COVID-19 Travel and Visa Updates

Summary

  • Australian citizens and residents are currently banned from international travel with limited exceptions

  • The Australian government is still accepting and processing visa and citizenship applications

  • All arrivals into Australia currently face a mandatory 14-day quarantine at their point of entry

Travel & Visa Updates

A summary from the Emergico Visa Team

For real-time updates, please refer to the Department of Home Affairs

1st August 2020

COVID-19 Overview

Here’s an overview of situation as it relates to travel and visas in Australia as of the beginning of August 2020. The information on this page is of a general nature and may not be applicable to you. If you’d like to talk with us about your personal situation, we strongly recommend you book a consultation with our team.

Click a subject to be taken to the relevant information, or scroll down.

Visa holders in Australia
Citizens & Visa holders outside Australia
Visa applicants
Travel guide
Citizenship

Visa holders in Australia

If you’re living in Australia without Australian citizenship, it’s important that you understand the rights and limitations of your visa.

Permanent visa holders

People in Australia with active permanent residency are able to stay in the country indefinitely.  Do be aware that the travel facility component of your visa is separate to your residency rights, and usually expires after a five year period.  In that situation, you will need to secure a Resident Return Visa in order to re-enter Australia at a later date.  We can assist with this application, which will restore your re-entry rights.

Temporary visa holders

There are range of different temporary visas, and if you’re currently in Australia and hold one, your situation will depend on the nature and validity period of your visa.  You should also be aware of any conditions attached to your visa which may impact your eligibility for residency and future applications.

Holders of Bridging visas A, B or C will typically be waiting for a decision on an existing application for an alternative visa.  If you leave Australia holding a Bridging visa A or C, it will cease when you depart, and a new visa will be needed to facilitate re-entry.

Bridging visa B (‘BVB’) applications are still being accepted and processed by the Department of Home Affairs, however re-entry into Australia is subject to travel restrictions and holding a BVB does not guarantee entry.  Keep in mind that it is not possible to apply for a BVB outside Australia.  If you need to apply for one, we encourage you to book a consultation with us to discuss.

Bridging visa E allows holders to stay in Australia while making arrangements to leave, or to wait for an immigration decision.  If it expires before you leave Australia, an application for a replacement should be made before it expires.

As a Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) or Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa holder, if you have been stood down (but not laid off) due to COVID-19, you will maintain a valid visa.  Your sponsoring employer can reduce your hours without putting you in breach of your visa conditions or breaching their own obligations.  You may also be able to access up to $10,000 of your Australian superannuation.  Click here for more information.

Visa holders who have been laid off and are without employment need to find alternative sponsored employment within 60 days or make arrangements to leave Australia, if possible.  If this is not possible, you’ll need to apply for an alternative visa, such as a Visitor visa, to maintain lawful residency.

If you happen to be working in a critical sector (health care, aged and disability care, childcare or agriculture and food processing) you may be eligible to apply for a Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408), via the COVID-19 Pandemic stream.

The Australian government have announced a range of visa measures to support international students and graduates.  Not all measures are available yet, as they require legislative amendments.

If the COVID-19 restrictions have precented you meeting your existing Student visa conditions, you will not be considered in breach if you have an approved course deferral or you are studying online.

Additionally, the restriction of 40 hours work per fortnight is currently waived if you are employed in the health sector, enrolled in a health related course (e.g. nursing or medicine) and are directed by a health official to assist in the effort against COVID-19.  If you are employed in aged care by an Approved Provider or Commonwealth-funded aged care service provider, or if you’re employed by a registered National Disability Insurance Scheme provider, you may also be able to work beyond the 40 hours per fortnight condition of your visa.  Click here for more information.

If your Student visa is expiring, you will need to lodge a new application.  Apply for a new student visa if you’re continuing study in Australia.  If you’re not continuing study and you cannot leave Australia, you should apply for another visa, such as a Visitor visa.  In all cases, applications for new visas should be made before your existing visa expires.  Book a consultation with us to discuss your situation further.  We’d be happy to talk it through with you.

If you hold a Visitor visa and cannot return to your home country, you will need to apply for a new visa before your existing one expires.  Visitor visas cannot be extended, so be aware of your visa expiry date (you can find this in the documentation supplied to you when your visa was granted).  If you apply for a Visitor visa within Australia, you will be granted a ‘Bridging’ visa, which will become active if your current visa expires before the new one you’ve applied for is granted.  This ensures continued lawful residency.

If you’re unable to apply for any other visa, and can demonstrate the reasons why, you may be able to apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic event visa (subclass 408).  This would maintain lawful residency until you’re able to leave.

Although Working Holiday visas cannot be extended, it may be possible for you to apply for a second year (if you’re under 31 years of age, have an eligible passport and have completed 3 months of specified work within your first year) or even third year (if you’ve undertaken 6 months of specified work as part of your second year, since 1st July 2019).  In both cases, you must have enough money to support your stay.

If an application for a second or third year visa isn’t possible, do not let your visa expire without making arrangements to replace it with another.  You should have a valid, active visa at all times you’re resident in Australia.  You may wish to consider applying for a Visitor visa, which will not give you work rights, but may keep you lawfully resident.

Note, the 6 month limit on employment for Working Holiday makers does not apply to critical sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Those areas include agriculture, food processing, health, aged and disability care and childcare. 

If you are working in one of these areas, cannot return to your home country and aren’t eligible for a second or third year Working Holiday visa, you may be able to apply for a Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408), which would allow you to remain in Australia and continue working until you can return to your home country.  If that’s the case, please book a consultation with us (choose our special COVID-19 rate) and we can discuss how we can assist you.

These visas, although temporary themselves, can act as pathways to permanent residency, usually after an eligibility period.  Book a consultation with our team to discuss whether you could move to permanent residency.

If this isn’t an option for you, and you’re unable to support yourself during this time, consideration should be given to returning to your home country.  You may be able to access up to $10,000 of your Australian superannuation in the 2019-20 financial year.  Click here for further details.

Citizens & Visa holders outside Australia

In addition to the summary below, we encourage you to be aware of the official government advice, which you can find here.

Australia’s borders are currently closed.  Unless you hold a valid visa and you fall into an exemption group, or hold individual exemption, you will not be permitted to board a flight to Australia at this time.

The following groups are automatically exempt from travel restrictions and can enter Australia without needing to obtain individual exemption: 

  • Australian citizens
  • Permanent residents of Australia
  • Immediate family members of an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • New Zealand citizens who are usually resident in Australia, and their immediate family members
  • Diplomats accredited to Australia (holding visa subclass 995)
  • Travellers transiting Australia for no more than 72 hours
  • Airline crew
  • Maritime crew including marine pilots

Those arriving into Australia must quarantine for 14 days at a designated facility and may be required to pay the costs of their quarantine.  This includes Australian citizens. 

Quarantine requirements vary depending on which part of Australia you arrive into.  Contact details for each the Department of Health in each State or Territory can be found here.

Individual exemptions

If you do not fall into any of the automatically exempt groups above, it is possible to apply for individual exemption.  Your application may be considered if you are:

  • 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 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 state and territory government
  • Travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons.

The application should be made at least 4 weeks (but no more than 3 months) before your planned travel. Appropriate evidence will be required to support your claims.

A valid visa is still required, in addition to your exemption.

Applications for individual exemptions can be made here.

Visa applicants

If you are an Emergico client with specific concerns about your application, please contact your agent directly.  Otherwise, consider booking a consultation with us to discuss your situation in detail and receive our professional, qualified advice.

The Department of Home Affairs is continuing to accept and process all visa applications, other than online Electronic Travel Authorities (ETA’s) which are not available while travel restrictions are in place.

Processing times may be affected, as the Department prioritises applications from travellers in exempt categories.

In addition, the pandemic may impact services relied upon by applicants to provide evidence requested of them by their case officer (e.g. health and character assessments, English language tests or biometric collection).  The Department is providing additional time for applicants to provide requested information, where required.

Should I start an application at this time?

At this time, we have no reason to believe that any visa type previously available will be discontinued.  There may be delays in processing times and possible amendments to the number of visas available in different subclasses or visa streams.  The government has yet to announce any such changes.

We anticipate a surge in demand for visas when travel restrictions are eased, and would encourage you to at least determine what visa options you have, by completing our eligibility assessment form.  We will look at your details personally.

Preparing and applying for a visa now puts you ahead of those who will be rushing to apply when travel restrictions allow them entry to Australia once more.

Travel guide

At this time, travel into and out of Australia is extremely limited.  Official government advice can be found here.

Leaving Australia

The Australian government has banned overseas travel from Australia.  An exemption is required from the Department of Home Affairs.

If you are temporary visa holder, and your home country will allow you entry, you can make arrangements to return to your home country at any time and do not need an exemption to depart Australia.  Assistance for temporary visa holders returning to their home country is available by registering here.

If you are a permanent visa holder, or an Australian citizen, you are unable to leave Australia without an exemption.  You are considered exempt if you are:

  • Ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia
  • An airline, maritime crew or associated safety worker
  • A New Zealand citizen holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa
  • Engaged in the day-to-day conduct of outbound freight
  • Associated with essential work at Australian offshore facilities
  • Travelling on official government business, including members of the Australian Defence Force.

Otherwise, you can apply for exemption at least 4 weeks (but no more than 3 months) before your planned travel.  Consideration will be given for the following reasons:

  • 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 travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
  • You are travelling on urgent and unavoidable personal business
  • You are travelling on compassionate or humanitarian grounds 
  • Your travel is in the national interest

Evidence supporting your claims will be required.  You can apply here.

Getting to Australia

Please refer to the summary above, under ‘Citizens and Visa holders outside Australia’.

Travel within Australia

Interstate travel restrictions in Australia are dynamic and changes regularly.  We recommend you consult the restrictions on an individual State or Territory basis.

Below are links to official advice from each State or Territory government:

Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Northern Territory
Queensland
South Australia
Tasmania
Victoria
Western Australia

Note that many restrictions are enforceable by law and violation can result in significant fines.

Q&A

This is a dynamic situation, and there may not be answers to many questions at this time.  We will update regularly.

Holders of a temporary Australian visa which has or is about to expire should visit our blog post to read more on this.

If your employment is in jeopardy, you might find our blog post useful.  

Further, temporary relief measures have now been announced. 

Our blog post outlines the current requirements.  

A further update from the Minister on the 4th April 2020 indicates that employers may reduce the work hours of sponsored workers without them breaching their visa conditions. 

The Department hasn’t made their policy clear at this time. As far as we know, it’s business as usual for the time being. If this changes, we will update.

The Department of Home Affairs website offers the most up to date source of information.  

That depends on a range of factors.  Check our blog post to help you make a decision. 

As with Visa processing, we expect Citizenship processing to slow.  The Department is not conducting in-person Citizenship interviews, and Citizenship Ceremonies are of course banned for now, being large gatherings of people.