Coronavirus and Australian visas update

COVID-19 (Novel coronavirus) has affected both Australian visa holders and those who are waiting to be issued their Australian visas. Please also see here. Here are the latest updates:

Important update (Border Restrictions):
Australia is closing its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents.

The entry ban takes effect from 9 pm AEDT Friday, 20 March 2020, and in place until further notice.

Exemptions to travel restrictions

Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family can still travel to Australia and are exempt from the travel restrictions. 

In this case, immediate family means:

  • spouses
  • dependents
  • legal guardians

Without visa– You can’t come to Australia until you have a visa. Apply for a visa and include proof (such as your marriage certificate, your birth certificate or birth certificate for your children). If we let you travel, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days, at home or in a hotel.

With a temporary visa (except for Partner visa 820 and subclass 309 and Child visa holders) – Attach proof (such as your marriage certificate, evidence of your de-facto relationship such as shared finances or property, your birth certificate or birth certificate for your children) and submit this form. Do not travel until DHA advise that you can. If you are allowed to travel, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days, at home or in a hotel.

Travel Restrictions for pending Partner visa applications (subclass 820 and 309)

If you have a pending subclass 820 or subclass 309 visa (and not married to an Australian citizen/PR) and are outside of Australia or if you have been granted a Prospective Marriage visa (subclass 300) you need to apply for permission to travel.

New Zealand citizens (444 visa holders) who live in Australia as Australian residents are also exempt, as are New Zealanders transiting to New Zealand. Exemptions for Pacific Islanders transiting to their home countries will continue to apply.

Australian citizens and permanent residents and those exempt from our entry restrictions will continue to be subject to a strict 14 days self-isolation.

On 19 March 2020 the Tasmanian Government announced than it will be imposing a 14 day quarantine period for all non essential travellers to that state as of midnight 20 March 2020.

Student visa holders able to work more hours 

In an effort to meet the high demand for essential items at major supermarkets the Australian government announced that international students currently employed at these supermarkets will be able to extend their working hours.

Normally an international student must not engage in work in Australia for more than 40 hours a fortnight during any fortnight when the holder’s course of study or training is in session.

The measures will be administered by the Department of Home Affairs and are available to major supermarkets including Woolworths and Coles, and only for existing employees in their existing roles. Other supermarkets are able to register with the Department if they believe the changes will assist them.

This initiative will give international students more flexibility to work while studying and also allow employers to meet demand during a busy period. Employers are still required to abide by all relevant Australian workplace laws. Students have the same rights under Australian workplace law as all other employees.

On 18th of March, in  a press conference, Prime minister Scott Morrison said work restrictions would be lifted on some 20,000 international nursing students. “They’re going to be available to support the health effort right across the country, as directed by our health officials,”

“We’re not importing nurses into Australia,” he added. “That would obviously be against travel advice. These international student nurses have been in Australia for some time.”

Home Affairs FAQ re COVID-19

During this period, the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force officers:

  • will exercise their discretion under s116(1)(b) of the Migration Act 1958 to not cancel the visas of students who work in excess of 40 hours each fortnight to support your organisation in providing goods to the Australian community through your supermarkets; and
  • will not refer you, as an employer, for investigation of any potential breach of s245AC of the Migration Act 1958 that might relate to the hours worked by a student visa holder.

All employment must continue to occur strictly in accordance with Australian workplace law. Employers must not make arrangements for student visa holders to work under this measure (in excess of 40 hours per fortnight) until you receive authorisation from DHA.

No Further Stay Condition (8503) and Coronavirus

If you are a visa holder in Australia and your 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.

The circumstances in which the minister might waive a ‘No Further Stay’ condition are:

  1. since the person was granted the visa that was subject to the condition, compelling and compassionate circumstances have developed:
    1. over which the person had no control
    2. that resulted in a major change to the person’s circumstances
  2. if the minister has previously refused to waive the condition, the minister is satisfied that the circumstances mentioned in paragraph (a) are substantially different from those considered previously
  3. if the person asks the minister to waive the condition, the request is in writing.

