UPDATE – 25 March 2020
The Australian Government has implemented a COVID-19 travel ban to all non resident and non Australian citizens coming into Australia from 9.00pm on Friday, 20 March 2020. Australian citizens and permanent residents will still be able to return from overseas but they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Limited exemptions exist for:
- Australian citizens
- Permanent residents
- Immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents including spouses, minor dependents and legal guardians
- Airline and maritime crew, where they have taken appropriate precautionary measures
- a New Zealand citizens usually resident in Australia
- travellers in transit to certain Pacific islands
The Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF) may consider an additional exemption in relation to the COVID-19 travel restrictions currently in place for:
- Foreign nationals travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response or whose entry would be in the national interest
- Critical medical services, including air ambulance and delivery of supplies, that regularly arrive into Australia from international ports
- Persons with critical skills (for example, medical specialists, engineers, marine pilots and crews) by exception
- Diplomats accredited to Australia and currently resident in Australia, and their immediate family
- Case-by-case exceptions may also be granted for humanitarian or compassionate reasons.
Frequently Asked Questions
A temporary visa holder is currently overseas and unable to return, what can we do to assist?
Only Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members (spouses, legal guardians and dependents) are able to enter Australia. All other foreign nationals are not permitted to enter Australia until the travel ban is lifted.
Immediate family members must request entry permission prior to travel, by providing the Department evidence of their relationship. This requirement applies regardless of whether the family member holds a substantive visa or a bridging visa. Please contact us for assistance with requesting travel permission.
Are 482/457 visa holders exempt from the travel ban?
No. All temporary visa holders including sponsored employees who are offshore must not travel to Australia until the travel ban is lifted.
The Australian Border Force Commissioner has been given powers to approve travel in “compelling and compassionate situations”. We understand that the Government is considering putting in place a framework around that which may include critical infrastructure projects, health and essential services, split families and temporary visa holders with a prior established residence in Australia and who were caught offshore by the most recent travel restrictions. Changes to the travel restrictions need to be approved by the National Security Committee of the Cabinet. We will continue to monitor and provide updates once further information is at hand.
Is it possible for 457/482 visa holders to work from home or at a different location?
Yes, working from home arrangements are acceptable for subclass 482 visa holders. In some instances, a role may not be able to be performed from home (for example, generally a Chef cannot usually work from home). In these cases, an employee can take leave (paid or unpaid) at the discretion of the employer.
I have been laid-off from work and I hold an employer sponsored visa. What should I do?
Employer sponsored visa holders (e.g. subclass 457/482 or 407) are permitted to work for their approved sponsor only, and must not cease working for their sponsor for more than 60 days.
If the employment ends, the work visa can be transferred to a new sponsor within 60 days of ceasing work with the previous employer. Otherwise, the you must apply for an alternate visa to remain in Australia during your job search or depart the country to comply with your visa.
What support is available for visa holders who become unemployed but are unable to return to their home country?
A whole of Government approach is being taken within Home Affairs, Health and Social Security developing strategies to assist visa holders. Legislation is pending to provide financial support for newly arrived residents who have lost their job or had work hours reduced due to the Coronavirus. Once the legislation is passed, the usual 2 or 4 year waiting period will be waived and Australian citizens and permanent residents can access social services regardless of when they arrived in Australia.
The Social Services Minister has also announced that the Government is exploring how it can assist other foreign workers who have lost their jobs but are unable to return home, such as such workers in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
What happens to my visa if I am unable to enter Australia before my visa expires?
There is no ability to “extend” a visa validity period. You will need to apply for a further visa to return to Australia. This includes a Bridging Visa B holder whose travel period has expired.
Bridging Visa B holders offshore unable to return before expiry date may consider applying for a visitor visa to return to Australia. Advice should be sought regarding the requirements for a visitor visa, and reinstatement of the Bridging Visa A.
How will those with cancelled temporary visas have these reinstated?
In some cases, visas of foreign nationals were cancelled under the enhanced border control measures to prevent their return from mainland China to Australia. Affected individual should have received notification in writing of their visa cancellation.
Visas will be reinstated for people who can demonstrate they have been outside of mainland China for a minimum period of 14 days or if they fall within one of the existing exemption categories. Please contact us for for further information.
Will visas be granted to offshore applicants during the travel ban?
