currently employed in COVID-19 critical sectors may be eligible for a Temporary Activity Visa (subclass 408) Australian Government Endorsed Agreement Event Stream (COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa).  

 

Critical sectors include health care, aged and disability care, childcare, and agriculture and food processing.  

 

For those not working in a critical sector and are not eligible to apply for another visa, they may qualify for a Temporary Activity Visa (subclass 408) Australian Government Endorsed Agreement Event Stream under the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa.  

 

To qualify for this visa, one must justify why unable to meet requirements for another visa. 

Working Holiday Maker

Working Holiday Maker Visa Updates

Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa holders can add critical COVID-19 work in healthcare and medical sectors as part of their ‘specified work,’ to apply for a second or third WHM, says the Department of Home Affairs.  

 

The work must have been undertaken anywhere in Australia after 31 January 2020.  

 

WHM visas cannot be extended, but if a holder has completed three or six months of specified work in Australia, he or she may be eligible to apply for a second or third WHM visa.  

 

For holders who are not eligible to apply for a second or third WHM visa, the Home Affairs advises to apply for another visa to lawfully stay in Australia. A bridging visa may be granted as a temporary visa while waiting for a decision on a visa application.  

 

Meanwhile, WHM conditions may apply as per the following:  

 

Visa condition 8547 – six-month work limitation with one employer.  

  • The Department of Home Affairs grants permission to workers from the critical sectors to work for one employer more than six months. Critical sectors include agriculture, food processing, health and medical care, aged care, disability care, and childcareGenerally, WHM visas are limited to only six months’ work with one employer.  

 

If a WHM visa is expiring, holders may qualify for the COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa provided they are not working in a critical sector, are not qualified for another visa, and are unable to return to their home country due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions. Applicants must demonstrate why they can’t meet requirements for another visa.  

Seasonal Worker

Seasonal Workers amid COVID-19

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Home Affairs has given out guidelines for Seasonal Workers as follows:  

 

Subclass 403 visa holders in the Pacific Labour Scheme  

  • Holders of this visa can apply for another 403 visa in the Pacific Labour Scheme where applicant and employer are endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This visa allows the holder to lawfully stay in the country and continue working until holder can return to home country.  

 

Subclass 403 visa holders in the Seasonal Worker Program 

  • This visa cannot be extended but workers in the critical sectors may be eligible for a Temporary Activity (subclass 408) Australian Government Endorsed Event (AGEE) stream visa (COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa).  

 

Working for Another Employer 

  • Unless the Department of Home Affairs allows the visa holder to change, workers in the Season Worker Program or Pacific Labour Scheme are only allowed to work for one Sponsor/Approved employer.  

 

     But within the COVID-19 period, holders may move between sponsors/approved employers provided their employers contact the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade first depending on the category of the visa holder.  

 

Visa Condition 8503 (No Further Stay)  

  • Subclass 403 visa holders in the Seasonal Worker Program will have this condition automatically waived to allow application for the COVID-19 Pandemic event visa. There is no need to apply for a waiver.  

SCV holders eligible to Australian support

According to the Department of Home Affairs, New Zealand citizens protected by a Special Category Visa (SCV) who meet all necessary requirements, are eligible for all welfare payments including Job Seeker and Job Keeper payments.  

 

Based on the Home Affairs, a person is a protected SCV New Zealand citizen if he or she falls under one of these conditions:  

 

  • In Australia on 26 February 2001 
  • in Australia for 12 months in the 2 years immediately before this date  
  • assessed as a protected SCV by Services Australia holder before 26 February 2004. 

 

For individuals not protected by an SCV and instead are holding a TY444 Visa, they are still eligible to receive Job Keeper payments through one employer.  

Bridging Visas

Bridging Visas allow temp stay for pending visa decisions

Bridging Visa A, B, or C holders are granted a temporary stay in Australia while waiting for existing visa application or review to be processed.  

 

Some bridging visas also allow holders to work depending on the conditions. If a bridging visa does not allow work, a person can apply for another bridging visa that does. However, this is only applicable in special circumstances where the holder can demonstrate financial hardship. 

 

Meanwhile, the Department of Home Affairs reminds people who do not have any pending immigration decisions yet cannot go back to their home country due to the COVID-19, to apply for a new Australian visa to lawfully stay in the country.  

 

If a person cannot apply for other visas and has become unlawful, applying for a Bridging Visa E as soon as possible will allow the person to lawfully stay in Australia so arrangements to leave the country can be done as soon as possible.  

 

For people who depart Australia as unlawful non-citizens, may be excluded from returning to Australia for a period of time. This can also affect future Australian visa applications.

Regional Visa

Skilled Regional (Provisional) Visa Updates

According to the Department of Home Affairs, starting 19 September 2020, COVID 19 concessions will be available for eligible prospective Skilled regional (subclass 887) visa applicants. This is to compensate for the disadvantages brought by the COVID-19 such as border closuresrestrictions imposed on businesses and economic downturn.  

Expiring Visa Holders

Expiring visa holders 

For expiring visa holders within 28 days, the Department of Home Affairs advises to apply for a Bridging Visa E (BVE) immediately to temporarily stay in Australia lawfully until an immigration decision is done on a pending visa application.  

 

However, Home Affairs reminds visa applicants of some impacted services such as biometric collection and medical checks that could delay an application. Because of the COVID-19, services are increasingly unavailable.  

COVID-19 Visa Concessions

Australian gov’t provides concessions for COVID-19 impacted visa holders

Following the impacts of the COVID-19 to visa holders in the country, the Australian government has provided several visa concessions starting 19 September 2020.  

 

These concessions, according to the Department of Home Affairs, are meant to help visa holders continue their pathway if impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic such as border closures, business restrictions, and economic downturn.  

 

Furthermore, Home Affairs stated that the concession period commences from 1 February 2020 and is an interim arrangement.  

 

Individuals who held or hold the following visas as listed below during the COVID-19 concession period, may be eligible for a COVID-19 concession.  

 

Skilled Regional (Subclass 887) visa 

Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent)(Subclass 888) visa 

Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional)(Subclass 188) visa 

Safe Haven Enterprise (Subclass 790) visa 

Temporary Graduate (Subclass 485) visa  

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