UPDATE: On Nov 30th the government announced a delay to these proposed changes in response to concerns around the Omicron variant of COVID-19. As a matter of caution the changes to border restrictions for eligible visa holders has been pushed back by 2 weeks until the 15th of December.
On Tuesday, November 23 the Australian Federal Government announced the biggest change to immigration in 2021 – travel exemptions would no longer be required for those holding eligible valid visas which effectively opens Australia’s International borders – likely to the surprise of Western Australia and Queensland.
Temporary visa holders have been stuck in limbo since March 2020. Having to navigate the murky world of travel exemptions in addition to visa requirements has been extremely difficult for anyone who is not an Australian Permanent Resident or Citizen. Even if they did manage to obtain a travel exemption and visa to travel to Australia, limited flights and quarantine arrangements provided one last hurdle for them to overcome.
Recently, New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory opened their borders to fully vaccinated international travelers who have a valid travel exemption for quarantine-free arrival in Australia. It’s now reasonably straightforward to travel to and between these states, however travel to the remainder of the country is subject to each individual state’s border controls.
What are the upcoming changes for visa holders?
From December 1st 2021, Australia will no longer require specific visa holders to obtain a travel exemption prior to traveling to Australia.
- You must be fully vaccinated with a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved or recognized vaccine. There are arrangements in place for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and children under 12.
- You will need to hold an Australian or foreign vaccination certificate that meets requirements outlined by the Australian Passport Office.
- You will still only be exempt from quarantine requirements if you are entering New South Wales, Victoria or the Australian Capital Territory.
It is important to note that the list of eligible visa holders is limited at this time and is mainly centred around skilled workers and students.
Some notable inclusions in the list of eligible visa holders are:
- Subclass 400 Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) – a visa focused on short-term, non-ongoing specialized work. This is a great change for both offshore and Australian employers with projects in Australia.
- Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage – a visa focused around the skilled occupation list which enables Australian business to source suitably skilled overseas workers to fill skill shortages in their business. This will enable Australian businesses to rebuild their businesses in the wake of a significant skill shortage.
- Subclass 500 Student/485 Temporary Graduate – students will be able to return to Australia without obtaining a travel exemption. This signals a return to normality for schools and universities who lost significant amounts of students due to Covid-19, and for students who have been forced to study from overseas
- Subclass 300 Prospective Marriage – couples who have been separated through Covid-19 and unable to reunite due to border controls will be able to enter Australia to get married and resume their lives together. This is a popular pathway to the onshore (subclass 820) partner visa.
We expect additional visa subclasses to become available over time as the Federal Government sees the effect of increased arrivals into Australia from overseas.
Clients should be aware that visitor visas (subclass 600, 601, 651) and bridging visas which allow travel out of Australia are not included on the list. If your circumstances are complex then you should check with the team at VSA to ensure that you are not stranded outside of Australia.
This is a welcome change for not only individuals, but for Australian businesses and international companies who operate on a global scale and rely on overseas workers with skills that are not readily available in Australia. It signals a restart to the Australian economy, that we are open for business to the rest of the world.
Employers across all sectors now gain access to the entry of skilled foreign workers, and critical skills will no longer be a limiting factor to meet the skill shortage faced by Australian businesses operating outside critical industries.
Those visa holders not on the eligible visa holder list will still require travel exemptions to be approved before traveling to Australia. Similarly, those holding temporary visas not on the eligible visa holder list and wishing to leave Australia will still need to apply for an inwards travel exemption before they depart in order to return in the future.
Visa Solutions Australia is operating as per usual during this period. If you have immigration queries relating to the above, or need urgent assistance, please call them on 1800 828 008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are some helpful links: