If you have been in Australia during the pandemic, you might have heard or you might hold a “COVID VISA”. As borders reopened and life is back to normal, what are the next steps for you? Can you travel while you are on a Covid visa? What are the conditions to hold 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 could be granted a COVID visa for up to 12 months if you are working in the key sectors of agriculture, food processing, health care, aged care, disability care, child care, and tourism and hospitality.
Or, you could be granted a COVID visa for up to 6 months if you are working in any other employment sector.
You can ONLY apply for the COVID visa if you are employed otherwise, you may need to make arrangements to return home.
However, if you apply for a COVID visa after 21 February 2022 you are NOT eligible for the visa based on the grounds that you cannot depart Australia due to travel restrictions.
Furthermore, if you arrived in Australia after 21 February 2022 you are not eligible to apply for the COVID visa unless you have a job offer from a Commonwealth funded aged care service.
You must have evidence of your employment or an offer of employment.
One of the criteria for the COVID visa is that you “must seek to remain in Australia to undertake work directly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic”.
This means that you must attach all the documents proving that you are employed.
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 OVERSEAS WHEN YOU HOLD A COVID VISA? WE’VE RECEIVED A LOT OF QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS SPECIFIC POINT. AND THERE IS NO GOOD OR BAD ANSWER, WE WILL EXPLAIN TO YOU WHY!
If you leave Australia while holding a COVID visa, you risk that you could be denied entry at the border.
RE-ENTRY IS NOT GUARANTEED, and each person may be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the operating border control officer.
The purpose of the COVID visa is that it is a temporary visa that lets you stay in Australia to work IF you are employed in a key sector in a time where travel is significantly restricted due to the pandemic.
With unemployment at record lows, the Government is providing targeted incentives for skilled workers to remain 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 won’t be allowed back into the country, but if in doubt you should consider the option to not depart Australia whilst holding a COVID visa if you do not want to take this risk!
The Australian Government listened carefully to the needs of the industries and introduced changes to support Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery. As a temporary visa holder granted a COVID visa to work and support these industries you could appear disingenuous if you choose to leave and not work in Australia for any length 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 when travel is significantly restricted. If you leave and travel, then a border control officer could look and believe that you are not a genuine temporary entrant by not meeting the conditions of your visa.
If you plan to travel outside of Australia, or you arrived after 21 February 2022 you should consider other visa options. A Student visa allows you to stay in Australia to complete your studies and travel with ease during the school holidays.
There is also the added benefit of the Temporary Relaxation of Working rights for student visa holders. This means that students can work before their course starts and work for 40 hours per week during their studies!
If you would like more information about student visas, courses, and eligibility – we can help!
If you applied for the COVID visa before 21 February 2022, your visa application, including your stay period, will continue to be assessed under the arrangements in place at the time you lodged your application.