A new visa option has been introduced to allow foreign nationals, unable to depart due to the COVID-19 situation, to remain in Australia lawfully and to assist in critical sectors to cope with the pandemic.
The Australian government’s ‘COVID-19 Pandemic event visa’ available under subclass 408 is free of cost pathway made available for applicants who cannot depart due to the current situation.
The pathway limits the class of persons who can be granted this visa to certain former or current holders of temporary visas, which has further limitations.
- Temporary visa holders now have a new visa option under subclass 408
- States and territories pause nomination programmes
- Victoria and NSW among states who will not accept new applications under business migration programmes
According to the visa explanatory statement, this option is only available to those “who hold a visa that is 28 days or less from ceasing to be in effect or held a visa that is no more than 28 days from ceasing to be in effect.”
And the main purpose of this pathway is to address workforce shortages in critical sectors such as healthcare, disability and aged care, childcare and agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘Visa of last resort’
Since its announcement last week, the visa has generated a lot of interest amid temporary visa holders finding ways to stay in the country longer.
But Melbourne-based migration agent Navjot Kailey warns applicants must be aware that the pathway has “very strict” eligibility criteria.
First, you need to be onshore, second, you must already have a temporary visa, third, visa holders must have 28 days or less remaining on their current visa or where their last substantive visa has expired up to 28 days previously
Mr Kailey says this requirement means that a 408 visa is the "visa of last resort" for anyone who cannot leave Australia and cannot meet the requirements for any other visa.
“So, unless you fulfil this criterion and are ready to address workforce shortages in critical sectors, you will not be eligible for this visa,” he adds.
Update on business migration programmes:
Some states and territories have closed their business migration programmes as they have met the allocation for 2019-2020 financial year.
Both NSW and Victoria have closed visa nominations for subclass 132 and 188 under the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP).
This means that no new nomination applications will be accepted, until the new financial year commencing on July 1, 2020.
Migration agent HP Rao says it is, however, not clear if the nominations under this program have been paused because of the COVID-19 situation.
“States usually close their nominations for BIIP around this time every year when they exhaust their allocations, that means their quota has been fulfilled.
“This year, however, is different because states are bringing temporary changes to their immigration policies, so it can very well also be because of the current health crisis," says Mr Rao.
Among other states and territories, that have closed nominations for these subclasses until July 1 are Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and South Australia.
Update on state nomination programmes:
Some states and territories have also stopped accepting new applications for s190 (Skilled Nomination visa) and subclass 491 (Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa).
In light of the COVID-19 situation, the Northern Territory government has announced that it will stop accepting applications for General Skilled Migration programmes until further notice.
“Existing applications received and paid will still be processed in accordance with current service standards,” according to information available on the state government’s website.
Queensland has temporarily closed offshore processing for subclass 491 due to the COVID-19 crisis. It has also stopped accepting new applications for subclass 190 as it has met allocation for the current financial year.
Tasmania has temporarily restricted applications for the subclass 491: 3A Overseas Applicant (TSOL) nomination category.
“Applications under category 3A lodged prior to March 20, 2020, which specify other occupations will still be considered. Applicants with ‘High Demand’ occupations will, however, be given priority.”
This means processing times for other Category 3A applications with occupations not listed in the High Demand section will become extended (approximately six months from lodgement).
South Australia has also made changes to its Subclass 190 nomination eligibility.
Immigration SA has closed visa Subclass 190 eligibility for applicants who are not currently working in South Australia for the last 12 months (or six months in a region).
NSW is also no longer inviting candidates who reside in another Australian state or territory to apply for the state nomination for subclass 190 as it has met its allocation capacity.
Disclaimer: This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.
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