Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Information For Visa Holders

This information is intended to provide general information and answers to the questions we are hearing most often.

We are updating this page regularly so please check it often – this information is current as at 30 September 2020.

If you would like to make a time to speak to a lawyer, please book an appointment here (fees apply).

 

FREE WEBINARS

We offer free webinars to provide more detailed information & updates for employees / visa holders in relation to Australian immigration and COVID-19.

COVID-19 Update – please click here to register

When: Thursday, 8 October 2020 at 11:00 AM AEST 
Topic: Ajuria Lawyers: Australian Immigration 2021 – the budget and beyond

We will update this page once a new date has been set for the webinar. Details will also be made available on our website.

Alternatively, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us, if you have any questions.

 

FAQ – VISA HOLDERS

1. I am in Australia. Should I travel overseas?

From midday AEDT on 25 March 2020, there is a ban for Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents from traveling overseas. Limited exemptions will be managed by the Australian Border Force (ABF) to allow people to travel on compassionate grounds.

2. What if I am overseas, can I travel to Australia?

At this point in time, only Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and New Zealand citizens (who reside in Australia) are able to enter Australia.

Immediate family members of Australian citizens/permanent residents or Australian resident NZ citizens are able to request entry to Australia. If you are a temporary visa holder who is in a relationship with an Australian, you may be able to enter but you will need to complete apply for a travel exemption using this platform and submit relationship evidence BEFORE you travel. Do not make travel arrangements until you have received permission from the Department of Home Affairs to enter the country.

If you hold a temporary partner visa (subclass 820 or 309), you can travel to Australia immediately without needing to request permission.

If you are in a relationship with an Australian and do not yet have a visa to travel to Australia, please contact us.

Under the current ban, temporary visa holders (including TSS and 457) cannot enter Australia until these restrictions are lifted. How long this ban will be in place will depend on the global virus pandemic.

There are very limited exemptions and these are being looked at on a case by case basis by the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF). Any exemption must be requested BEFORE travelling to Australia and it may be extremely difficult to obtain. Further information on the exemptions can be found here. Please contact us if you require assistance with a travel exemption request.

From midnight AEDT on 28 March 2020, if you are permitted to enter Australia, you will be forced to quarantine in a hotel or other accommodation for 14 days. You will not be allowed to return to your home in Australia. These rules will be forced by the state police forces, alongside the Australian Defence Force (ADF). some states also require you to pay for this mandatory quarantine.

3. Can I still make a visa application to come to or stay in Australia?

Yes. The Department of Home Affairs is still accepting visa applications for all categories of visas.

There are some delays starting to happen and these can be expected to become longer over coming months. In fact processing for offshore applications may be put on hold. The Department of Home Affairs states:

As the Department focuses its efforts on managing the impact of COVID-19 on its critical services and employees, other non-critical services may not be delivered within expected timeframes. We apologise for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience during this period.

Medical checks and police clearances may be hard or impossible to obtain where these are required but the Department has advised that there is no need for concern about this and you will be given additional time to complete checks and provide the requested information .

If you are in Australia and have applied for a visa, generally you will be granted a bridging visa to allow you to stay here, pending the processing of that application.

4. If I am in Australia, can I apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa?

The Australian Government has introduced the Temporary Activity (subclass 408 Australian Government Endorsed Event (AGEE) stream) visa during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a free visa that can be granted for a period of between 6 to 12 months.

Temporary visa holders in Australia may be eligible for this visa if the following can demonstrated:

  • your visa is about to expire (in the next 28 days) or your visa has already expired;
  • you are unable to apply for any other temporary visa, other than this 408 visa;
  • you can’t leave Australia;
  • you are currently working in a critical sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, like agriculture, food processing, health care, aged care, disability care and child care; and
  • it can be demonstrated that an Australian citizen or Permanent Resident cannot fill the position.

This COVID-19 408 visa is seen as a last resort and very few visa grants have been issued by the Department since the visa was released in early April 2020.

5. What should I do if I am in Australia and my visa is about to expire?

If you are in Australia, you will need to apply for another visa before your current visa expires.

The decision about what visa you can/should apply for will need to be determined on a case by case basis and we can help you with this decision. Go here to make a time to speak to us.

If you do not apply for another visa before your current visa expires, then you will become unlawful and subject to possible detention and removal from Australia (once that is possible). Becoming and remaining unlawful, even in this crisis, can have very serious consequences on your ability to return to Australia and on future applications for visas or Australian citizenship.

6. What happens if I have been temporarily laid off from work or made redundant?

If you hold a temporary work visa sponsored by an employer and have been temporarily stood down, been placed on extended leave without pay or been made redundant, then your employer will likely notify the Department of this.

The Department announced on 4 April 2020, that they will probably not take steps to cancel temporary visas, where the visa holder has been temporarily stood down (this might be on a case by case). Visa holders in these situations will continue to have the opportunity to apply for another visa as per normal arrangements and subject to all criterion being satisfied.

If you have been made redundant, you will need to find a new sponsor, or depart the country in line with existing visa conditions. You should contact us immediately if you receive any notice from the Department that they are considering cancelling your visa.

The Department have also announced that sponsored employees will not be considered to have breached their visa conditions if their working hours are reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In line with the latest announcement, should a 4-year visa holder be re-employed after the coronavirus pandemic, time that they have already spent in Australia will count towards their permanent residency skilled work experience requirements.

7. Can I work for someone other than my sponsor?

If you hold a temporary work visa sponsored or supported by an employer (e.g. subclasses 400, 407, 457, 482) then legally you can only work for that employer and cannot work for any other business or for yourself. This includes contract or casual work. If you need to change employer, they will need to have a new nomination approved before you can start working with them.

8. I have a valid visa. Can the Department cancel my visa because of the ban while I am overseas?

If the Department decide to cancel your visa, they will notify you in writing and you will be given an opportunity to seek revocation of the visa cancellation decision. They will send this by email to the email address that they have on file for you.

You can always check the status of your visa with the myVEVO app on the Apple Store or Google Play or online here.

If VEVO is not working (due to high volumes of use at this unusual time), you may create an ImmiAccount and import your visa application with the details listed in your visa grant notice.

9. Am I eligible for any financial support as a temporary visa holders?

Temporary visa holders are not generally eligible for either JobSeeker or JobKeeper allowances or any other form of government payment. You should check your eligibility here.

The JobKeeper payment is available for New Zealand citizens in Australia (holding a protected or non-protected subclass 444 Special Category Visa). New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia before 26 February 2001 are eligible to access Australian welfare payments, in addition to the JobKeeper payment.

As of 4 April 2020, sponsored temporary visa holders will be able to withdraw $10,000 from their superannuation for this financial year.  Students who have been in Australia for longer than 12 months who find themselves in financial hardship will also be able to access their Australian superannuation. You can find details here.

The Australian Red Cross will be receiving funding for the next six months for the Red Cross Safety Net program, providing assistance to temporary visa holders in Australia who have no way to support themselves and who have urgent needs (such as food, medicine and crisis accommodation). You can find further details of the program here.

Priority will be given to people with urgent needs (including families with young children, people with a disability, people who are experiencing harm, people vulnerable to COVID-19 and people with physical or mental health issues). For those needing this assistance, you will need to apply for the program by emailing the Red Cross directly: nat_rc_msp@redcross.org.au.

Additionally, some Australian states and territories (TAS, QLD, VIC, ACT, NSW & SA) as well as some city councils (Sydney & Melbourne) are distributing emergency relief for temporary visa holders.

10. Can I still complete the medical examinations required for my visa application?

If you are in Australia, you must complete any required health checks with BUPA.

If you are not in Australia, you must complete any required health checks with one of the Department’s approved panel clinics. You can search for the approved clinics closest to you here (as listed by country), and will need to contact them directly to find out if they are taking appointments.

You will be given additional time to complete your health check by the Department if you are experiencing delays in making an appointment.

11. Can I still sit an English test?

Whether or not English tests are still available depends on the English test provider and the location you wish to sit the test. Tests may be suspended or offered with reduced availability.

For more information, please visit the websites of the approved English test providers for Australian visas:

IELTS
PTE
TOEFL
CAE
OET

The Department has confirmed that English tests that you can take at home, such as TOEFL iBT – Special Home Edition, OTE@Home and IELTS Indicator are NOT ACCEPTED as approved English tests for Australian immigration purposes.

What if I can’t sit an English test before I apply for a new visa?
The English requirement must be met at the time of application for some visas, such as skilled permanent residence visas. If you apply for one of these visas without valid evidence that you meet the English requirement, your application will be refused.

If you are applying for a visa where English is not a time of application requirement, you can still lodge the visa application and will be given additional time to complete and provide your English test results.

12. How can Ajuria assist further?

If you are already working with us, please contact your advisor.

If you would like to speak to a lawyer about your situation, you can book a time online.

Our rates for a 60 minute consultation are:

Senior Lawyer  – $550 (including GST)

Partner  – $660 (including GST)

Please be patient and understand that we are receiving many enquiries and may need to prioritise people with urgent need.

This information is current as at 30 September 2020 and is subject to change as the situation evolves. It is meant as general information and should not be relied upon 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.

 

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