Update: COVID-19 Information on how the Novel Coronavirus affects your Australian visa, sponsored-workers or travel plans

URGENT VIDEO & TELEPHONE CONSULTATIONS

Do you have an upcoming visa expiry? If you are a visa holders with a visa expiry anytime between now and 30 June 2020, we recommend you schedule a video or telephone consultation with one of our Lawyers or Registered Migration Agents to ensure arrangements are in place to extend your stay in Australia. With an increasing number of countries implementing travel bans, it is important that you always hold a visa which allows you to remain until it is safe to depart.

Are you a sponsored-worker who has been asked to take leave? If you are a Subclass 482, 457, 407 or 494 visa holder who has been asked to take leave from work, we recommend you schedule a video or telephone consultation with one of our Lawyers or Registered Migration Agents to ensure you are not breaching your visa conditions.

Need advice on managing your workforce during the COVID-19 outbreak? Our Lawyers / Registered Migration Agents are ready to provide employers of sponsored-workers with advice on managing work arrangements while still remaining compliant with Australia's immigration regulations.

Contact our offices on (08) 9485 0650 to organise an urgent video or telephone consultation. Estrin Saul Lawyers’ Perth and Adelaide offices remain fully operational and our staff are available to assist during this period of concern. However, for the safety of our clients, staff and the broader community, our staff will be conducting all appointments via teleconference or video-conference until the situation normalises.


LATEST NEWS

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10-Apr-2020: 1:00PM (AWST)

COVID-19 Update - Early Access to Superannuation - Key points for visa holders (including bridging visa holders)

  • For Australian citizens or permanent residents, if your working hours were reduced by 20% or more since 1 January 2020, you can access up to $10,000 of your superannuation.
  • For temporary visa holders, you can access up to $10,000 of your super if you meet one of the following three criteria:
    • You hold a student visa that you have held for 12 months or more and you are unable to meet immediate living expenses.
    • You are a temporary skilled work visa holder, your working hours have reduced to zero and you remain engaged with your employer.
    • You are a temporary resident visa holder (excluding student or skilled worker visas) and you cannot meet immediate living expenses.

 

  • You can apply for early release directly through the Australian Tax Office (ATO) from 20 April 2020.  The government instructions are currently as follows:
     
    What to do immediately

     

    • Go to my.gov.au and create an online account if you don’t already have one; and
    • Follow the ‘Intention to access coronavirus support’ options and register your intention.

     

    What to do after 20 April

    • From 20 April, you can either complete the online application form through the ATO portal in my.gov.au or call the ATO and apply over the phone.
    • From 20 April, in my.gov.au You will be shown a list of all your open super accounts (you may have more than one) and the account balance for each. Please note, the account balance shown may not have been updated since 30 June 2019.
    • You will then input the amount of super you’d like to withdraw from your account. Remember, the limit for each financial year is $10,000. So, if you have multiple accounts, the combined amount can’t exceed $10,000.
    • You will then give the ATO with the details of the bank account you want your early release paid into.

6-Apr-2020: 11:00AM (AWST)

COVID-19 Update - New COVID-19 visa stream and temporary visa extensions - Key points

  • Tourists or those visiting friends and family in Australia who can return to their home country have been "encouraged" by the Government to do so. This is not an option for some, especially those more susceptible to infection, or those who simply, as genuine visitors, wish to spend more time with their friends and family in Australia.
  • Those who wish to extend their stay can usually apply for an onshore visitor visa. They must show they have adequate means to support themselves and that they remain genuine visitors. While these visas are normally straight forward for most applicants, given the government's negative position on stay extensions, we recommend seeking assistance from a migration professional.
  • Those who have condition 8503 (no further stay) attached to their visa must apply for a waiver first before applying for any other visa.
  • Temporary visa holders with "no other visa options" who cannot depart Australia due to travel restrictions and have 28 days or less remaining on their current substantive visa may be able to apply for a special subclass 408 visa - COVID-19 Pandemic event stream.
  • Temporary visa holders with "no other visa options" whose substantive visa has already expired less then 28 days ago, may be able to apply apply for a special subclass 408 visa - COVID-19 Pandemic event stream*. They must also be unable to depart Australia due to travel restrictions.
  • Temporary visa holders who wish to remain in Australia to assist in critical sectors including healthcare, disability and aged care, childcare and agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic can also apply for the special subclass 408 visa - COVID-19 Pandemic event stream. They will be granted permission to work in these areas.
  • Working Holiday Makers (WHMs) who work in agriculture or food processing will be exempt from the six month work limitation with the one employer.
  • WHMs will also be eligible for a further visa to keep working in these sectors if their current visa is due to expire in the next six months.The aim is to allow them to continue working until the coronavirus crisis has passed.
  • Seasonal Worker and Pacific Labour Scheme workers can apply for a further visa up to 12 months to work for "approved employers".

