COVID-19 Travel and Visa Updates
- Fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents can now travel internationally
- Temporary visa holders continue to require an exemption to travel to Australia. This is due to change from 1st December 2021
- The Australian government is still accepting and processing visa and citizenship applications
Travel & Visa Updates
A summary from the Emergico Visa Team
Here’s an overview of situation as it relates to travel and visas in Australia as of November 2021. 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
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.
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. Our team have successfully managed applications for this visa, and you’re welcome to book a consultation with us to determine if you might be eligible.
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.
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.
This is due to change from 1st December 2021, when holders of a range of temporary visas will no longer require a travel exemption to enter Australia.
Visit this blog post for further information.
Until then, 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 (from 1st November, this includes fully vaccinated parents)
- New Zealand citizens who are usually resident in Australia, and their immediate family members
- People who have been in New Zealand for 14 days or or more immediately prior to arrival by air in Australia
- Holders of a Business Innovation and Investment visa (subclass 188)
- Holders of a Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408) in the ‘Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery Event’ stream, who are supported by the Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce
- People recruited under the Seasonal Worker Program or Pacific Labor Scheme
- Diplomats accredited to Australia (holding visa subclass 995)
- Travellers transiting Australia for no more than 72 hours
- Airline crew
- Maritime crew, including marine pilots
All arrivals to Australia will be required to quarantine for 14 days, and may be responsible for associated costs. This does not apply to people who are exempt from quarantine, or fully vaccinated arrivals who arrive in a State or Territory with modified quarantine measures.
Currently, fully vaccinated arrivals can arrive in (and travel between) New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT (Canberra) without quarantining.
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.
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 with an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) and is sponsored by their employer to work 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
- Students in the final two years of a dental, nursing, medical, or allied health profession university degree, if evidence can be provided of a confirmed placement in an Australian hospital or medical practice which begins within two months
- Higher degree research students (including Masters by research and PhD students) who are enrolled in an Australian education institution, with evidence of a current research grant from a Commonwealth agency or appropriate support from a relevant government agency
- A student completing year 11 and 12, with support from the relevant state and territory government
- Travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons.
- A holder of the Prospective Marriage visa (subclass 300), if the visa has been granted, and the application was lodged at least 12 months before submitting a travel exemption request
The application should be made at least 2 weeks (but no more than 2 months) before your planned travel. Appropriate evidence will be required to support your claims.
We strongly recommend obtaining our professional assistance with an application.
A valid visa is still required, in addition to your exemption.
Applications for individual exemptions can be made here.
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.
At this time, fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents are able to travel internationally. Official government advice can be found here.
From 1st November 2021, the Australian government have removed international travel restrictions for fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents.
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. Assistance for temporary visa holders returning to their home country is available by registering 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:
Note that many restrictions are enforceable by law and violation can result in significant fines.
There is no change to the eligibility criteria that applies for Citizenship. As interviews and tests for Citizenship have been delayed due to localised lockdowns, there has been a knock-on delay to people in the processing queue. This is being worked through in chronological order of application.
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.
Recently announced measures will be put in place to assist people on temporary visas.
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.