We understand that the Department will continue to process visas for offshore applicants, but that visas may not be granted until the travel ban is lifted. If an overseas visa holder attempts to travel to Australia, their visa will be cancelled. Therefore, consistent with this Department is not issuing visas to applicants who are offshore.
Similarly, the Department is not issuing Bridging Visa B’s for foreign nationals who are in Australia on a bridging visa and looking to travel overseas.
How can I remain in Australia lawfully if my temporary visa is due to expire but I cannot travel overseas?
You must apply for a new visa before your current visa expires. The Department is taking a lenient approach to individuals who require a short term visitor visa to remain in Australia lawfully until travel restrictions are lifted.
If you apply for a substantive visa prior to your visa expiry, you may be eligible to be granted a bridging visa that will keep you lawful until a decision is made on your visa application.
What is requirement for self-isolation?
Any person who has been overseas (including transit) or has been in contact with a person with confirmed Covid-19 should be in self-isolation for 14 days. This applies to everyone, regardless of whether or not you have symptoms.
If you are a returned traveller who has not been identified as having close contact with a confirmed case and are feeling well, you can travel to your home/hotel room by a private car, public transport, taxi or ride-share. If you have had close contact with a confirmed case, you cannot travel by public transport, but can travel by a private car/taxi or ride-share.
In either case, you must wear a surgical mask at all times while travelling to your home or hotel.
When you have reached your accommodation, you must monitor yourself for symptoms and restrict activities outside your home/hotel, except for seeking medical care.
If you are sharing your home with others, as much as possible, you should also remain separated and avoid sharing communal areas. You should also wear a surgical mask if you are in the same room.
If you are well at the end of 14 days self-isolation, you can resume your normal lifestyle. If however, you develop a fever, a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath at any point, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Further information can be found on the Department of Health’s isolation guide: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-isolation-guidance_6.pdf.
How will the 14 day self-isolation period be enforced?
People who are found not to have complied with mandatory self-isolation requirement will face penalties under state law. Penalties include monetary fines and, in Western Australia and NSW, possible imprisonment.
When should temporary visa holders renew their visas? Is there any impact on visa processing times for onshore applicants?
We recommend that organisations review their visa holder population and identify any upcoming visa expiries. Applications should be started sooner, to avoid processing delays.
Currently, there are no exemptions to Labour Market Testing for 482 visa renewals as the coronavirus pandemic is not prescribed as a natural disaster under the Migration Regulations. Therefore, the minimum advertising period needs to be factored in to timeframes if an application is not exempt from LMT.
Published processing times for 482 visa applications is 28-35 days and for TSS nominations to transfer a work visa is 21 days.
I am a visa holder in Australia, my visa is about to expire and I cannot return to my country. Can I extend my stay in Australia?
If you wish to remain in Australia beyond the expiry date of your current visa, you must apply for a further visa. Where possible, an application should be made before your current visa expires. In this case you may be eligible to be granted a bridging visa, which will keep you lawful in Australia until a decision is made on your visa application.
I have been granted a visa to Australia but I am unable to travel due to the travel ban. Can I seek an extension?
If you have been granted a visa to Australia, you must enter Australia within the entry period specified on the visa grant notice. For example, a 482 visa holder is required to enter Australia within the validity of the visa and must commence work within 90 days of arrival.
If your visa expires while you are overseas, you will need to apply for another visa.
No extensions will be given if a visa holder cannot enter the country within the validity of their visa.
I am a visa holder in Australia and my current visa has the ‘No Further Stay’ condition attached? Can I stay in Australia?
If your current visa includes a ‘No Further Stay’ condition (includes 8503, 8534 and 8535), you are unable to make a valid application for most other visas while you are in Australia. If you wish to remain in Australia beyond your visa’s expiry date, a request to waive this condition must be made.
A waiver applications need to be lodged prior to lodging the application for a new visa. The waiver request needs to show that you are unable to travel and include documentary evidence to show support your claims for requesting a waiver.
It is important to note that a waiver is not automatic. It takes around 28 days to receive an outcome on a waiver request. You may be asked to provide more information or undergo a medical examination, in which case the request could take longer. Therefore, it is recommended to request a waiver well before a visa expiry.
Does the travel ban apply to transit?
Yes, they apply to passengers transiting through the locations as well.
Is there any special consideration for students who need to come to Australia for study?
