More than four months ago, lockdowns began in Australia and abroad due to Coronavirus – but now, with case counts levelling out in many places and people needing to return to work, restrictions are slowly lifting.
And while international borders aren’t likely to open in Australia until 2021, there is still a lot businesses can do now to identify, plan and implement immigration solutions to support their business during the economic rebound.
Meanwhile, limited numbers of visas are still being granted, and there are success stories from employers and employees alike.
However, there is important information for Australian businesses looking to apply for visas for their international employees, and people hoping to migrate to the South Pacific in the near future.
A 3-stage plan for reopening Australia
Lockdowns across the world have severely impacted the global economy and slowed international movement and global talent mobility. The government recently announced a three-stage plan to safely re-open the domestic and international borders:
Stage 1: Limited movement, with only local and regional travel permitted. Australians and permanent residents may return from overseas mandatory quarantine, and there are limited exemptions for entry to Australia for immediate family and essential or critical services workers.
Stage 2: Some interstate travel will be allowed, but travel to Australia will continue to be limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families who are required to quarantine. Limited travel exemptions are available for “essential workers” in healthcare, aged care, construction, food processing and agriculture.
Stage 3: Domestic travel resumes with Australian state borders being reopened. Travel exemptions are proposed to include international students from approved institutions, and some Tasman/South Pacific travel.
We are currently in stage two, however, at this time travel within the Trans-Tasman bubble has not opened. There is no confirmed news on when the borders might open and offshore visa processing will resume, this is largely dependent on how Australia manages the pandemic.
The government considered piloting a travel exemption for international students from approved universities, but there are still questions about who will be able to travel and how travel will look.
Meanwhile, the Australian Government has implemented a cap on the number of international arrivals to Australia:
- Perth – a cap of 525 international arrivals per week will apply.
- Brisbane – an overall cap of 500 international arrivals per week will apply.
- Sydney – a cap of 450 international arrivals per day will continue, as announced on 4 July with a view to further reductions in subsequent weeks.
Travellers may be required to pay for their hotel quarantine accommodation, with NSW being the first state to introduce a hotel quarantine fee commencing July 18, 2020. NSW quarantine fees start from $3000 for one adult, $1000 for a family member over 18 years, and $500 for a child under 18 years.
While travel is severely limited, the government is allowing exceptions in certain cases. During the border closure, anyone seeking to travel needs the permission of the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force to be able to enter Australia.
People may be allowed in if they are considered to have “critical skills”. While there is some guidance on what is critical, each case needs to be assessed individually. It is also possible to apply for a travel exemption on compelling or compassionate grounds.
Those temporary visa holders already in Australia can depart but should seek permission to come back before they leave or they may not be able to return to Australia, even if they have a job, family and a home here.
Australian citizens and permanent residents generally are not permitted to leave the country and need to apply for permission to travel.
TMA has managed many incoming and outgoing exemption requests at this time, so call us if you would like to know more or need additional assistance.
At some point, the government may let in families of TSS visa holders already in Australia. Depending on the COVID-19 case count, we may see some loosening of restrictions for sponsored visa holders in the last quarter of this year. At this stage, there is no definite timeline for re-opening business travel.
Visa processing during COVID-19
Even with limitations, it’s still possible to secure work visas for your foreign workers and use this time to ensure that your sponsorship program is in order and sponsorship obligations are being met.
We have observed that the Department of Home Affairs is still receiving and processing temporary and permanent visa applications, although people located overseas are only being processed if they have been given permission to travel to Australia, or have pending permission to travel.
Additionally, the usual rules for labour-market testing for employer-sponsored TSS visas are still in force, with some businesses impacted by COVID-19 being asked to confirm they are still able to support the position or confirm that there are no suitably qualified Australians available to fill the role.
If you’re hiring and need to sponsor a foreign worker under a visa program in this climate, it’s still possible – it just requires a strategic approach, a good understanding of current decision-making trends, and the right advisor on your side to navigate the process.
Do you need visa assistance? We can help
If you’re trying to secure an Australia skilled worker visa for a sponsored worker or need assistance with a different type of visa, contact The Migration Agency today for a consultation. Our immigration experts can help design a visa solution with your specific needs in mind.