Visa tips during the Coronavirus crisis

The travel restriction pertaining to banning non-citizens and non-residents from entering Australia (implemented by the Australian government from the 20th of March 2020) has a variety of effects to temporary visa holders who are either onshore or offshore. Many of them have questions relating to their visa status, visa conditions, and future visa applications and how all these come into play with the current pandemic.

I have enlisted here top five tips for temporary visa holders who are currently in Australia (see tip numbers 1-4) and for those who are outside of Australia (see tip number 5).

1. If your visa is expiring soon and you plan to stay in Australia, make sure you apply for another visa before your current visa expires.
Do not assume that the Department of Home Affairs will not mind if your visa expires while in Australia since we are in a global health crisis. Note that once your current visa expires and you have not left Australia nor applied for another visa, you will be considered as an unlawful non-citizen and you can be sent to the immigration detention centre.
If you overstay your visa for more than 28 days, you may be subject to an exclusion period, which means that you will be banned to re-enter Australia for three years.
If you have a “no further stay” condition (8503) on your current visa, you cannot apply for another visa while in Australia unless you get an approval for an 8503 waiver.

2. Continue to comply with your visa conditions.
You must still abide with your visa conditions even if the work landscape in Australia has changed in response to the virus outbreak.
If you are on a visitor visa, you are still not allowed to work in Australia. It was also suggested by the Prime Minister and the Acting Immigration Minister that if you cannot apply for another visa while in Australia and if you do not have means of supporting yourself in Austrlalia, you should consider returning back to your home country.
If you are on a student visa, your work limitation condition might have changed depending on where you currently work. International students who are nurses and who are working in Aged Care facilities can work beyond their 40 hours per fortnight work limit. Those who work in supermarkets (employers should be registered with the Department of Home Affairs) enjoys the same adjusted work rights until the 1st of May 2020.
You should still follow the other conditions of your student visa such as keeping yourself enrolled, attending your classes, etc. Note that if you have been in Australia for more than a year and you are struggling financially due to this crisis, you can access your super.
If you are on a work visa (482 or 457), you should still work in the same nominated occupation with the same employer who sponsored you. If you have recently lost your job, you have 60 days to look for a new employer who is willing to hire and sponsor you. As per Mr. Alan Trudge’s (Acting Immigration Minister) press release on the 4th of April 2020, work visa sponsors can lessen their employees’ work hours, and this won’t be considered as a breach on their sponsorship obligation. Work visa holders are also able to use their super ($10K this financial year) so it is best that you contact your super provider to get guidance on this.

3. Do not apply for a Protection visa unless you are genuinely eligible for it.
Protection visas are for people who need protection as they might face significant harm when they return to their country of origin. These visas are usually for refugees or asylum seekers.
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous advisers who suggest this visa pathway even if the potential applicant is not eligible for this visa. Most of these advisers will encourage you to make up a story so you can become eligible for this visa. Remember that providing false and misleading information on your visa application can lead to visa refusal/cancellation which will have negative effects on your future visa applications.

4. Let go of unnecessary overseas travels unless you are happy to wait until the travel ban is lifted before you come back to Australia.
This applies to you if you are a temporary visa holder and you are not a child, spouse, or partner of an Australian citizen or an Australian Permanent Resident. If you travel out of Australia, then you can only be allowed to enter when the travel restriction is no longer in place.

5. If you are holding a student and you are outside of Australia, you should arrange with your education provider to defer your course.
If your student visa is expiring soon, you should apply for another student visa to cover for your new course duration.
It is recommended that you seek advice from a Registered Migration Agent or an Immigration Lawyer regarding your specific circumstance to get guidance on your visa options and to assist you in applying for an 8503 condition waiver (if this applies to you).