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Australia's visitor visa: Things you need to know before you apply or seek an extension during COVID-19 pandemic

Source: SBS

Visitor visa lets you visit Australia as a tourist, to see family and friends or for purposes other than business or medical treatment. It can be applied both onshore and offshore depending upon the individual circumstances of an applicant.

The prospect of an offshore visitor visa grant remains minimal due to the coronavirus-induced travel restrictions, warn migration agents. 

Explaining those prospects, Perth-based migration agent, Narinder Kaur said that entry into Australia on a visitor visa is only possible in certain exceptional circumstances. 

"You can't say that the Department of Home Affairs isn't granting visitor visas, but they are hard to come by unless the intending traveller has an exemption from the travel ban to enter the country. And this is likely to stay unchanged until the pandemic is behind us," she said.  


Highlights: 

  • Entry to Australia on a visitor visa is only possible under certain special circumstances 
  • Intending travellers must have an exemption from Australia's travel ban  
  • Under Australian migration law, it is not possible to extend a visitor visa
  • A waiver is needed if your current visa has 'no further stay condition'

Ms Kaur said many of her clients are from the Indian subcontinent and often want their parents to stay with them in Australia either for a short time or permanently. 

"We often get queries regarding the visitor visa options available for the parents or grandparents. People want to know if they can bring them over under the current coronavirus restrictions," she said. 

Travel restrictions warning in the airport due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Many visitors have decided to stay back in Australia due to the current difficulties with international travel.
Getty Images/rarrarorro

Under the current travel restrictions, it is nearly impossible for anyone who isn’t an Australian citizen or a permanent resident to enter the country. Ms Kaur said the only recourse available to intending travellers is to get a travel ban exemption from the Australian Border Force, but these are hard to come by. 

"The Department decides these exemptions on a case by case basis. The applicants must satisfy the visitor visa criteria and should establish a valid reason for their travel to Australia. 

"But there is a lack of clarity on the criteria used to assess these exemptions. For example, one of my clients is pregnant and wants her mother to come over to assist her during this time. She wants to know if this is a compelling reason, and the answer most likely is no," she added. 

For information on the exemption categories, application form and documentation required, see the Department of Home Affairs website. 

Australia's visitor visa
Australia's visitor visa
Supplied

Applicants seeking visa extensions

People who are currently in Australia on a visitor visa, have two options available to them –  they can either extend their stay or travel back to their respective countries. 

Melbourne-based migration agent Navjot Singh Kailay said temporary visa holders must not panic as the Department of Home Affairs has made “special provisions” for all those who cannot travel in the wake of the restrictions amidst the coronavirus outbreak. 

“You must apply for a new visa before your current visa expires. In most cases, applicants will be granted a bridging visa that will allow them to remain in the country legally until the department decides on their application,” said Mr Kailay. 

Mr Kailay advised that before applying, people must check the criteria and other requirements.

"If your current visa includes a 'No Further Stay' condition (8503, 8534 and 8535), and you wish to extend your visa beyond its expiry date, then a request to waive this condition must be made before lodging a new visa application," he said. 

Mr Kailay added that visitors who wish to extend their stay but have a visa condition 8558, also need to apply for a further visa to avoid breaching the visa conditions only if their continued stay in Australia exceeds 12 months.

Brij Lal Wadhwa and his wife Shashi Wadhwa
Brij Lal Wadhwa and his wife Shashi Wadhwa.
Supplied

Brij Lal Wadhwa and his wife Shashi Wadhwa have been staying in Melbourne for the past 15 months. 

The Indian couple arrived here initially for one year but could not travel on their return flight as it got cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Wadhwa said since the current process does not allow for the extension of visa after the completion of the stay period, they applied for another visitor visa in April, 2020.

"We don't feel safe to travel back to India, given the current situation with the coronavirus. We lodged a new visitor visa application in the first week of April and are desperately hoping to get an approval. 

"It is a bit of hassle given the current procedures around health examinations, police clearances and the cost involved. We have already spent around $2,000 on this entire process," said Mr Wadhwa.

Mr and Ms Wadhwa have now requested for 1-year visa in order to avoid travel during these “unsafe times”. 

Mr Kailay said that given the current "COVID limitations" visa approvals may take anywhere between four to six months. 

"The visa process has been severely affected by the pandemic. The authorities often ask applicants for a health check, or even police clearance certificate from AFP and their respective home countries, which can be very time consuming," he added. 

For more information on the visitor visa, see the Department of Home Affairs website

Disclaimer: This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Find out what restrictions are in place for your state or territory.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at http://www.sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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