Year 11 and 12 students who remain in China due to Australian travel restrictions (apart from those from Hubei Province) have been offered a strict pathway to resume their studies in recognition of the importance of the final two years of school. The exemptions will be considered on case by case basis. For more information see Department of Education, Skills and Employment (Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV)
I am the family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident and need to travel overseas, what do I need to do?
Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family (spouses, minor dependants or legal guardians only) are able to enter Australia. If they have been in a country subject to travel restrictions they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days from the time they left that country.
Immediate family members who do not hold a permanent visa need to contact the Department of Home Affairs before travelling using Australian Immigration Enquiry Form. Please seek advice prior to travel to ensure that you will be able to enter Australia.
I have applied for a permanent visa. Will that still be processed?
The Department continues to process Skilled and Family permanent visas for people usually resident in China, Iran, Republic of Korea and Italy. Visas will be granted once travel restrictions are lifted.
Special Arrangements for Supermarket Workers
To keep up with demand for re-stocking shelves in supermarkets, the Government has announced Australia’s major supermarkets will temporarily be able to offer more hours to international student employees to help keep shelves stocked. International students currently employed at the major supermarkets will be able to extend their working hours to help meet high demand for essential items because of the coronavirus.
Ordinarily international students are subject to condition 8105 which allows a maximum 40 hours a fortnight during term.
Special Arrangements for International Nurse Students
The Australian Government will relax international student nurse visa work conditions to provide workforce continuity for aged care facilities, home care providers and other health care workers. This will allow international student nurses and other aged care workers to work more than the 40 hours a fortnight that they are currently.
There are currently around 900 approved providers of residential aged care employers and around 1,000 approved providers of Home Care Packages. There are currently around 20,000 international student nurses studying in Australia. This measure will be examined on an ongoing basis.
Leniency for Regional & State Nomination Applicants
Some States and Territories have announced that they will relax their residence criteria for nomination for applicants who are unable to return to their residence in Australia or maintain continuous employment where they are delayed due to a Covid-19 travel ban.
This includes applicants for state nominated 190 State Nominated visas and 491 Skilled Work Regional Visa.
NEW ZEALAND – update 25 March 2020
The New Zealand government is increasing the alert level to the highest level, level 4, in response to the Covid-19 crisis from 11.59pm on Wednesday 25 March 2020.
This means that everyone is instructed to stay at home, businesses and educational facilities are closed (other than those deemed essential services) and travel will be severely limited. This will last for at least four weeks.
Under an epidemic notice, Immigration New Zealand have advised the following in relation to temporary visa holders:
- Those whose temporary visas (visitor, student, work) are expiring on or before 31 March 2020 must submit a new application before their current visa expires, or leave the country. In submitting a new application, an interim visa will be issued as per normal, which will allow those people to remain lawfully in the country whilst their new application remains pending.
- Those whose temporary visas (visitor, student, work) are due to expire between 1 April and 9 July 2020 will have their visas extended automatically until the end of September.
The travel restrictions that have been in place since 20 March 2020 remain in force. New Zealand’s borders are closed to everyone except for:
- New Zealand citizens
- Permanent residents and residents with valid travel conditions
- Immediate family of NZ citizens, permanent residents and residents with valid travel conditions (includes partner/spouse, legal guardian and dependent child under the age of 24)
- Australian citizens and permanent residents for whom New Zealand is their primary place of established residence.
- Air crew and cruise ship crew
New Zealand citizens, permanent residents, residents and their families will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival back in the country.
Self-isolation for arrivals into New Zealand
All travellers entering New Zealand are required to follow Ministry of Health guidance for self-isolation. Anyone who has been to any country apart from Category 1b countries (see below) must register with Healthline and self-isolate for 14 days when arriving in New Zealand.
Airline crew, cargo ship crew and cruise ship crew are excluded from self-isolation requirements.
Excluded Category 1b countries include:
- Cook Islands
- Marshall Islands
- Federated States of Micronesia
- New Caledonia
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
- Wallis and Futuna
All passengers arriving in New Zealand are being assessed and screened before they are allowed to enter the country. The Ministry of Health has the power to quarantine aircraft or vessels on arrival to New Zealand if cases of Covid-19 are suspected.
Need more information?
Please contact your dedicated consultant directly, or reach our to us on firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 8896 6056 if you need further advice or assistance regarding the travel restrictions to Australia or New Zealand.