What the New Australian Travel Ban Means for You
On Friday 20 March 2020 at 6 pm (Western Australian Standard time), new travel bans to Australia came into effect to prevent overseas travelers from entering Australia.
The ban does not affect:
- Australian citizens;
- Australian permanent residents; and
- spouses, dependent children and guardians of Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents.
On its face, the ban appears to apply to temporary visa holders, even those who have been living in Australia for a significant period of time.
Temporary visa holders who may be affected include holders of the following visas who are outside Australia at the time of the ban coming into force:
- student visas;
- graduate visas;
- prospective marriage visas;
- retirement visas; and
- temporary work visas (including Subclass 482 and 457 visas).
It would also affect temporary visa holders who leave after the ban came into effect and who then seek to return to Australia.
The Immigration Department’s website now includes a link to seek an exemption if there are “compelling and compassionate circumstances”; however, details are yet to be released as to what those circumstances may comprise. It is likely at this stage that the Department will consider exemption requests on a case-by-case basis.
Visa holders who are affected should seek an exemption before attempting to travel.
Temporary Visa Holders in Australia
If you are a temporary visa holder in Australia, we recommend that you do not leave Australia if possible.
You should note the expiry date of your current visa and make an application for a further visa onshore prior to the expiry date so that you can remain in Australia during processing.
If you have a family member (holding temporary visas) outside of Australia, it is not clear whether they will be exempted to enable them to re-enter Australia. There may be an argument that they should be exempted because of “compelling and compassionate circumstances.”
The ban will affect Australian businesses seeking to bring in workers on temporary visas.
Whilst the ban does not prevent the lodgment and processing of new temporary visa applications, it would prevent the visa grantee from entering Australia.
It may then be necessary to seek an exemption based on “compelling and compassionate circumstances”. We expect that this may include workers with specialist skills not otherwise available in Australia or where the worker is crucial to the operations of the Australian business. Presumably, workers coming to Australia to assist in the provision of essential services, e.g. medical services, may be exempted. At this stage, the Department has not issued any guidelines.
Other Visa Applicants
There are some visas which take a long time to process, for example, parent visas, offshore partner visas and business skill visas.
We expect that those applications will continue to be processed in the ordinary course so applicants should not delay lodging their applications so that they can join the processing “queue” sooner rather than later.
It is not yet clear how long the ban will continue for, but we expect that it may subsist for a few months, particularly since Australian States/Territories have just begun to shut down domestic borders.
Existing self-isolation measures for those to whom the ban does not apply are, of course, still in place.
If you require any assistance or you have any questions, please feel free to email Lester Ong (MARN 0427625) at email@example.com.
NOTE (updated 3 April 2020): Since writing this article, the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force has issued directions regarding specific exemptions to the travel ban. These are: foreign nationals travelling at the invitation of the Commonwealth Government to assist in the Covid-19 response or whose entry would be in the national interest; persons providing critical medical services; persons with critical skills such as medical specialists, engineers, marine pilots and crews; accredited diplomats and their immediate family; or where there are humanitarian or compassionate reasons. What constitutes compassionate reasons will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The Department of Home Affairs has also established an online portal on its website for persons affected by the travel ban to seek an exemption and provide supporting documentation. It is important that an exemption be obtained before attempting to travel to Australia. If you need assistance in obtaining an exemption, please contact Lester Ong (MARN 0427625).