COVID VISA UPDATE - September 2023
The government has announced important updates last 31st of August regarding the Pandemic Event Visa (Subclass 408) also known as Covid Visa in Australia. It's a visa that was made to help students who couldn't go home during COVID-19. But guess what? It's going away soon, and we're here to explain what's happening.
Covid Visa Changes
Sometimes rules change, and that's what's happening with this visa. Starting from September 2nd, only people who already have this visa will be able to re-apply. But, from February 2024, no new applications will be accepted. 📆 So, if you already have it, you're in luck and can keep using it for now. 🎉
For those who are still able to apply, they'll get a shorter visa, just for six months and will have to pay a fee of $405. 💰
What if You Have the Visa?
No worries if you're already on this visa! You can stay in Australia until your visa expires. So, no sudden changes for you. 🤗
ABOUT THE COVID VISA
The Covid visa (visa 408) is a temporary visa to stay in Australia that now allows you to work in any sector of the Australian economy for up to 12 months. You can also include members of your family unit in your application.
The COVID-19 Pandemic event visa is a specific branch of the Temporary Activity Visa which was created in April 2020 and allowed you to stay in the country if you could not leave Australia due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, or to continue working in critical areas. The requirements for this visa have changed over time to accommodate decisions made in relation to the management of the pandemic. More information can be found on the immigration page for this visa.
Read more about this COVID visa on this page:
💰Cost of the 408 Covid Visa
Covid Visa Length of Stay
→ If you apply on or after 21 February 2022, you can get a COVID-19 visa for a stay of up to 12 months if you are employed or have a job offer to work in Australia. Your visa granting letter will tell you exactly how long you can stay in Australia.
→ The Covid visa starts on the day it is granted.
→ The additional stay of up to 12 months contains the possibility of multiple entries:
pandemic-related travel restrictions may still apply if the government decides to do so, however this is often no longer the case today.
😷 Covid Visa Eligibility
If you had applied for this visa before 21 February 2022, you had to:
1) Be in Australia at the time of application.
2) Have your current visa expiring in less than 28 days or have a visa that has
expired in less than 28 days.
3) Either have proof from an employer in a critical sector (including agriculture, food industry, health care, aged care, disability care and child care) that you have a current job with them and that an Australian citizen or permanent resident cannot fill the position. Or prove that you cannot return to your home country because of Covid and that you have no other visa option.
4) Maintain adequate health insurance while in Australia.
If you applied for a COVID visa before 21 February 2022, your visa application,
including your period of stay, will continue to be assessed under the provisions in force at the time you applied.
If you have applied or wish to apply after 21 February 2022, you must :
1) Be in Australia at the time of application.
2) Have proof of being employed in Australia or having a job offer.
3) Maintain adequate health insurance while in Australia
4) Be able to support yourself in Australia and be up-to-date with your tax
5) Also taken into account is your genuine intention to stay only for a short time
and the suitability of your legal background to Australian law.
Please note: If you apply for a COVID visa after 21 February 2022, you are NOT eligible for the visa on the basis that you cannot leave Australia due to travel restrictions.
For an application made after 21 February 2022 you must :
- have worked in Australia or intended to work while in Australia before that date,
- or have arrived in the country with an appropriate visa allowing you to work after 21st February 2022.
- either hold a job offer from a Commonwealth-funded aged care service → even if you do not have work rights on your current main visa you are eligible for the COVID visa
❖ As long as you remain in Australia on this visa, you are required to be employed or to make arrangements to be employed as soon as possible.
❖ If not, you are required to leave Australia as soon as possible.
❖ While applicants are waiting for the outcome of their application/ maintenance of their visa, they are also required to continue working. If they are no longer employed, they must find a new job or make arrangements to leave Australia.
If you have been in Australia during the pandemic, you might have heard or you might hold a “COVID VISA”. Now that the borders have opened again and life is returning to normal, what are the next steps for you? Can you travel while holding a Covid visa? What are the requirements for holding a Covid visa? Can you still apply for a Covid visa?
We asked Mark Pelley, a registered migration agent at Visas To Australia , for his opinion and recommendation to make sure you are not taking any risks.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE COVID VISA (subclass 408)
The COVID Visa falls under the Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408). This visa allows you to remain in Australia to continue work in critical sectors or in any industry.
You can obtain a COVID visa for up to 12 months.
You can apply for the COVID visa ONLY if you have a job or a very serious job offer, otherwise you may have to make arrangements to return home.
If you apply for a COVID visa after 21 February 2022, you are NOT eligible for the visa on the basis that you cannot leave Australia due to travel restrictions.
In addition, if you arrived in Australia after 21 February 2022, you can only apply for the COVID visa with an existing visa that already allows you to work, unless you have a job offer from a Commonwealth-funded aged care service.
IMPORTANT: You must have proof of employment or a job offer. This means that you must enclose all documents proving that you are employed. The proof of employment must confirm the dates you started work and the sector in which you work or intend to work. This could be pay slips, a contract or a letter from your employer.
You must also hold or previously held a substantive visa with work rights when you apply. You can only apply from inside Australia when your current visa has 90 days of less until it expires or if it expired less than 28 days ago – it is important to note that a bridging visa is not a substantive visa.
