The Australian Government is continually reviewing and implementing measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which includes putting in place travel restrictions and banning events with more than 500 people. Other countries are suspending travel, closing borders and placing areas into lockdown.
We understand these measures are causing confusion and uncertainty for visa holders and hope that this information will provide some guidance for those affected by these arrangements.
Travel restrictions and bans are changing rapidly and we encourage you to keep an eye on the Department of Home Affairs (Department) website for updates.
As of 17 March 2020, all persons arriving in Australia must self-isolate for a period of 14 days and travel bans remain in place for foreign nationals who have been to, or transited through mainland China, Iran, Republic of Korea or Italy.
Travel bans do not apply to Australian citizens, permanent residents or New Zealand citizens resident in Australia, and diplomats. Travel bans also do not apply to immediate family members (spouse and children) of Australian citizens and permanent residents.
Two year study requirement and questions relating to eligibility criteria for future visa applications
We have received a number of enquiries about the two year study requirement and eligibility requirement for the subclass 485 Temporary Graduate Visa.
The answer is, we don’t yet know how the current arrangements will impact eligibility criteria for future visas. The Australian Government’s current focus is on controlling the spread of the virus and decisions about the long-term impact of travel restrictions have not been made. Once the COVID-19 threat has passed and life returns to normal, we expect the Government to consider these issues and provide guidance.
Requirement to maintain satisfactory attendance
Some educational institutions have cancelled face-to-face classes and we have been asked what impact this has on the attendance requirement of student visas. It is our understanding that many of those educational institutions are moving lectures and tutorials from face-to-face to online learning methods, which provides students with the ability to attend and participate in online lectures in real time.
In the current situation, we don’t expect the Department will cancel visas because of non-attendance in situations where classes are being delivered online. Our recommendation is to participate in all online classes and continue to meet your course requirements.
If you become unwell and are unable to study, we recommend you obtain advice about your visa situation.
Work limitation flexibility
Student visa holders are limited to working 40 hours per fortnight. However, on 13 March 2020, the Government announced that international students employed by major supermarkets will be able to work in excess of the 40 hours per fortnight requirement to help meet the high demand for essential items. It is important to note that this increase in work hours is for a short term only, and is only available to existing supermarket employees. Please click here to read more.
Visitor visa holders
Holders of visitor visas in Australia who are unable to return home due to travel restrictions will need to apply for a further visitor visa within Australia. Not all visitor visa holders will automatically be able to apply as some visas are subject to a no further stay condition which prevents them applying for a further visa onshore. If your visa contains a no further stay condition, we recommend you obtain advice from a migration professional.
Bridging Visa B holders
For holders of a Bridging Visa B who are unable to return to Australia before the expiry of that visa, you will need to apply for and be granted a visitor visa before returning to Australia. Once in Australia, you will then need to apply for reinstatement of your Bridging Visa A.
The information provided above may not apply to every situation and we encourage visa holders who are impacted by the travel restrictions or bans to seek advice about their options.
The Department has also released a set of fact sheets for immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents, affected visa holders and applicants, education providers and student visa holders.
Author: Rebecca Macmillan
The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.