By Joy Hay – Registered Migration Agent MARN 1465325
In the space of a couple of weeks, life has been turned upside down for many people.
The economy has taken a nosedive, movement across borders is heavily restricted and visa holders are concerned about the future.
The Department of Home Affairs is Processing Applications
It’s important to remember that things will return to normal, eventually.
Processing continues, but ‘within the constraints’ of the pandemic crisis. If your application is lodged and in the system, it will eventually be picked up by a case officer and assessed as normal.
The Department is prioritising certain visa subclasses at the moment, so processing times are likely to change, but applications are still moving through.
Immigration is considered an essential service and visa applications are still being lodged and processed.
Partner visas are a big investment, so you’re right to be asking questions.
Here at True Blue Migration, we’re working as normal – albeit remotely – and we have received visa grants, requests for further information and correspondence from the Department of Home Affairs this week, just as we usually would.
Partner Visa Preparation
Government fees for partner visas are high, and wait times are long, so it’s important to get it right first time.
You don’t want to spend a few years on a bridging visa and – when this crisis is behind us – discover that you’re application has failed and you’re back to square one.
We are proud to offer a no visa, no fee guarantee on partner visa applications.
Welfare Support and Work Rights for Partner Visa Holders and Applicants
The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation that no one could have planned or budgeted for.
If you do go ahead and make an application now, you’ll want to know what your rights are post lodgement.
If you’re here on a tourist/visitor visa and lodge a partner application, you will move onto a Bridging Visa A when your original stay period ends. Work rights are automatic on this visa.
If you’re on a 417 or 462 visa, once you’ve applied, you can apply for a waiver to work for the same employer for longer than your original six-month limitation.
The 820/801 visa is a two-step application process, but you pay the full fee for both parts at the start. As such, you’re deemed to have applied for a permanent residency visa and you’ll be entitled to Medicare from the day your visa is lodged.
The Government’s JobKeeper payments have not been extended to temporary visa holders. Instead, visa holders in need of funds are encouraged to access their superannuation.
The Federal Government revealed that eligible people may be able to access a portion of their superannuation early as a result of the crisis. This kicks in from mid-April and applies to people meeting at least one of the following criteria:
- Eligible to receive certain social welfare benefits
After 1 January 2020:
- You were made redundant
- Your working hours were reduced by 20% of more
- As a sole trader, your business was suspended or there was a reduction in your turnover of 20% of more
Many Australian employers also allow leave without pay (LWOP), under certain circumstances, which means you take leave whilst technically remaining in the employ of the business. There are conditions which need to be met if you’re taking LWOP, so you’ll need to check your individual eligibility.
Those suffering extreme financial hardship can appeal to the Australian Red Cross for assistance.
If more measures are announced that might apply to visa holders and applicants, we’ll update this article.
Travel restrictions for partner applicants
As of 20 March 2020, only Australian citizens, residents and their immediate family members can enter the country.
Furthermore, it was announced on 28 March 2020 that anyone arriving into Australia will be required to go into mandatory quarantine at a designated facility such as a hotel, close to the port they arrive in.
Immediate family members are spouses, dependent children and legal guardians.
If you’re stuck outside Australia and have a pending subclass 820 visa or subclass 309 visa and you’re not married to an Australian citizen or PR, you will need to complete a permission to travel form. The same applies if you’re offshore and hold a subclass 300 prospective marriage visa.
New Zealand citizens who ordinarily reside in Australia can still enter the country. Proof of residence is needed, such as a driving licence or documents showing your address. You’ll still need to undergo mandatory quarantine.
No further stay conditions
If you hold a visa with a ‘no further stay’ condition (8503), it generally blocks you from applying for another visa whilst you’re in the country.
However, under certain conditions, this restriction can be waived. For example, it can be waived if compassionate and compelling circumstances have developed and you have no control over the situation. As such, people impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, who face travel restrictions, may be eligible to apply.
This means that if you’re on a visa with a restriction and receive a waiver, you may then be able to proceed with a partner application, without leaving the country.
The most important thing is to keep a close eye on your visa expiry date and conditions. Make sure you stay lawful and take action by applying for an alternative visa before your current one runs out.
If you’re unsure of what step to take next, we can offer you a free assessment with a Registered Migration Agent.