The cost of the COVID Visa is – FREE! You must select ‘yes’ to the ‘visa application charge concession’ question, and select the ‘Nil VAC’ option through your Immi Account.
Can you travel and go abroad on a Covid visa?
We have received a lot of questions on this very point and there is no right or wrong answer, we will explain why!
In the days of border health restrictions, if you left Australia on a COVID visa, you were likely to be refused entry at the border.
RETURN IS NOT GUARANTEED, and each person may be considered on a case-by-case basis by the border control officer.
As the pandemic has evolved, the return to Australia seems more certain, but the situation is not set in stone.
With unemployment at an all-time low, the government is offering targeted incentives for skilled workers to stay in Australia. Therefore, leaving the country to travel overseas could have a negative impact on your eligibility to return. We are not saying that you will not be allowed to return to the country, but if in doubt, you should consider the option of not leaving Australia while holding a COVID visa if you do not want to take that risk!
The Australian Government has listened carefully to the needs of the industries and has introduced changes to support Australia's economic recovery COVID-19. As a holder of a temporary visa granted by COVID to work and support these industries, you may appear to be dishonest if you choose to leave and not work in Australia for a period of time.
For example, in the eyes of immigration and the government, you have been granted a visa to work and support the Australian economy while travel is severely restricted. If you leave and travel, then a border control officer may look at you and believe you are not a genuine temporary entrant by not meeting the requirements of your visa.
However, as the situation has evolved, the return to the territory seems less uncertain than it was at the peak of the pandemic.
Reminder: If you applied for a COVID visa before 21 February 2022, your visa application, including your period of stay, will continue to be assessed under the provisions in force at the time you applied.
Covid Visa Conditions
1) Work limitation: COVID-19 applicants and visa holders can now change jobs and work for more than one employer, including as self-employed. There is no need to contact the Ministry to inform them of a change of job.
2) No Further stay: You cannot stay in Australia longer by extending this visa.
- If you have a COVID-19 visa that is about to expire, you can apply for a new COVID-19 Pandemic event visa to stay in Australia if you meet the eligibility requirements.
- You will not be entitled to a COVID visa if, at the time of your application, the period of stay on your main visa is longer than 90 days.
3) You must inform the Immigration Department if you:
- changes of telephone number, e-mail address, address or passport
- changes in your family situation
- birth of a child
Fill in and submit form 929 - Change of address and/or passport details (PDF).
HOW TO APPLY TO THE COVID VISA
Log in to your Immi account to apply for your visa online.
Necessary documents to apply for the Covid Visa
As a minimum, applicants must attach a high quality scanned copy of the following documents to their online application:
- Passport biographical data page
- Health insurance certificate covering the period of stay in Australia
- Proof of your current employment. This proof must indicate :
→ the dates of your employment
→ the sector in which you work or intend to work, including key sectors (agriculture, food processing, health care, care of the elderly, care of the disabled, child care, tourism and hospitality)
→ if possible, a detailed description of your current or future position and duties
For all visa applications, information on the financial stability of the applicant is required. You will also be required to provide proof of your criminal record and information on whether you are accompanied by minors or dependants.
Please note: All documents must be translated into English and scans must be done in colour!
– If an applicant’s stay in Australia will exceed 12 months in total from their first date of arrival to their intended departure, a Police Clearance Certificate(s) for any country the applicant has resided for 12 or more months in the last 10 years, immediately preceding the application lodgement date. For more information, please click here.
– Complete any applicable health assessments through a Panel Doctor as prompted through ImmiAccount upon lodgement of your application.
APPLYING FOR THE COVID VISA
Connect to your Immi account in order to apply for the visa online
408 PANDEMIC VISA SURVEY RESULTS
An independent survey has been conducted on Facebook across several backpackers groups over a period of 2 weeks. The results are the following:
- 23% GRANTED this Visa for 12 months
- 24% GRANTED this Visa for 3 months or until October
- 27% STILL WAITING for Over 3 months for an outcome
- 26% STILL WAITING but Less than 3 months for an outcome
- 0% REFUSED a 408 Pandemic Visa
It appears that:
- Applicants who had jobs in the Critical Sector and provide a “Letter of Engagement / Employment” from their Employer were usually given a 12 month visa.
- Demographic factors, such as country of origin or type visa (417 or 462), did not appear to contribute to the length of visa or waiting period.
- Applicants who were not employed in the Critical Sector or who had no job, were usually given a shorter visa / 3 months visa.
- Majority of the applicants have been waiting for months. Most have been waiting for in-excess of 3 months, and have been placed on a Bridging visa with work rights.
- Many applicants were happy to be on a bridging visa for as long as possible because it allowed them to continue working as with the conditions of their previous visa, and not only for the one employer.
- The majority of who have been granted the visa had “Work Limitation” condition imposed on the visa, meaning that they had to continue to work for the same employer for the duration of the visa.
- Very few (less than 10% that we are aware of) who were granted the visa, had “No further Stay” condition imposed on their visa, and many of these applicants were only given a 3 month or short visa.