As the travel restrictions mentioned above are beyond the applicants control these can be considered “Compelling and Compassionate and therefore applicants from countries who have been affected by travel restrictions caused by Coronavirus may be able to apply for a waiver of the 8503 condition.

The department is also taking a flexible approach for time frames in relation to health, character and English language requirements for applicants.

No Further Stay Condition (8503) waiver

For a waiver to be granted, the circumstances that have developed since the visa was granted must be both compelling and compassionate.

“Compelling and compassionate” circumstances can be understood as circumstances that:

  • are sufficiently forceful and convincing for the condition to be waived
  • are not unreasonable (in that no reasonable decision-maker could conclude that the circumstances are not compelling) and
  • give rise to feelings of sympathy for the suffering or misfortune of others.

The current travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 may meet the above definition for some visa holders.

Travel and Immigration Disruption- Australia
  • Foreign nationals (excluding permanent residents of Australia) who have been in mainland China, South Korea, Iran or Italy will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they have left or transited any of those countries.
  • Citizens and permanent residents of Australia and their immediate family members who enter Australia and who have been in mainland China, Iran or South Korea, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days from the time they left mainland China, Iran, Italy or South Korea.
  • Temporary visa holders (such as the TSS 482 visa /457 visa holders) who are ineligible for entry into Australia under these measures will have their visa canceled (we do not know how swiftly this is going to happen). Arrangements will be made to reinstate visas as appropriate following the lifting of these enhanced border control measures.

If the visas are not cancelled, the visa holder may become in breach of their visa conditions if required to stay for an extended period of time, outside of Australia. For example:

  • Condition 8202 for Student visa holders requires the main applicant to be enrolled in a full time course and meet the requirements for enrolment, (i.e. attendance requirements) to meet their visa conditions. International students affected by these travel restrictions should contact their education provider to find out what support those institutions can provide for students facing travel restrictions.
  • 8607 condition on the TSS 482 visa reads: If the holder ceases employment, the period during which the holder ceases employment must not exceed 60 consecutive days. This does not include period of paid leave. If the travel restriction lasts more than three months, or the is on unpaid leave for more than three months, this could potentially raise issues.
14-day self-isolation

Australia’s prime minister has ordered a 14-day self-isolation for anyone arriving in the country to try to halt the spread of the COVID-19. “This is very important,” Scott Morrison said at a briefing, adding that the measure would take effect from midnight on Sunday (AEST), 15 March 2020. The measures are similar to those announced by New Zealand on Saturday. Foreign cruise liners will also be banned from docking in Australia for 30 days, but schools will remain open. Australia has reported more than 260 confirmed cases, with three deaths.

Australians advised to return

Australian government now advises all Australians to reconsider your need for overseas travel at this time. If you’re already overseas and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means.

18 March 2020 update

What evidence of the relationship be required to be provided for entry to Australia of de facto partners?

If a de facto relationship has not been previously declared and evidenced to the Department, documents must be provided to show:

  • Evidence of a child/ren of the relationship and shared responsibility for care and support of children;
  • Evidence of shared finances or purchases, such as joint loan agreements for real estate, cars, major household appliances, operation of joint bank accounts;
  • Evidence that a de facto couple are living together (or at least not living separately and apart permanently), such as joint ownership of residential property, joint residential leases, joint rental receipts, joint utilities accounts, correspondence addressed to either or both parties at the same address.
  • Any other documents that demonstrate that a de facto couple is in a genuine and continuing relationship.

How will those with cancelled temporary visas have these reinstated?

Persons are being notified in writing of their visa cancellation and provided with advice on how to seek revocation of the visa cancellation decision. 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. Remaining revocation requests will be prioritised for consideration by the Department after the temporary travel restrictions have been lifted.

For COVID-19 visa related travel questions / 408 visa eligibility you can book a time here:

https://seekvisa.as.me/covid19 (25 min)

If you would like a comprehensive consultation which includes assessing you for other temporary and permanent visa options (Skilled visas, Employer Sponsored, Partner, etc.) as well, we recommend our standard 45 minute to 1 hour consultation which can be scheduled here:

https://seekvisa.as.me/skype (45 min)

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