Immigration to Australia during COVID-19

The pathways to immigration in Australia are complex in the best of circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing lockdowns have made the immigration landscape even more tricky to navigate. 

This blog post, written by an experienced migration lawyer, is designed to help you with some of the most common visa queries we’re seeing during the pandemic:

Australian Student Visas during COVID-19

International students are important to Australian universities and to the country’s economy as a whole. The government has made adjustments to its student visa policies to ensure that COVID-19 does not disrupt international student’s experiences more than it already has. 

These adjustments include:

  • Student visas will continue to be granted even to students who are living outside of Australia. This will allow students to return without waiting for a visa when the borders reopen.
  • If you were unable to complete your studies due to the pandemic, you will be able to apply for another visa free of charge
  • If you are living outside of Australia while completing your studies, this time will be credited towards the requirements for a post-study work visa. 
  • Even if you are unable to return to the country due to COVID-19, you will be able to apply for a post-study work visa. 
  • If an English language test is required, applicants will be given additional time to provide this to ease the burden associated with language centre closures. 

The government is also considering options for students who are near completion of their degree. They may be able to return to Australia despite travel restrictions in order to complete unfinished research requirements. Although this return program has not yet been confirmed, it would involve a two-week quarantine period and each student being tested for COVID-19. 

Man wearing headphones looking at student immigration paperwork

Can Tourist Visa Holders & Work Holiday Makers Still Come to Australia?

Due to COVID-19, travel to Australia is limited. These people may come to Australia:

  • Australian citizens;
  • Australian permanent residents;
  • Immediate family members of an Australian citizen or permanent resident; and
  • New Zealand citizens who reside in Australia.

If you’re an immediate family member of a citizen or Australian permanent resident and you already hold a temporary Australian visa, you will be required to show proof of your relationship to return to Australia. 

Anyone who does not have a temporary visa will not be allowed to enter the country at this time. A move which has left countless couples stranded on opposite sides of the world.

Working Holiday Maker Visas during COVID-19

If you’re a working holiday maker and you’re already in Australia, you may be able to stay if you work in any of the critical employment sectors. 

These “critical sectors” include:

  • Healthcare; 
  • Agriculture;
  • Aged care;
  • Food processing; and 
  • Child care. 

If you meet this criteria, you can work for your employer for longer than the 6-month limit previously enforced without applying for permission

If you are not working in one of these critical sectors, but are unable to depart due to the pandemic, there may be additional visa options available to you.

You can find more information on the Home Affairs website.

If you need help securing your next visa, get in touch with our expert migration team for assistance. Your first consultation is free. 

Skilled Migrants Program

The General Skilled Migration Program encourages immigration to Australia by workers with skills that will improve the country’s workforce. Under normal circumstances, the Skilled Migration List is released by the government to show skill areas with shortages in the country. 

The government has delayed the release of this list due to the pandemic. This program will resume in time. 

Current visa holders and potential skilled migrants will have opportunities to access this program in the future. 

You can read more here.

What should I do if my Australian visa expires during COVID-19?

Australian Bridging Visas and COVID-19

 If your visa expires but you can’t leave Australia, you should apply for a bridging visa. 

A bridging visa allows you to temporarily remain in Australia. Generally, these give you time to make arrangements to leave. 

If you wish to stay in Australia permanently, you need to apply for a new visa. You should apply as soon as possible, and before your visa expires, to ensure you don’t face any restrictions. 

Because of COVID-19, many services and checks in the visa process are delayed. Additional time is being given to applicants to account for this. 

If it has been more than 28 days since your visa expired, you need to contact Status Resolution Services who will help you

Feel free to reach out if you want legal representation in your dealings with Status Resolution Services. 

I can’t get tickets to fly home and I’m running out of money!

Superannuation is money that your employer puts aside for you each pay. Your superannuation fund will pay out the proceeds of your account when you retire. 

As a temporary resident of Australia, you may be eligible to access your superannuation once you leave the country. This is called the Departing Australia super payment, and likely applies if you have been working in Australia. 

International students who have been in Australia with a visa for more than 12 months will be able to access superannuation.

You may apply these funds to pay off credit or loans you’ve obtained to pay to leave Australia.   

Altria Law are Your Immigration Experts

Altria’s experienced migration team is here to make your Australian visa application process smooth and stress-free.

Many members of the Altria team are from overseas. We’re uniquely placed to provide migration services with empathy and understanding – based on our personal experiences and professional expertise. 

Free Migration Law Services

Complete our free case starter for a complimentary assessment of your case (in plain English). 

Then you can book in for your free consultation

You can also: 

We’re here to put the law on your side! 

Aziz and the Altria Team