- An abnormally large number of 408 Pandemic visas were granted until October. There is no definitive reason for this except some applicants may not have had jobs in the critical sector.
We believe the majority of the information to be creditable as many members and respondents have either contacted us directly through messenger or indirectly through posts and well as providing feedback and comments either before and or after applying for this visa.
If you need assistance to apply for the COVID visa or any other visa, book a consultation with our MARRA registered agent.
Still want to live in Australia? Apply for a free Covid visa
While the Covid VISA of up to 12 months' length was reserved for workers in critical sectors, it is now open to all sectors and allows you to work for up to 12 more months in Australia.
Testimony of Martha, COVID visa conditional on working in critical sectors at the time:
“I was working in a critical sector, and planning to go on a student visa but didn’t know how I could find the necessary funds to apply, told us Martha, a Spanish student. I still wanted to live in Australia so the 408 COVID-19 was a huge relief for me. I’ll be able to enjoy Australia one more year”.
If just like Martha, you are struggling with money and wondering how you could stay in Australia, the 408 COVID-19 Pandemic Event Visa might be a good option: it is free to apply and gives you the possibility to stay on the island for up to 12 months. So, how does it work?
Anyone living in Australia, who has health insurance and holds a visa that expires in 90 days or for which their last substantive visa expired 28 days or less ago can apply. Other conditions to apply include: not having debts towards the Australian government, having enough money to stay in Australia and never have had a visa refused before. A dependant can also be added to the visa.
If your dream is still to live in Australia but you are not working in critical sectors, you can now also apply for 12 months!
The 408 COVID-19 pandemic event visa has undergone many changes. Before, if you were not working in a critical sector - namely agriculture, food industry, health care, child care, care of the disabled, tourism and hospitality - you could still apply but you could only stay for a maximum of 3 months. Now there are no more sector conditions to stay for up to 12 months!
Finally, if you still want to live in Australia to work, you will need to have evidence of your employment. You will also need to hold a visa that expires in 90 days or less or show that your last work visa expired less than 28 days ago. Anyone who has been granted a COVID-19 pandemic event visa before may be eligible for another COVID-19 pandemic event visa if they still meet the visa requirements.
Other points to note: if you are a WHV holder, you can apply for this visa even if you have not completed your 88 days. If you have a COVID-19 pandemic event visa, you can work for more than 6 months with the same employer.
What are the main differences between the COVID-19 Visa and the Student Visa?
While both the student visa and the COVID-19 visa allow you to benefit from full-time work rights in certain sectors, there are some significant differences.
Firstly, the student visa gives you the possibility to work in 2 jobs of 20 hours each, as long as they are both in critical sectors. The COVID-19 visa now allows you to work in any sector for up to 12 months.
In addition, while both visas allow holders to add dependants, they do not have the same rights. If you are a student visa holder, your dependant will be entitled to full-time work rights in critical sectors. They will not have any work rights if you are on a COVID-19 visa.
Choosing the right visa to live in Australia according to your situation
Finally, if you are wishing to stay long-term in Australia, a student visa might be a better option. At the moment, the Australian government is very flexible and rejects only 1% of student visas applications. This visa will allow you to study in Australia and pursue a career in your field of studies. Most of all, this will be an easier way to prove your genuine wish to live in Australia to follow your vocation when applying for your PR (Permanent Residency).
However, if you are running out of money but still want to live in Australia, even for a year, the COVID-19 Visa could be a great option for you. You will be able to work full time on a wide range of critical sectors without spending money on a visa or a course. It is also a pretty flexible visa to apply to. If you have applied for a student visa for instance and changed your mind, you can withdraw your application while you are on a bridging visa to apply for a COVID-19 Visa. This will work as long as you do so 28 days after your last visa expiry date.
Can you apply for another visa after Covid visa? Of course you can!
Choosing the right visa to live in Australia truly depends on your goals and needs. We understand that it can be a difficult choice to make and are, as usual, here for you.
If you feel like you need more information depending on your situation, call us! We will give you all the information and advice you need for free.
You still find the process confusing? We can make your student visa application for free and your COVID-19 Pandemic Event for 250 AUD (instead of 500 AUD in most immigration agencies). Let’s get in touch!
Additional notes – Testimonies from former applicants to the Covid Visa:
We interviewed a few applicants. It appears that some of them have faced unexpected fees. This was Alan’s case. ‘’I applied from Brisbane for the COVID visa just before midnight, and just before my other visa expired. Unfortunately, the application was on Canberra time and when I submitted it, I was already overstayed. I had to pay AUD300 without even understanding what I was paying for’’.
Diane and David also found themselves in a costly situation, for different reasons. ‘’Already on an Australian Working Holiday Visa that was about to expire, we were hesitating between a student and a COVID visa. We finally opted for the latter from Australia. But when we applied for a student visa a few months later, we were announced a AUD 700 surcharge!”.
Unfortunately, their story is relatively common. When applying for a visa from Australia, it is important to note that any visa, as long as it’s the third one you are applying for onshore, will cost you a surcharge. If you wish to stay long term in the country and are on a budget, the COVID visa might therefore not be the best option.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need more information to make your decision, we’re always happy to help!