By Joy Hay – Registered Migration Agent MARN 1465325
First and foremost, you need to stay lawful.
Keep an eye on your visa expiry date and investigate all options that are open to you if the Covid-19 pandemic has derailed your plans.
The Department of Home Affairs is still processing visas ‘within the constraints’ of the situation and this is unlikely to change. Immigration is an essential service.
Now, broadly speaking, there are two groups of people currently in Australia from overseas:
- People who are stuck here and can’t get home
- People who are here on temporary visas but plan to stay and apply for another visa type, such as a partner visa or employer-sponsored visa
There are no two ways about it, this situation has left many people in situations they didn’t budget or plan for. Take a quick look at any expat Facebook group and you’ll see dozens of posts from people desperately seeking information. On several occasions we have seen incorrect, but well-meaning, advice being dispensed in relation to visas.
If you need advice regarding your visa situation, contact us for a free assessment. Our Registered Migration Agents are professionals and can recommend the right pathway for you. In times like this, you need professional advice.
Depending on your situation, there may be a whole raft of options open to you. Everything comes down to eligibility, but options that might be open include:
- You may be able to apply for a tourist visa extension
- You may be eligible for another visa, such as a partner visa or student visa
- You may be able to submit an 8503 waiver request and apply for another visa, even if you have restrictions on your current one
- If you’re working in a key industry and your employer is still hiring, you might be eligible for employer-sponsorship
- If you’re in a relationship with a New Zealand citizen, you may be eligible for a 461 visa
- If you’re in a relationship with someone who holds a 476, 482, 457, 485 or student visa, you may be eligible for a dependent or subsequent entrant visa
- If you’re in a relationship with an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or an eligible New Zealand citizen, you may be eligible for an 820 visa, even if you do not have 12 months evidence of living together
- If you have had a visa recently refused, you may be eligible to lodge an appeal
Were you always planning to apply for a visa at this time?
Many people plan their visa applications years and months in advance. If you were always planning to apply for a visa around this time, you can still go ahead.
If you’ve been carefully gathering evidence to prove your de facto relationship and saving up to pay for your visa fees, don’t let this crisis derail your plans. Go ahead with your application and get into the system.
Here at True Blue Migration Services, it’s business as usual. We have secure remote working capabilities and a team of six Registered Migration Agents on hand to lodge applications. Our services will not be disrupted.
Welfare for visa holders
Anyone who doesn’t have permanent residency or citizenship is obviously more vulnerable than those who do, particularly when it comes to social welfare support and stimulus measures.
The Government has already waived welfare waiting periods for overseas nationals who are on their way to becoming citizens, but as of yet, no further measures have been announced.
The Federal Government is reportedly considering its options. Social Services Minister Anne Rushton said measures are being considered. As soon as we know more, we’ll publish an update.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has requested that Kiwis in Australia be provided with social welfare assistance, but there’s no news on that yet either.
Which brings us to our next point…
New Zealanders in Australia
There are an estimated 685,000 New Zealand citizens living in Australia.
In July 2017, a new permanent residency visa was launched aimed at enabling eligible Kiwis to apply for Australian permanent residency.
Not everyone is eligible for the 189 New Zealand stream visa, but it’s a great option for those who are. Never before has it been so important to have Australian permanent residency and citizenship. In times like these, a Government’s obligations are towards this cohort first.
You must have arrived in Australia after 26 Feb 2001 but before 19 Feb 2016.
One of the requirements of this visa subclass is that you must be able to show that you’ve earned at least $53,900 (through tax returns) for each of the last four financial years. Some exemptions do apply, but these are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
If you think your income is going to decline this year as a knock-on from the Covid-19 crisis, you may wish lodge an application sooner rather than later.
You’ll also need to meet health, character and security criteria.
Unlike other skilled visa applications, the Government fee is split 80/20. You pay 20% when you apply and the remaining 80% is payable just before your visa grant.
It’s definitely something worth considering.
True Blue in the News
Our Director Joy Hay recently had a chat to 9 News about what visa holders can do if they’re stranded in Australia.
When Will Borders Open?
Believe us, we wish we knew the answer to this.
Heath and safety comes above everything, so not only are Australia’s national boarders closed (to most people), States have also put restrictions in place.
This won’t be forever, but we all need to do our bit right now. The more we do now to slow the spread of the virus, the quicker the bounce back and we can all resume normal life.
The Prime Minister has announced that all inbound travellers (PRs and citizens who can still enter) will be subject to a mandatory quarantine period. No longer will they have the option to isolate at home; they’ll be transported straight to Government-approved accommodation for a two-week period.
AAT Hearings During Covid-19
If you receive a visa refusal in the midst of all this, you may be able to lodge an appeal and remain onshore (well, you’ll probably have no choice). You will need to act quickly, as there are strict appeal lodgement timeframes (most are 21 days from your refusal).
Although the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) won’t be conducting face-to-face hearings for now, hearings will be conducted by phone, where suitable.
Applications are being triaged.
It can take many months or years for an appeal hearing to come around.
If you do receive a refusal and want a Registered Migration Agent to manage your appeal, contact us at the earliest opportunity as there are strict appeal lodgement timeframes (most are 21 days from your refusal).
Student Visa Work Rights
Ordinarily students can work up to 40 hours a fortnight and full-time during semester breaks.
Restrictions were eased recently to allow student visa holders working in some supermarkets to work longer hours and help their employers meet the exceptional levels of demand they’re currently experiencing.
Employers can apply for approval using a form on the Department of Home Affairs website.
Aged care providers may also be granted approval.
If this is rolled out across other industries, we’ll let you know.
Migration Institute of Australia Response
The Migration Institute of Australia, the peak body for the migration industry in Australia has asked the Department to consider:
- Waiving visa condition 8503 for all visa holders that are currently in Australia so they can apply for other visas without requesting – and being granted – a waiver first
- Introduce a fee-free visa solution with work rights and Medicare access
- Consider introducing an automatic extension to temporary visas until 30 October 2020
- Immediately remove LMT and SAF requirements for Australian employers looking to sponsor overseas nationals
Concerns have also been raised in relation to stand-towns and retrenchments for visa holders. We’ll bring you news on this when we have it. We’d love to see some of these measures introduced.
Stay in Touch
For more frequent updates, you can follow us on Facebook. Our page is updated frequently with the latest Covid-19 visa news.