Australian Immigration Update – Cornavirus COPD-19

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Prime Minister Morrison announces travel ban effective 9.00 pm on Friday 20th March

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has implemented a travel ban that applies to all non-resident and non-Australian citizens entering Australia from 9.00 pm on 20 March 2020.

You can travel to Australia if you are an Australian citizen, a permanent resident, an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident or are a New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia.

If you are an immediate family member holding a temporary visa, you will need to provide the Department of Home Affairs with evidence of your relationship. Travellers who have a compassionate or compelling reason to travel to Australia can use this form to apply for an exemption.

Will any concessions be available for visa holders unable to comply with their current visa conditions?

The department is taking a flexible approach to visa holders in these circumstances, including in the following situations:

  • Requests for waiver of the ‘No Further Stay’ condition (8503, 8534 and 8535)
  • Timeframes in relation to health, character and English language requirements for applicants.

Will international student graduates be provided with an extended application period where they have not been able to return onshore to lodge their Subclass 485 visa application?

The Migration Regulations allow international students to apply for a Temporary Graduate Visa up to six months after the expiry of their student visa. This means that most students who completed higher education studies in Semester 2 of 2019 will have until September 2020 to apply for a Temporary Graduate Visa.

Will the 12 months living in Australia immediately prior to citizenship applications be enforced for those who have been prevented from returning to Australia due to the travel ban?

The Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (the Act) sets out the legislative requirements for Australian citizenship by conferral, which includes having to meet the general residence requirements at section 22. The general residence requirement requires applicants to have been lawfully present in Australia for a period of four years, including at least 12 months as a permanent resident, immediately prior to making an application. Applicants may be absent from Australia for no more than 12 months in total during the four year period, including no more than 90 days in the 12 months immediately prior to lodging an application. It is noted that the Act, includes several ministerial discretion which may be applied to assist a person to meet the general residence requirement in limited circumstances. There is no legislative authority under the Act for either the Minister or a delegated decision-maker to waive any of the legal requirements for conferral of Australian citizenship.

Will concessions be available for students who have been unable to return to Australia due to the travel ban and have undertaken online courses during this period to ensure the continuity of their academic progress during the travel ban?

The Department of Home Affairs plays no role in authorising the modes of study for international students and is guided by education sector regulators, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), on whether students can count online learning towards completion of their course.

Will security bonds be seized where the visa holder has not departed Australia in accordance with their visa conditions as a result of the travel bans?

The decision regarding forfeiture of a bond is discretionary. Visa holders must remain lawful and abide by the conditions of the visa held. Where a visa holder is not compliant, the Department of Immigration will assess the forfeiture of each bond on a case by case basis.

Will Bridging Visa B holders whose visas expire while overseas because of the ban be able to apply offshore for a further BVB?

Non-citizens will need to apply for a further visa to return to Australia. There is no ability to extend a BVB travel period after grant. 

Would consideration be given to issuing BVB holders adversely affected by the travel ban with very short stay visitor visas so they can get back onto their BVA’s quickly?

If a BVB expires before the holder can return to Australia, they will need to apply for another visa (such as a short stay Visitor visa) once the travel restrictions have been lifted. Decisions on Visitor visa applications will be made on a case by case basis. Once onshore, the person will need to apply for a BVA to remain lawful after the Visitor visa expires.

What evidence of the relationship is required for entry to Australia of de facto partners?

If a de facto relationship has not been previously declared and evidenced to the Department, documents to prove this relationship might include:

  • Evidence of a child/ren of the relationship and shared responsibility for care and support of children;
  • Evidence of shared finances or purchases, such as joint loan agreements for real estate, cars, major household appliances, operation of joint bank accounts;
  • Evidence that a de facto couple are living together (or at least not living separately and apart permanently), such as joint ownership of residential property, joint residential leases, joint rental receipts, joint utilities accounts, correspondence addressed to either or both parties at the same address.
  • Any other documents that demonstrate that a de facto couple is in a genuine and continuing relationship.

How will those with cancelled temporary visas have these reinstated?

Persons are being notified in writing of their visa cancellation and provided with advice on how to seek revocation of the visa cancellation decision. Visas will be reinstated for people who can demonstrate they have been outside of mainland China for a minimum period of 14 days or if they fall within one of the existing exemption categories. Remaining revocation requests will be prioritised for consideration by the Department after the temporary travel restrictions have been lifted.

Will the cancelled visa holders need to seek revocation under s129?

Yes. Non-citizens whose visas were cancelled offshore under s128 will need to apply for revocation in accordance with s129.