Australian Border Restrictions – Update

By 23 July 2020September 8th, 2020No Comments

As the Australian government restricts inbound and outbound travel due to the health pandemic and limits incoming flights into Australia’s only three international operating airports, we are challenged with dealing with travel waivers as sponsors are keen to bring in temporary visa holders.

This has meant new processes being put in place by the Australian Border Force Commissioner, who is working closely with Immigration officers in dealing with some visa processing and travel exemptions. Over the past few months, immigration officers have been deployed to work on this taskforce 24/7, dealing with thousands of applications as our borders remain practically closed and inbound travel is down by 98%.

We have been working with our clients over the past months lodging waiver applications in an area that is completely new not only to us, but the government as well.

For the purposes of our work, the applications that are successful clearly relate to critical skills and this is not limited to medical roles.

What does this mean in a practical sense?

The government wants to stimulate the economy, and any waiver application that can clearly demonstrate critical skills and contribution to the economy is likely to be successful. From our experience, this can range from civil engineers & construction project managers earning anything between $96,000 and up to $400,000, software engineers around the $120,000 salary mark or higher who can demonstrate remote working is not conducive due to teams in different time zones, through to supply and distribution roles.

To recap the current travel restrictions are:

International flight restrictions
International flights into Australia have been significantly limited and all international arrival ports (Sydney, Brisbane and Perth) are now passing on the quarantine costs to the traveller.  Businesses can reimburse their employees if they wish.

Inbound travel restrictions
Only the following can enter Australia:

  • Australian citizens/permanent residents.
  • Immediate family members (partner/children) of an Australian citizen/permanent resident.
  • New Zealand citizens who are usually resident in Australia.

Travel exemptions
All others must apply for travel exemptions through the Australian Border Force Commissioner. This process can take weeks and travellers will not be allowed to travel to Australia unless a waiver is granted. The grounds currently being considered are limited to:

  • compassionate or compelling reasons
  • people with critical skills (for example, medical specialists, engineers, marine pilots and crews) by exception
  • travelling at the invitation of the Australian Commonwealth Government for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response or whose entry would be in the national interest
  • critical medical services
  • diplomats
  • ​case-by-case exceptions for humanitarian or compassionate reasons.

Who is getting travel exemptions?
We recently requested data from the Australia Border Force Commissioner under the Freedom of Information Act which confirms only 3,759 individuals have been given permission to enter Australia in the period from 2 February 2020 until 22 June 2020. These approvals can be broken down as follows:

Based on our firm’s experience with lodged waiver applications, 55% have been approved, 8% refused and 37 % are pending. More important than this, we are finding that these applications are moving much more quickly in recent weeks suggesting a favourable shift in government approach. This is very welcomed and clients will no doubt start to benefit and take advantage – contact us for more details on what this means for your business.

DISCLAIMER This information is current as of 14 July 2020 and subject to change. The information contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It should not be used as legal advice. To the extent permissible by law, Ajuria Lawyers and its associated entities shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, defects or misrepresentations in the information or for any loss or damage suffered by persons who use or rely on such information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Have more specific questions about your visa? Get in touch with Ajuria Lawyers today.

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Author Ron Kessels

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