 

2-Apr-2020: 6:30PM (AWST)

COVID-19 Update - 457/TSS visa holders and reduced work hours

According to today's media release by Acting Minister for Immigration Alan Tudge:

  • Reducing 457/482 visa holders' work house is allowed for COVID-19 affected businesses. We read this as an undertaking by the government not to enforce sanctions or cancel visas for technical breaches;
  • Hourly rates should be maintained and salaries pro-rated;
  • Reductions in salary are generally unlawful unless agreed to by the employee. Ensure you obtain employment law advice before reducing pay, rather than hours - this could affect other sponsorship obligations;
  • Employees who are stood down (but not laid off) will not be subject to cancellation - they are still considered employed - the Minister acknowledged that the skills shortage that led to the grant of the visa may still be present when the crisis has passed;
  • Redundancies will be handled strictly - sponsors must notify the Department within 28 days of the employee's last day of work;
  • Employees who are made redundant will have 60 days to find a new sponsor or leave Australia;
  • Consider alternatives to redundancies if possible - remember sponsors have an obligation to pay some repatriation costs for employees and their families - this could be much costlier than reducing work hours or other leave arrangements;
  • Leave without pay (LWOP) may be acceptable and we recommend using this an alternative where possible;
  • Visa holders can withdraw up to $10,000 from their super for this financial year;
  • Time counted in Australia prior to COVID-19 pandemic will be counted towards permanent

 

19-Mar-2020: 7:30PM (AWST)

COVID-19 Travel Alert - Qantas, Jetstar follow Virgin Australia and suspend international flights

  • Qantas and Jetstar have moved to suspend all scheduled international flights from late March. Essential domestic, regional and freight connections will be maintained as much as possible.
  • This follows Virgin Australia's decision to temporarily suspension of all international services and make further cuts to their domestic network until 14 June 2020.
  • See the Qantas websiteand Virgin Australia website for further updates.


19-Mar-2020: 6:00AM (AWST)

COVID-19 Migration update - Bupa Medical Visa Services (MVS) suspends medical bookings

  • Bupa MVS has announced that they are not taking new bookings until existing bookings have been rescheduled.
  • Customers with existing bookings will be contacted if their appointment needs to be rescheduled. No action is required by the customer at this time.
  • See the Bupa MVS website for further updates.


18-Mar-2020: 4:00PM (AWST)

COVID-19 Migration update - TPV/SHEV holders

  • Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) and Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) holders are strongly advised against travelling at this time.
  • SHEV/TPV holders who are currently outside Australia should make immediate arrangements to return to Australia.
  • SHEV/TPV holders who are in Iran (or another country with a complete travel ban) should make their way immediately to a third country which does not have a complete ban, where they will need to remain for 14 days before entering Australia.
  • If SHEV/TPV holders need to change their travel plans, they should email a copy of their new travel itinerary and a request to vary their approved travel plans to: travel.request@homeaffairs.gov.au

 

18-Mar-2020: 4:20PM (AWST)

COVID-19 Migration update - New arrangements in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)

  • Starting from 20 March 2020, the AAT has announced it will temporarily cease 'in person' hearings, conferences and other events and instead aim to deal with cases by telephone or video-link.
  • AAT registries will continue to operate at this time and will contact impacted parties to discuss alternative arrangements.
  • See the AAT website for further updates.


18-Mar-2020: 3:15PM (AWST)

COVID-19 Migration update - New arrangements in the Federal Court

  • The Federal Court of Australia has commenced communicating with parties listed for hearing in the upcoming months. Parties will be asked to identify if listings can be conducted by telephone or videoconference, or whether they can be dealt with on the papers.
  • See the Federal Court website for further updates.


18-Mar-2020: 14:30AM (AWST)

COVID-19 Migration update - New arrangements in the Federal Circuit Court

  • The Federal Circuit Court has also commenced reviewing upcoming migration matters to determine if they can be conducted appropriately by telephone or videoconference. If the matter requires a hearing in person, it is likely to be postponed subject to the urgency of the case (e.g. detention matters).
  • See the Federal Circuit Court website for further updates.


18-Mar-2020: 11:00AM (AWST)

COVID-19 Migration update - Increased work hours for student nurses and aged care workers 

  • The Prime Minister has also signalled relaxing international student nurses and other aged care workers 40-hour limit work conditions. No further information has been released at this time.
  • Details were provided in the Prime Minister's media release.


18-Mar-2020: 9:30AM (AWST)

COVID-19 Travel Alert - DFAT issues highest advice

  • The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued a Level 4 advice - "do not travel overseas". This is the highest level advice the Department can issue.
  • Australian overseas are advised to return as soon as possible.
  • With Virgin suspending all international flights (except for inbound flights until 29 March), all signs point to an inevitable lockdown.
  • If you wish to extend your stay in Australia or are overseas on a Bridging visa B that is expiritng soon, contact Estrin Saul Lawyers immediately for advice.


18-Mar-2020: 14:30AM (AWST)

COVID-19 Travel Alert - Key points

  • Absolute travel bans continue for mainland China, Iran, South Korea and Italy, as well as cruise ships;
  • All passengers arriving in Australia from overseas must now self-isolate for 14 days. Heavy penalties for non-compliance may apply;
  • Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families holding permanent visas may enter Australia but will be forced to self-isolate;
  • New Zealand citizens living in Australia will be allowed to enter and self-isolate, however the situation is unclear for partners holding subclass 461 visas;
  • Partners and immediate families with temporary visas (such as subclass 300, 309 and 820 visas) will be dealt with on a case by case basis at the airports. Entry is not guaranteed;
  • "No further stay" waivers as a result of travel restrictions will be considered and additional resources have been allocated to processing;
  • Bridging visa B holders who cannot return before their entry expiry date cannot extend offshore - contact Estrin Saul Lawyers for urgent visitor visa arrangements to ensure you can return on time.


13-Mar-2020: 15:00PM (AWST)

COVID-19 Migration update - Increased work hours for selected student visa holders

  • Supermarket employers can now apply for the relaxation of enforcement of the 40-hour limit work condition for student visa holders.
  • To apply, visit the Department of Home Affair's website.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION

  • Department of Home Affairs: For up-to-date information on Australia's travel restrictions, self-isolation periods and other issues affecting visa holders.
  • Department of Health: For the latest news and alerts from the Australian Government on COVID-19.
  • Smart Traveller: For up-to-date travel advisories from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.