The long wait has ended for Harmandeep Kaur who will be landing in Sydney tomorrow, after she was granted a COVID-19 travel exemption to fly from India on May 28.
Months of anticipation turned into relief for Ms Kaur as an approval landed in her inbox after two unsuccessful attempts and an arduous document gathering process amid pandemic.
The 28-year-old who works as a registered nurse at an aged care facility in Toowoomba in regional Queensland will return to her work after completing two weeks of mandatory quarantine starting from Tuesday.
- Three temporary visa holders receive exemption to Australia's coronavirus travel ban
- Temporary visa holders intending to return to Australia can apply for exemptions
- Australian borders are currently closed to non-Australian citizens, residents
Speaking to SBS Punjabi, Ms Kaur who is on a Temporary Graduate visa said while she is grateful for the exemption, “this is only half the battle won.”
“An exemption for me alone means I am returning to Australia while my husband who is on a dependent visa would continue to remain in India,” she said.
“While I am thankful that I will be returning to my work and home in the next few days, the fact that I will now be separated from my husband has dampened the joy we initially felt,” added Ms Kaur.
Of late, there has been a steady increase in the number of exemptions being granted to offshore applicants possessing critical skills particularly in the field of medicine.
Madhusoodhana Prasad is also one of the few work visa holders who have managed to re-enter the country after the Australia borders were closed to everyone but citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members.
The 35-year-old who works as an anaesthetic technician at a hospital in Bunbury near Perth said he had to apply twice before receiving the travel grant despite possessing a skill that is deemed critical.
“My first request was outrightly rejected. Then I applied again along with my employment documents and a letter from my hospital stating they needed for me to return immediately,” he said.
After completing his hotel quarantine on July 1, Mr Prasad will be required to stay in self-quarantine for another two weeks in Perth, as per the state health guidelines.
Earlier, an Indian-origin frontline doctor, Anant Sandhu was also exempted from the international travel ban. He has now re-joined his work at a hospital in South Australia.
Last month, the Australian Border Force (ABF) told a Senate Committee on COVID-19 that it has granted 1,905 travel exemptions and refused 253 applications between February 2 and May 6 this year.
As per the data submitted to the committee, the highest number of exemptions were granted on compassionate grounds, followed by other categories such as people on protection visas and those with critical skills particularly in fields related to medicine, besides others.
How to request for an exemption?
It is important that exemptions are granted prior to these travellers boarding a flight to Australia.
Travellers who have a compassionate or compelling reason to travel to Australia need to fill this dedicated online enquiry form to apply for an exemption.
The form asks applicants to choose a ‘reason for exemption’ and other relevant personal details including your passport, visa status, travel arrangements and contact details. It also allows applicants to upload supporting evidence.
There is no specific processing time mentioned for applications under this category. The website, however, states that the Department will not respond, "if it determines that there were not sufficiently compelling or compassionate reasons to prioritise your application."
Please visit the Department of Home Affairs website for more details.
Other than temporary visa holders, immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents are also required to apply for exemptions.
Shruti*, a permanent resident based in Sydney who does not wish to disclose her real name said her husband had to endure eight rejections before he was given a go-ahead to travel last week.
“The struggle is real even for immediate family members of citizens and residents. It isn’t a piece of cake for anyone to travel to Australia in these times irrespective of their visa status,” she said.
The 31-year-old who is currently pregnant with her first child said they had to run from pillar to post to gather documents to prove that their relationship is genuine.
“It took us a total of nine attempts to prove we are legitimate partners. I think all applicants in a similar situation as us must understand that they have to submit every single evidence, such as joint utility bills, account details, pictures and any other proof of time spent together to get an approval,” she added.
*Shruti is not her real name
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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