Australian Immigration COVID-19 update

Australian Immigration Covid-19 Update

To help keep our visitors who are looking to migrate to Australia informed of the latest COVID-19 updates, please find the latest relevant updates below. We will update this page regularly, so we recommend you bookmark and check back periodically. The timestamp for the last time this list was updated is 2022-09-21 18:03:05

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1 Immigration update
1.1 Latest updates

Immigration update

 

Latest updates

Update as at 5 April 2022

Some impactful amendments to the Migration Regulations have recently been made, including:

  • From 1 July, Temporary Skill Shortage (aka subclass 482) visa holders in the short term stream are now able to apply for a third subclass 482 visa if they meet the following criteria:
  1. They were in Australia as a subclass 482 visa holder for at least 12 months between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021; and
  2. They make a third subclass 482 visa  application before 1 July 2023 (unless the Minister for Immigration specifies a later date).

This amendment allows many short-term subclass 482 visa holders who remained in Australia during COVID-19 extra time to accrue the required 3 years of work required to be eligible for the transition stream of the Employer Nomination Scheme. Please see our 18 March 2022 update below for a further update.

  • From today, the Australian ETA app has been expanded to allow more nationalities to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority visa to enter Australia on a smart device. The Australian ETA app was introduced in 2020 for a limited number of passport nationalities. The list of passport nationalities that can use the app has now been extended to include:
    Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brunei, Croatia, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong (SAR of China), Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Japan, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Republic of San Marino, Slovak Republic, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan (excluding official or diplomatic passports), The Netherlands, United Kingdom—British Citizen, United Kingdom—British National (Overseas), United States of America and the Vatican City.

The expanded use of the AustralianETA app will enable more streamlined visa processing for tourists and business visitors to Australia.

  • From 1 July 2022, certain 457 holders, the newly identified cohort of “legacy 457 workers”, will be exempt from the age requirement for the subclass 186 visa in the TRT stream. The exemption will apply if they
    • were in Australia as for at least 12 months between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021; and
    • held a 457 visa on or after 18 April 2017.

This exemption is a further improvement of access to permanent residence for certain temporary skilled visa holders.

  • The Minister for Immigration has announced new Work and Holiday Maker visa arrangements between Australia and certain countries. From 1 July 2022 the following Work and Holiday Maker arrangements will take effect:
    • Brazil – new arrangement with 500 places
    • Mongolia – new arrangement with 100 places
    • Slovak Republic — cap increase from 200 to 1000 places
    • ​Hungary and Austria — cap increase from 200 to 500 places
    • Italy and Denmark – age increase from 30 to 35 years.

Please contact PwC Australia’s immigration team if you have any questions about this information.

Update as at 25 March 2022

Australia’s biosecurity emergency pandemic measures to end

Australia’s Biosecurity Emergency Determination relating to COVID-19 will not be renewed when it lapses on 17 April. The requirement for negative pre-departure COVID-19 tests for travellers entering Australia will also cease on this date. International travellers into and out of Australia will still require proof of double vaccination against COVID-19 prior to travel. Travellers will also still be required to wear a mask while on international flights (this measure will be implemented under non-emergency provisions in the Biosecurity Act). 

This brings to an end two years of biosecurity emergency measures in response to COVID-19 in Australia. 

Update as at 21 March 2022

Over the weekend, the Minister for Immigration announced that a temporary humanitarian (subclass 786) visa will be made available to Ukrainian temporary visa holders currently in Australia or those who will arrive in the coming months. This visa will be valid for three years and will allow visa holders to work, continue education (for school aged children), access Medicare and appropriate support services. There is no announcement yet on permanent visa pathways for impacted Ukrainian citizens; the Minister has said the Australian Government will ensure appropriate permanent visa options are made available at an appropriate time. 

Update as at 18 March 2022

Changes to the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and subclass 457 visa grandfathering rules

New legislation has been released enabling subclass 482 (Temporary Skills Shortage) visa holders who are nominated in short-term listed occupations to apply for permanent residence under the ENS (Employer Nomination Scheme) in the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream. From 1 July 2022, ENS will be open to individuals who have been in Australia for at least 12 months between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021 and are employed by an Australian business at the time of application, provided they satisfy TRT requirements.

From a preliminary assessment, the changes appear to also apply to future subclass 482 visa holders whose occupations are on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), if they were in Australia for at least 12 months between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021 (although not necessarily holding a subclass 482 visa) once they complete the prescribed eligibility period under TRT rules.

In addition, grandfathering arrangements for individuals who previously held a subclass 457 visa (or was an applicant for a subclass 457 that was subsequently granted) as at 18 April 2017 have also been extended. This gives legacy 457 visa holders a lifeline, as the grandfathering period would have otherwise ended today.

The recent announcements from the Government referred to additional upcoming legislative changes to employer-sponsored visas, to address post-COVID recovery needs.  We will provide the relevant information as soon as the proposed changes become available. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation on how these changes to permanent residence pathways may affect your situation. 

Update as at 21 February 2022

Western Australia’s border will reopen on  12.01am Thursday, 3 March 2022, to allow travellers from interstate and overseas to enter, subject to the following:

International arrivals must

  • Meet Commonwealth Government requirements, including a Digital Passenger Declaration and Pre-departure Covid Test
  • Be fully vaccinated under the Commonwealth Government requirements, if eligible
  • Have a registered G2G Pass
  • Undertake a Rapid Antigen Test upon arrival within 12 hours and report any positive result

Interstate arrivals must

  • Have a registered G2G Pass
  • Be triple dose vaccinated, if eligible
  • Undertake a Rapid Antigen Test upon arrival within 12 hours and report any positive result.

All arrivals will be provided with a Rapid Antigen Test to enable them to meet the testing requirements.

Unvaccinated Australians returning to WA will be required to complete hotel quarantine for 7 days.  The numbers of unvaccinated returning Australians will be capped at 70 per week.

These measures will be in place for a minimum of 2 weeks, and will be subject to ongoing review.

Update as at 8 February 2022

From 21 February 2022, all fully vaccinated visa holders can travel to Australia without needing a travel exemption. This announcement effectively reopens Australia’s borders to international tourists and business travellers. Unvaccinated visa holders will still require a travel exemption before travel to Australia. Please find a checklist of pre-departure requirements for Australia below:

Before you get on the plane: a checklist for travel to Australia

Tickets, passport, visa – the essential items for international travel, pre-COVID. With news that Australia’s international border will reopen on 21 February, many people are dusting off their passports and booking their first trip to Australia post lockdowns. However before getting on a plane, there is a new list of essential items to take care of prior to travel. We have compiled a checklist of to-dos to tick off before you fly.

Ensure you hold a valid visa

Aside from Australian citizens, all inbound travellers to Australia must hold a valid visa. Visitors to Australia for tourism, business or to visit family and friends can apply for an eVisitor visa, a Visitor visa or an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) prior to travel. Applications for an ETA can be made through the AustralianETA app. 

Check if you need a travel exemption

From 21 February 2022, all fully vaccinated visa holders may travel to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption. If you are unvaccinated, a travel exemption is still required prior to your travel to Australia. If you cannot be vaccinated due to medical reasons, we recommend that you seek support with your application.

Check if quarantine or a domestic border pass is required

This will depend on whether or not the traveller is fully vaccinated and where in Australia they land.  For vaccinated overseas travellers entering NSW and Victoria, mandatory quarantine is no longer required. For those entering another state or territory (such as Western Australia), quarantine may still be required. 

In addition, some states and territories have their own domestic entry requirements for overseas arrivals entering via another location.

Up to date entry and quarantine information can be found here for each Australian state and territory. 

Obtain a vaccination certificate

Anyone vaccinated in Australia and who has a valid passport can access an International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC).  The ICVC can be obtained by using a Medicare account through the myGov website. For people vaccinated in Australia but not eligible for Medicare (e.g. temporary visa holders), they can find information on how to obtain an ICVC here.

Travellers not vaccinated in Australia should provide evidence of vaccination issued by a national or state/provincial-level government authority or an accredited vaccination provider. The vaccination certificate must be written in English (or be accompanied by a certified translation) and contain the following detail:

  • traveller’s name (as it appears in their passport),
  • either date of birth or passport number, 
  • vaccine brand name, and 
  • the date of each vaccination dose or the date the full course of vaccination was completed. 

Paper or digital vaccination certificates are both acceptable. You can find further guidance here

What qualifies as fully vaccinated?

Travellers must show they are fully vaccinated with an Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved or recognised vaccine. These currently include:

Two doses at least 14 days apart of:

  • AstraZeneca Vaxzevria
  • AstraZeneca Covishield
  • Pfizer/Biontech Comirnaty
  • Moderna Spikevax or Takeda
  • Sinovac Coronavac
  • Bharat Biotech Covaxin
  • Sinopharm BBIBP-CorV (for people under 60 years of age on arrival in Australia)
  • Gamaleya Research Institute Sputnik V
  • Novavax/Biocelect Nuvaxovid

Or one dose of:

  • Johnson & Johnson/Janssen-Cilag COVID Vaccine.

Seven days must have passed since the final dose of vaccine in order to be considered as fully vaccinated. Mixed doses count towards being fully vaccinated as long as all vaccines are recognised or approved by the TGA. Children aged under 12 years count as fully vaccinated for  travel purposes. Their passport will be used as proof of age at the airport. 

Complete an Australian Travel Declaration

Travellers entering Australia must complete an Australian Travel Declaration at least 72 hours before departure. A vaccination certificate should be uploaded when completing the Declaration. 

Take a PCR test

Travellers entering Australia must undertake one of the following COVID-19 tests:

  • a PCR test or other Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) within 3 days before scheduled flight departure and the result must be negative, or
  • a medical certificate as evidence of a negative Rapid Antigen Test taken under medical supervision within 24 hours before scheduled flight departure.

If the flight is delayed, a new test is not required. But if the flight is rescheduled or cancelled, a new test is required per the guidelines above.

There are some limited exemptions to the pre-departure testing requirement, please refer to the Australian Department of Health website here for further information. 

What about leaving Australia?

Australian citizens and permanent residents departing Australia need to provide evidence that they are fully vaccinated or that they have a medical contraindication reported to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) for all COVID-19 vaccines available in Australia. If this cannot be provided, they will need to apply for an exemption to leave Australia.

Temporary visa holders can leave Australia at any time but may, however, require a travel exemption to return to the country depending on the visa they hold.  It is important to understand what is required before departing to avoid being stranded outside of Australia for a substantial amount of time.

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Once these items are ticked off, you are ready to enter Australia. As these requirements are subject to change with little notice, please bookmark this website for the latest information.  

Update as at 21 January 2022

Western Australia’s border opening delayed

Western Australia’s (WA) planned border reopening on 5 February 2022 will be delayed indefinitely due to the escalating health risks posed by the Omicron COVID-19 variant.  New border rules will be introduced instead to allow for compassionate travel into WA and the return of legitimate Western Australians under the new expanded exemption criteria:

  • returning Western Australians, with strong recent connections or direct legitimate family connections with WA
  • compassionate grounds
  • member of the family of an approved traveler
  • people entering for urgent and essential medical treatment
  • reasons of national and state security
  • Commonwealth and State officials, Members of Parliament, Diplomats
  • provision of specialist skills not available in WA, health services, emergency service workers
  • people required to attend court matters, judicial officers and staff of court, tribunals and commissions and
  • special considerations and extraordinary circumstances determined by the State Emergency Coordinator or Chief Health Officer

Approved G2G passes will continue to be required for travel (domestically or internationally) into WA.

Interstate travel

Approved interstate travelers into WA will be permitted if they meet certain requirements including:

  • travelers must have an approved G2G Pass, under the new exemption criteria
  • be triple dose vaccinated, if eligible (or double dose vaccinated if not eligible for a third dose)
  • provide proof of a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) within 24 hours before departure
  • undertake 14 days of self-quarantine at a suitable premises, with the same requirements for household members at the self-quarantine premises
  • PCR testing within 48 hours of arrival and on day 12 of self-quarantine, and household members will also be required to do a PCR test on the traveller’s day 12
  • be subject to the mandatory use of the G2G Now app and in-person checks by WA Police as required

There are also additional requirements in place for domestic road travel, such as:

  • travel limited to 1,500km from road borders, to enable people to travel by road to suitable premises for quarantine in Perth from Eucla
  • entry at the Kununurra border only permitted for transport, freight and logistics and border community residents
  • restricted travel into remote Aboriginal communities
International travel

International travel into WA will be permitted with the following requirements:

  • meet the Commonwealth requirements to enter Australia under the arrivals cap
  • undertake 14 days of mandatory quarantine including, seven days in hotel quarantine and seven days of self-quarantine at suitable premises, if eligible
  • PCR testing on days one, six, nine and 12, and household members will also be required to do a PCR test on the traveler’s day 12
  • be subject to mandatory use of G2G Now and in-person checks by WA Police as required

International travel indirectly into WA via another state or territory will be subject to the same entry and quarantine requirements as domestic travelers.

Further reviews of WA border controls are expected, please check back at this website for further details as they are released.

Update as at 20 January 2022

The Minister for Immigration has announced the following concessions for student and working holiday maker (subclass 417 and 462) visa holders:

  • Student visa holders: the Government is temporarily removing the limit on working hours for student visa holders across all sectors. This change takes effect immediately and will be reviewed in April 2022. 
  • Working holiday maker (subclass 417 and 462) visa holders: the Government is temporarily removing the 6 month with one employer working limit. This means there will be no time limit on how long a working holiday maker can work for the same employer. This arrangement will be reviewed at the end of 2022.

The Australian Government is also providing incentives for visa holders to return to Australia. Any student or working holiday maker who is currently not in Australia and who travels to Australia between 19 January and 19 March 2022 will be eligible for a refund of their visa application charge (VAC). Information on how to apply for refunds will be made available on the Department of Home Affairs’ website. 

Update as at 19 January 2022

The Minister for Immigration has announced concessions to the following categories of visa holder:

  • Subclass 489, 491 and 494 (Skilled Regional Provisional) visa holders – where the visa holder was impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions, the Government will extend their visas by 3 years, and
  • Subclass 485 visa holders – visas will be extended for graduates who were outside of Australia at any time between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021, while they held a valid Temporary Graduate visa. The extension will take effect on 18 February 2022 and visa holders will be notified directly by the Department of Home Affairs. Subclass 485 visa holders may arrive in Australia after their extension has taken place, from 18 February 2022 onwards.

Further visa extension options for former graduates are planned to take place from July 2022. Please check back at this website for details, and contact your PwC immigration representative if you have any questions. 

Update as at 20 December 2021

End of year Australian borders update

Western Australia

Western Australia is set to reopen to travelers from 5 February 2022.

From that date, quarantine free travel will be available to fully vaccinated international arrivals. They will be required to meet the following:

  • return a negative PCR test result within 72 hours prior to departure; and
  • return a negative PCR test within 48 hours of arrival to WA and on day six.

Unvaccinated international arrivals will still need to complete a 14 day quarantine period.

Arrivals from interstate (aged 12 and over) will need to be fully vaccinated, unless exempt.

Border restrictions for travelers from Southern Africa

Australia’s border restrictions for travelers who have been in Southern African countries has now ceased. As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has spread globally, the Australian Government considers that international border measures are no longer an effective method to contain the spread. Travelers from Southern Africa to Australia now fall within current guidelines for all international arrivals to Australia. 

Self isolation no longer required in NSW and Victoria

International arrivals to Sydney and Melbourne will no longer be required to self isolate for 72 hours upon arrival. Starting from tomorrow (21 December) all international arrivals to Sydney and Melbourne will be required to undertake a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival and isolate until they receive a negative test result. Travelers are also required to produce evidence of a negative pre-departure COVID test, per existing arrangements. This applies to fully vaccinated travelers only (see our 22 November update on what qualifies as fully vaccinated); unvaccinated arrivals to Sydney and Melbourne are still required to complete 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine.

Our COVID coverage will be having a break for Christmas and New Year until 10 January 2022. If you have any questions or concerns prior to your travel, please contact your usual PwC Australia immigration representative. 

Update as at 30 November 2021

Australia has postponed the date when eligible visa holders will be able to enter without a travel exemption from 1 December to 15 December. This applies to all eligible visa holders and to travellers using the Japan and South Korea Safe Travel Zone (as mentioned in our 22 November update). This temporary pause is to allow authorities time to assess the impact of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Please contact your PwC Australia immigration representative if you have any questions about how this update impacts your situation.

Update as at 29 November 2021

New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria now require all fully vaccinated arrivals who have been in any overseas country to complete a COVID-19 PCR test and self-isolate at their accommodation or place of residence for at least 72 hours upon arrival in these states. Quarantine requirements for other states and territories can be found here

This change is due to new travel restrictions that were introduced yesterday for anyone who has been in South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Mozambique or Malawi in the last 14 days. 

Australian citizens, permanent residents or their immediate family members who have been in any of the above countries during the past 14 days are required to enter hotel quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Australia, irrespective of vaccination status. 

Any other travellers who have been in any of the above countries are not permitted to enter Australia. This applies even to travellers who hold a travel exemption, an eligible visa or are seeking to enter Australia under a Safe Travel Zone arrangement (e.g. travellers from Singapore, Japan and South Korea). 

Anyone who has already arrived in Australia and has been in any of these countries within the past 14 days should contact their local state health authority as soon as possible for further instructions. 

PwC continues to monitor the situation. Please contact your PwC Australia immigration representative if you have any questions about how this update impacts your situation.

Update as at 22 November 2021

From 1 December, fully vaccinated eligible visa holders can travel to Australia without needing to apply for a travel exemption. Eligible visa holders include:

Subclass 482 – Temporary Skills Shortage visa

Subclass 457 – Temporary Work (Skilled) visa

Subclass 400 – Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) visa

Subclass 485 – Temporary Graduate visa

Subclass 407Training visa

Subclass 408Temporary Activity visa

Subclass 417 – Working Holiday visa

Subclass 462Work and Holiday visa

Subclass 476 – Recognised Graduate visa

Subclass 461 – New Zealand Family Relationship visa

Subclass 494 – Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional visa

Subclass 491Skilled Work Regional visa

Subclass 500 – Student visa

Subclass 870 – Sponsored Parent visa

Subclass 300Prospective Marriage Visa

Japan and South Korea Safe Travel Zone

From 1 December, Japanese and South Korean citizens who are fully vaccinated will be able to travel directly from Japan or South Korea to Australia without requiring a travel exemption. Similar to the safe travel zone that Australia has established with Singapore, Japanese and South Korean citizens wishing to travel to Australia must:

  • hold a Japanese or South Korean passport

  • hold an Australian visa

  • be fully vaccinated 

  • depart directly from their country of passport (either Japan or South Korea)

  • provide proof of their vaccination status

  • present a negative PCR test within 3 days of departure

Please note Japanese and South Korean citizens travelling from countries other than Japan and South Korea respectively are not eligible and must continue to apply for a travel exemption (unless they are an eligible visa holder, see above).

What qualifies as fully vaccinated?

Travellers must show they are fully vaccinated with an Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved or recognised vaccine. These currently include:

Two doses at least 14 days apart of:

  • AstraZeneca Vaxzevria

  • AstraZeneca COVISHIELD

  • Pfizer/Biontech Comirnaty

  • Moderna Spikevax

  • Sinovac Coronavac

  • Bharat Covaxin

  • Sinopharm BBIBP-CorV (for ages 18-60 only)

Or one dose of:

  • Johnson & Johnson/Janssen-Cilag COVID Vaccine.

Seven days just have passed since the final dose of vaccine in order to be considered as fully vaccinated. Children aged under 12 years count as fully vaccinated for travel purposes (assuming the adult family members they are travelling with are vaccinated). 

What qualifies as proof of vaccination?

Anyone vaccinated in Australia and who has a valid passport can access an International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC).  The ICVC can be obtained by using a Medicare account through the myGov website. For people vaccinated in Australia but not eligible for Medicare (e.g. temporary visa holders), they can find information on how to obtain an ICVC here.

Travellers not vaccinated in Australia should provide evidence of vaccination issued by a national or state/provincial-level government authority or an accredited vaccination provider. The vaccination certificate must be written in English (or be accompanied by a certified translation) and contain the following detail:

  • traveller’s name (as it appears in their passport),

  • either date of birth or passport number, 

  • vaccine brand name, and 

  • the date of each vaccination dose or the date the full course of vaccination was completed. 

Paper or digital vaccination certificates are both acceptable.

Please contact your PwC Australia immigration representative if you have any questions or require support.

Update 16 November 2021

US Consulate Update in Australia

Since the onset of the pandemic, US Consulates have become increasingly backlogged for visa applicants.  Locally, in Australia, the backlog has become compounded due to the COVID-related lockdowns and the planned relocation of the US Consulate in Sydney.  Since June 2021, all visa services, including emergency appointments, have been put on hold at the US Consulate in Sydney.  Throughout similar lockdowns, the US Consulate in Melbourne has drastically decreased their visa capacity.  

Currently, as both cities are coming out of the restrictions and international borders are reopening, the US Consulate in Sydney remains closed to the public for several months due to their planned relocation to North Sydney.  As a result, all visa appointments that were scheduled in Sydney have been cancelled through the end of January 2022.  

This has created a “perfect storm” of visa application backlogs between both Consulates in Sydney and Melbourne.  Currently, the earliest appointments available in either Consulate is 5 – 6 months away!  While the US Consulate in Perth does have earlier availability, non-Western Australian residents are still subjected to travel restrictions.

The US Consulates have announced that staff will be relocated to assist with the backlogs; however, we advise our clients to plan well in advance of any anticipated upcoming visa application.

Spousal Employment Authorization Update 

Fortunately, on a positive note in relation to US immigration, the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Service) announced this week that they have updated their policy that greatly benefits E and L visa spouses.  Under new USCIS guidance, E and L spouses will no longer be required to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work in the United States.  

Until now, E and L visa spouses were required to apply for employment authorization after entering the US.  Over the past two years, the application process has become extremely backlogged, often taking up to one additional year for a spouse to receive employment authorization, on a two- or three-year visa!

Effective immediately on November 12, 2021, the USCIS considers E-1, E-2, E-3, and L-3 dependent spouses to have employment authorization automatically with their status and no additional applications will be required.  USCIS also stated that they would take “immediate steps” to modify I-94 status documents to establish evidence of employment authorization for I-9 purposes.

If you have any questions or require support with a US visa application, please contact Mark Cross, US immigration attorney at PwC Australia.

Update as at 8 November 2021

From 21 November, fully vaccinated Singaporean citizens will be able to travel to Australia without the need for a travel exemption. Please note this does not yet apply to Singapore permanent residents. Singaporean citizen travellers must ensure:

  • they hold a valid Australian visa;
  • they are fully vaccinated with a vaccine that is recognised in Australia (see our 1 October update for a list of vaccines) and can provide evidence of their fully vaccinated status;
  • they return a negative PCR test result within 3 days before departure; and
  • complete an Australian Travel Declaration at least 72 hours before departure.

Travellers vaccinated in Singapore should provide evidence of vaccination issued by a government authority and it must contain the traveller’s name (as it appears in their passport), either date of birth or passport number, vaccine brand name and the date of each vaccination dose or the date the full course of vaccination was completed. 

New South Wales (including Sydney), the Australian Capital Territory (including Canberra) and Victoria (including Melbourne) currently allow for quarantine free entry for fully vaccinated travellers into Australia. The remaining states and territories may still have quarantine requirements. Please check with your PwC immigration representative if you have any questions or need help.

Update as at 27 October 2021

From 1 November, fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents will no longer require a travel exemption to depart Australia. Outbound travellers will need to show airline staff their International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) at airport check-in upon departure from Australia. This document can be obtained through the myGov website. 

Travellers must have had their second dose of a Therapeutic Goods Administration approved vaccine at least seven days prior to travel (please refer to our 1 October update for a list of recognised vaccines). Children under 12 years of age who cannot yet be vaccinated are able to depart Australia without a travel exemption.

Unvaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents are still required to apply for a travel exemption to depart Australia.

Quarantine requirements upon return to Australia are determined by states and territories. Both NSW (including Sydney) and Victoria (including Melbourne) have announced that the mandatory quarantine requirement will be removed entirely for fully vaccinated international arrivals from 1 November. 

Travellers departing Australia should look into entry, COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements in their proposed destination prior to departure. If you have any questions about this information or require support, please contact your PwC immigration representative.

Update as at 15 October 2021

The NSW Premier announced today that the mandatory quarantine requirement will be removed entirely for fully vaccinated international travellers entering the state. From 1 November, neither hotel nor home quarantine will be required for fully vaccinated international arrivals to Sydney. 

Arrivals to Sydney must take a PCR test prior to travel and show they they are vaccinated with a TGA approved vaccine, currently Pfizer (Comirnaty), AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria), Moderna (Spikevax), COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen, Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India). Please refer to our 1 October update for further information on TGA recognised vaccines.

Mandatory quarantine is still required for unvaccinated arrivals to Australia. Quarantine numbers into Sydney will be capped at 210 arrivals per week. 

Please note that hotel quarantine remains mandatory for all international arrivals into all other Australian states. Current travel exemption rules also continue to apply, even in NSW. It is not yet clear when travel exemption requirements will be relaxed to allow a larger number of foreign citizens to enter Australia. We will continue to update this website as the status quo changes. 

Parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents

The Australian Prime Minister has indicated that the definition of ‘immediate family’ would be extended to include parents of adult Australian citizens and permanent residents from 1 November. This means that parents (who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents themselves) would be exempt from Australia’s COVID-19 border closure. Please note that parents must hold an Australian visa, and may still be required to apply for a travel exemption in some instances. Please contact your PwC immigration representative if you would like help with your parents travelling to Australia.

Update as at 1 October 2021

Today the Australian Government indicated that many Australian states and territories will move into Phase B (vaccination transition phase) and Phase C (vaccination consolidation phase) of the National COVID-19 response plan in approximately November. The transition timeline for each state and territory will vary depending on vaccination rates. Please see our update on 2 July 2021 below for an outline of each phase of the plan. 

Reopening states and territories will likely implement:

  • seven day home quarantine for Australian citizens and permanent residents who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved for use in Australia or ‘recognised’ by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), or
  • 14 day managed quarantine for anyone not vaccinated or vaccinated with a vaccine not approved or recognised by the TGA will continue. 

Australian citizens and permanent residents who cannot be vaccinated, e.g. those under 12 years old or those who have a medical condition, will be treated as vaccinated for the purposes of their travel.

Inbound passenger caps will likely be increased overall, with a focus on removing all travel caps on vaccinated Australians. The Government’s intention is to remove current overseas travel restrictions related to COVID-19 and to enable Australians to travel (subject to outbound travel advice and limits) as long as they are fully vaccinated. This would mean there would be no travel restrictions on vaccinated Australians arriving in and departing from Australia. 

Proof of vaccination

Australians seeking to travel overseas once restrictions are removed will be able to access an internationally recognised proof of vaccination document. This document will become available in the coming weeks and will allow Australians to prove their vaccination status overseas. The document will include a QR code that is readable globally and will comply with the standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Engagement with commercial airlines and foreign governments has already begun to ensure they are familiar with the system.

Please check back at this website for further detail on how the proof of vaccination document will be released to visa holders who were vaccinated in Australia. 

Recognised vaccines

At present four COVID-19 vaccines have been approved and registered for use by the TGA:  Pfizer (Comirnaty), AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria), Moderna (Spikevax) and COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen. 

The TGA has advised that Coronavac (Sinovac) and Covishield (AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India) should be considered as ‘recognised vaccines’ for incoming international travellers to Australia. This will allow more travellers to make use of the seven day home quarantine program, once implemented. 

We will continue to keep this website updated. Please contact your PwC Australia immigration representative if you have any questions or require support.

Update as at 17 September 2021

The New South Wales (NSW) State Government will launch a home quarantine pilot this month. As part of the pilot, 175 fully vaccinated travellers entering NSW will be allowed to self isolate at home for 7 days rather than hotel quarantine for 14 days. The participants will be selected by NSW Health based on risk assessment criteria. The pilot may include NSW residents, some non-Australian residents and air crew. The results of this pilot will inform future quarantine programs. 

NSW will use a mobile phone app as part of the pilot. The app will use geolocation and face recognition technology to monitor isolation compliance. The app will provide a testing schedule and symptom checker. Random in-person police checks will also be conducted. Existing penalties for individuals who breach conditions of their isolation will apply to non-compliers. 

Update as at 3 September 2021

The Australian Government has announced Australia’s current border restrictions will be extended until 17 December 2021. Officially known as the human biosecurity emergency period under the Biosecurity Act 2015, this allows the Government to take any necessary measures to control COVID-19 including restrictions on outbound international travel for Australian citizens and permanent residents.

In addition, the number of international arrivals into New South Wales will be halved to 750 passengers per week until at least October due to the state’s current COVID-19 outbreak. 

Update as at 11 August 2021

Outbound travel exemption required for Australian citizens or permanent residents usually resident overseas

Effective 11 August 2021, the Australian government has introduced legislation to remove automatic exemptions for Australians to return to their overseas country of residence.

Prior to this, having residence overseas was one of the automatic exemptions that would allow an Australian to depart Australia. Going forward, any Australian citizen or permanent resident ordinarily resident overseas will need to apply for a travel exemption in order to depart Australia.

Since the announcement above, the Department of Home Affairs has advised that a transition period is in place until 7 September 2021. This means that outbound travellers arriving at the airport without a travel exemption will be allowed to travel if their status as ordinarily resident overseas can be confirmed by an Australian Border Force officer at the airport. If travellers choose to do this, please note they may experience significant delays at the airport. 

Travel between Australia and India & Papua New Guinea

Until recently it was very difficult to secure an exemption to travel between Australia and India or Australia and Papua New Guinea given the high rates of COVID-19 in those countries. Now, based on current health advice, travel restrictions to and from these countries have returned to normal settings. This means that travel to and from India/Papua New Guinea and Australia will now be considered again. Please note that standard travel exemption rules continue to apply. 

Please contact your PwC Australia immigration representative if you have any questions or require any support.

Update 19 July 2021

Over the weekend, the Australian Government announced a temporary visa concession for student visa holders. Supermarkets in States and Territories subject to COVID-19 lockdowns will be able to employ student visa holders in excess of the 40 hours per fortnight cap that normally applies. This will allow international students holding student visas to work over 40 hours per fortnight in all NSW and Victorian supermarkets and associated distribution facilities for the duration of the lockdown. 

Update 2 July 2021

Australia’s National Cabinet agreed today to temporarily reduce Australia’s current international passenger arrivals by 50% (to 3085 arrivals per week) to manage pressure on quarantine facilities. Reduced passenger caps will come into effect on Wednesday 14 July and remain in place until 31 August. These reduced caps will remain subject to regular review throughout the remainder of 2021. 

During today’s meeting, the National Cabinet also agreed, in-principle, to a four phase national plan to navigate Australia’s response to COVID-19. Each phase is triggered by the achievement of a vaccination threshold, and the potential impact on international travel is highlighted below.

A. Current phase – vaccinate, prepare and pilot. For international travel, this phase includes:

  • Temporarily reducing commercial inbound passenger arrivals to all major ports by 50 per cent from current caps by 14 July to reduce the pressure on quarantine facilities;
  • Trialling the introduction of alternative quarantine options, including home quarantine for returning vaccinated travellers;
  • Expanding commercial trials for limited entry of student and economic visa holders;
  • Establishing digital vaccination authentication at international borders.

B. Post vaccination phase – for international travel, this phase may include:

  • Restoring inbound passengers caps at previous levels for unvaccinated returning travellers and larger caps for vaccinated returning travellers;
  • Allowing capped entry of student and economic visa holders subject to quarantine arrangements and availability.

C. Consolidation phase – for international travel, this phase may include:

  • Abolishing caps on returning vaccinated travellers;
  • Allowing increased capped entry of student, economic, and humanitarian visa holders;
  • Lifting all restrictions on outbound travel for vaccinated persons; and
  • Extending travel bubble for unrestricted travel to new candidate countries (Singapore, Pacific).

D. Final phase – for international travel, this phase may include:

  • Allowing uncapped inbound arrivals for all vaccinated persons, without quarantine; and
  • Allowing uncapped arrivals of non-vaccinated travellers subject to pre-flight and on arrival testing.
Allowing Australian citizens to return to Australia is the government’s current priority, and therefore applications for inbound travel exemptions may become more difficult given the reduced number of permitted international arrivals. Please contact PwC immigration if you need support with your travel exemption application due to these constraints. 

Update 22 June 2021

The Australian Minister for Immigration announced the addition of the following new occupations to the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) today:

  • Accountant (General) (221111)

  • Accountant (Taxation) (221113)

  • Accountant (Management) (221112)

  • External Auditor (221213)

  • Internal Auditor (221214)

  • Electrical Engineer (233311)

  • Civil Engineer (233211)

  • Structural Engineer (233214)

  • Geotechnical Engineer (233212)

  • Transport Engineer (233215)

  • Mining Engineer (233611)

  • Petroleum Engineer (233612)

  • Surveyor (232212)

  • Cartographer (232213)

  • Other Spatial Scientist (232214)

  • Medical Laboratory Scientist (234611)

  • Orthotist / Prosthetist (251912)

  • Multimedia Specialist (261211)

  • Analyst Programmer (261311)

  • Software and Applications Programmers (261399)

  • ICT Security Specialist (262112)

  • Chef (351311)

These new occupations bring the PMSOL to 41 occupations in total. 482 visa applicants who are sponsored by Australian businesses in a PMSOL occupation can access priority processing and easier access to travel exemptions in order to enter and work in Australia. The existing skilled occupation lists (the STSOL and MLTSSL) remain active and 482 visa applications based on these lists will continue to be processed. However, 482 visa applications based on the PMSOL will be given priority. Visa holders on PMSOL occupations will continue to be subject to Australia’s quarantine requirements.

Please contact your PwC immigration representative for further detail.

Update 17 June 2021

The Australian Government has announced Australia’s current border restrictions will be extended until 17 September 2021. Officially known as the human biosecurity emergency period under the Biosecurity Act 2015, the continuation of border restrictions means the Australian Government may take necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including travel restrictions to and from Australia unless a travel exemption is in place. Please contact PwC Australia’s immigration team for further details.

Update 3 May 2021

From today, travellers who have been in India for the 14 days before their departure cannot enter Australia before 15 May 2021. This includes Australian citizens, permanent residents and New Zealand citizens usually resident in Australia. Very limited exemptions apply (mainly for flight and medical crew and diplomatic staff). 

Failure to comply with this emergency determination may incur a civil penalty or five years’ imprisonment or both. 

Australia will reconsider flights from India on 15 May following advice from its Chief Medical Officer.

Update 28 April 2021

Direct passenger flights from India to Australia will be paused until 15 May. Indirect flights from India to Australia through Doha, Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have also been paused by their respective governments. 

Travel exemptions in order to travel from Australia to India and other high risk COVID-19 countries (yet to be announced) will only be granted in very limited circumstances going forward. This includes:

  • critical workers providing assistance to the country of destination’s COVID-19 response;

  • persons undertaking travel in Australia’s national interest; or

  • persons seeking urgent medical treatment for a critical illness that is unable to be treated in Australia.

Inbound travel exemptions from India to Australia may also be reconsidered in line with this policy change. 

The Prime Minister announced that when and if flights from India are resumed, all passengers will be required to have both a negative PCR test and a negative rapid antigen test prior to travel.

Update 23 April 2021

Yesterday the Australian Prime Minister announced that additional restrictions would be placed on travellers (including Australian citizens and permanent residents) entering Australia from high risk countries:

  • Anyone entering Australia who has been in a high risk country in the last 14 days before entering Australia and is transiting through a third country will need to return a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to entering Australia from the final point of embarkation.

  • The Government will further restrict outbound travel exemptions to high risk countries to strictly essential travel only.

The Australian government will soon release a list of countries it deems as high risk. In the meantime, the following measures are being introduced as protection against the significant increase of COVID-19 cases in India:

  • 30% less commercial flights direct from India to Australia, as soon as practicable, and

  • Reduction in the number of passengers on Government facilitated flights to Australia until the rate of COVID-19 cases in India have decreased, and

  • Approximately 30% less capacity for Australians returning from India on Government-facilitated flights during May 2021, and

  • Australia will seek Rapid Antigen Testing for Australians returning on direct flights from high risk countries.

These actions are consistent with announcements from other countries, with New Zealand and the UK recently announcing travel suspensions/restrictions from India for the time being.

These developments will impact on how travel exemptions are issued for travellers coming from high risk countries. We will update this site with a list of high risk countries as soon as available. In the meantime, please contact your PwC Australia immigration team representative if you would like to discuss.

Update as at 7 April 2021

Quarantine Free Travel (QFT) will commence between New Zealand and Australia as of 18 April 2021 at 11:59pm. This means that families can be reunited, tourism will get a boost and equally importantly, Australian and New Zealand businesses can recruit much needed skills and talent from each other

From now, (visa applications can be lodged immediately), New Zealand employers who identify candidates they wish to employ who are in Australia, no longer need to go through the border exception and critical worker visa application process. As a New Zealand employer, anyone recruited from Australia may enter New Zealand (as long as they meet pre-travel criteria) without going through mandatory isolation and quarantine and by meeting pre-COVID-19 visa requirements.  

In order to qualify for QFT to New Zealand a traveller must:

  • hold a valid New Zealand electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) (if eligible to travel visa waiver) and apply for a visa on arrival at the border,

  • apply for and hold a current visa before travel, or

  • if an Australian citizen, travel visa-waiver and apply for a resident visa on arrival at the border.

To travel to New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight, you must meet pre-travel criteria and also complete an online travel declaration before you travel. This declaration is being finalised and will be available from 14 April.

Similarly, travellers who have been in New Zealand for 14 days are permitted to travel by air to Australia quarantine-free, without applying for a travel exemption. An Australian Travel Declaration must be completed at least 72 hours before travel to Australia. 

For Australian and New Zealand employers, the borders are now open for skills and talent from across the pond. Immigration New Zealand will accept visa applications from non-Australian citizens who are currently in Australia (and have been for at least 14 days) to apply for visas from offshore. These travellers/applicants must be in Australia when they apply and must travel to New Zealand from a QFT area. In Australia, the Department of Home Affairs also accepts visa applications from applicants located offshore.

Please contact your PwC Australia immigration representative if you would like any further information.

Update as at 23 March 2021

The outbound travel ban on Australian citizens and permanent residents travelling from Australia to New Zealand has been lifted. Travellers must have been present in Australia for 14 days immediately before travel to New Zealand (applies to direct travel only). No outbound travel exemption from Australia is required. 

So far New Zealand has not confirmed quarantine free travel for Australians. For now a New Zealand travel exemption (except for Australians normally resident in New Zealand) and mandatory quarantine is still required for Australian citizens and permanent residents travelling to New Zealand. Please check back for further details soon.

Update as at 3 March 2021

The Australian Government has announced Australia’s current border restrictions will be extended until 17 June 2021. Officially known as the human biosecurity emergency period under the Biosecurity Act 2015, the continuation of border restrictions means current requirements to obtain an exemption to travel to and from Australia in certain circumstances remains in place. Please contact PwC Australia’s immigration team for further details.

Update as at 17 February 2021

Global Talent Independent Visa Update

The Australian Government continues to expand its Global Talent visa program and is now accepting candidates from the following updated list of target sectors:

  • Resources (e.g. critical minerals)
  • Agri-food and AgTech
  • Energy
  • Health industries
  • Defence, advanced manufacturing and space
  • Circular economy 
  • DigiTech
  • Infrastructure and tourism
  • Financial services and FinTech
  • Education

Candidates in these fields must demonstrate they can attract a high income or are high calibre PhD graduates. 

PwC has a strong track record in the global talent visa sector, so please contact us if you would like to discuss the process and requirements in detail.

Temporary concessions for certain offshore visa categories

Further to our 1 February update, temporary concessions have been announced for some visa categories which usually require the applicant to be outside of Australia at the time of visa grant. The following visa categories can be granted to applicants who are in Australia and are unable to leave due to COVID-19 travel restrictions from these dates:

From 27 February 2021 

  • Partner (subclass 309) visas
  • Prospective Marriage (subclass 300) visas
  • Child (subclass 101) visas
  • Adoption (subclass 102) visas
  • Dependent Child (subclass 445) visas

From 24 March 2021 

  • Contributory Parent (subclass 173) visas
  • Contributory Parent (subclass 143) visas
  • Parent (subclass 103) visas

Update as at 5 February 2021

Today the Australian National Cabinet agreed to increase international passenger caps from 15 February. From this date, the incoming caps per state will be as follows:

  • New South Wales – 3010 passengers per week

  • Queensland – 1000 passengers per week

  • Western Australia – 512 passengers per week

  • Victoria – 1310 passengers per week

  • South Australia – 530 passengers per week

The Prime Minister affirmed that Australia’s mandatory hotel quarantine requirement is likely to continue, regardless of whether or not a traveller has had the COVID-19 vaccination.

Update as at 1 February 2021

Pre-travel COVID-19 and international passenger caps

Updated border rules have been introduced since the new year in response to recent COVID-19 clusters in Australia as well as COVID-19 variant strains overseas. 

Before travelling to Australia, all individuals (including Australian citizens) must now:

International passenger caps to Australia have also been reduced until 15 February. 

The Australian Government is committed to returning international passenger caps to previous levels after 15 February.

Exemptions to travel restrictions are still required in most cases to depart and arrive in Australia. Mandatory quarantine for 14 days is also still required upon arrival in Australia (please see our update from 17 July for applicable quarantine fees). 

Green zone flights between New Zealand and Australia

“Green zone” flights between New Zealand and Australia have now been reinstated following three confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Zealand. From 31 January, additional conditions apply to travellers arriving in Australia green zone flights, including COVID-19 testing for impacted passengers. These conditions will remain in place until 10 February 2021. 

Concessions for parent visas

The Minister for Immigration has announced it will allow certain parent visa applicants to be onshore (i.e. in Australia) at the time their visa is granted due to COVID-19. This concession should take effect sometime in early 2021, and will apply to the following parent visa subclasses:

  • Parent (subclass 103) visa
  • Contributory Parent (subclass 173) visa
  • Contributory Parent (subclass 143) visa

Please contact PwC Australia’s immigration team for further information, and please bookmark this site for further updates.

 

Update as at 11 December 2020

Australian travel declaration

The Australian Government has introduced an online travel declaration that needs to be completed by all travellers entering Australia (this includes Australian citizens and those who are exempt from travel restrictions). The Australia Travel Declaration is separate to the Australian Border Force (ABF) travel exemption approval. 

The purpose of the declaration is to collect travellers’ contact details, flight details, quarantine requirements and health status. This information helps the Australian Government determine quarantine arrangements (if required) and allows relevant health departments to contact the traveller if there is a positive test for COVID-19. 

Travellers must complete and submit the travel declaration online at least 72 hours prior to arrival in Australia. A link to the travel declaration can be found here.

 

Update as at 30 November 2020

New occupation added to the PMSOL

Social Worker (ANZSCO 272511) is the newest occupation added to the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL). This addition to the PMSOL was based on advice from the National Skills Commission (NSC). The NSC has recently been created to advise the Australian government on the national labour market, workforce changes and current and emerging skills needs, including the composition of the skilled occupation lists which underpin Australia’s skilled migration program.

Businesses which sponsor foreign workers to a PMSOL occupation are able to access priority visa processing. In addition, the visa applicant themselves can more easily access travel exemptions in order to enter Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst the existing skilled occupation lists (the STSOL and MLTSSL) remain active, PMSOL applications will be given priority.

Concession for certain family visa applicants

The Department of Home Affairs has announced it will allow certain family visa applicants to be onshore (i.e. in Australia) at the time their visa is granted. The specific visa types in question normally require applicants to be outside of Australia at the time of visa approval. However a temporary concession will be made for applicants who are currently in Australia and are not able to travel overseas for visa grant due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This concession will be available from early 2021 and will apply to the following family visa subclasses:

  • Partner (subclass 309) visa
  • Prospective marriage (subclass 300) visa
  • Child (subclass 101) visa
  • Adoption (subclass 102) visa
  • Dependent child (subclass 445) visa

Please contact your PwC Australia immigration representative if you would like to further information or to discuss.

 

Update as at November 2020

Earlier this year, the Australian Government announced that concessions would be made available to sponsored visa holders impacted by the sudden COVID-19-related downturn. Some of these concessions have now been formalised, and we have summarised them below.

Impact of COVID-19-related reduced working hours or stand down on employer sponsored permanent residence under the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS)

Many employers were forced to stand-down or reduce the hours of their staff (including visa holders) due to COVID-19. For the purposes of ENS under the temporary residence transition (TRT) stream, periods of work that are not full-time could not generally be counted towards the required employment period.

Under the COVID-19 concessions, periods of unpaid/reduced hours work or employment stand-down can now count towards the required employment period.

The period of unpaid/reduced hours work or stand-down must have occurred after 1 February 2020 as a result of COVID-19. This concession applies to ENS (TRT stream) applications lodged after 1 February 2020 and still pending.

Impact on ENS applicants relying on age exemptions during COVID-19

For ENS (TRT stream) applicants who are over the age limit of 45 years, an age exemption exists if they have been considered a high income earner (the current high income threshold is $153,600 per annum).

If an individual was previously earning at the threshold, and their income was impacted by COVID-19, a concession now applies allowing them to access the age exemption in spite of their income reduction. A pro-rata income threshold for the period earnings were impacted by COVID-19 may apply.

The period of income reduction must have occurred after 1 February 2020 as a result of COVID-19. This concession applies to ENS (TRT stream) applications lodged after 1 February 2020 and still pending.

Labour Market Testing (LMT) for ENS

Further to our October update, the Department of Home Affairs has provided some clarity around its expectation for Labour Market Testing (LMT) in relation to ENS applications. Given the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, the Government is keen to ensure Australian workers are prioritised for jobs and will therefore scrutinise ENS applications closely. Factors that will be taken into account to show a genuine need for an ENS application include:

  • Whether the sponsor tried to source Australian workers for the position (advertising the job vacancy on the Government’s JobActive website or other national advertisements is particularly persuasive, although no minimum advertising period is specified)
  • Whether the application clearly establishes a genuine need to have a foreign national in a permanent role within the business

Demonstrating a genuine need is now more crucial than ever for ENS applications. If you have any questions about how to demonstrate genuine need, or if you have not advertised your role, please contact your PwC Australia immigration representative for assistance.

Global Talent Independent Program (GTIP)

The popularity of the GTIP continues, and it has quickly become the Australian Government’s preferred pathway to grant PR.

Recent changes have been made to the GTIP to broaden its appeal and make it available to a wider range of applicants. One important change to note is that GTIP applicants are now able to seek a waiver from the usual visa health requirements if they suffer from a health condition that would have otherwise led to their visa application being refused.

The Department has been flooded with expressions of interest for the GTIP recently, which is impacting response times. For this reason, we recommend contacting PwC Australia Immigration prior to EOI lodgement to assess eligibility in detail and to ensure applications are comprehensive.

 

Update as at 21 October 2020

Changes to outbound travel exemptions

Australian citizens and permanent residents are still not permitted to leave Australia under COVID-19 border restrictions unless a travel exemption is obtained. To date, the travel exemption criteria has been limited, but a recent change has expanded the criteria to allow travel if:

  • The travel outside of Australia is essential for your business/employer, or
  • The travel outside of Australia is for three months or longer.

Other outbound travel exemption criteria remains the same, including outbound travel to receive urgent medical treatment not available in Australia, outbound travel on compassionate or humanitarian grounds, or outbound travel in the national interest.

Outbound travel exemptions should be applied for at least two weeks, but not longer than three months, before the date of planned travel.

Automatic exemptions still exist for Australian citizens and permanent residents to depart Australia in limited circumstances, including if you are ordinarily considered a resident outside of Australia, are a New Zealand citizen holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa or you perform essential work at Australian offshore facilities.

Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) App

Until now the processing of ETAs has been suspended as part of Australia’s COVID-19 border response. ETAs will now be processed again via the Department of Home Affairs’ new Australian ETA app. The app accepts applications from Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR), Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and US passport holders. Please note a travel exemption is still required, in addition to the ETA, to enter Australia.

The ETA mobile app is available on the Android and Apple app store.

 

Update as at 16 October 2020

From Friday 16 October 2020, individuals travelling from New Zealand are no longer required to apply for a travel exemption or undergo mandatory quarantine upon arrival in Australia. This carve out is not limited to New Zealand citizens, it applies to all individuals who meet the following criteria:

  • have been in New Zealand for 14 days or more prior to travel, and have not been in a designated COVID-19 hotspot, and
  • travelled to Australia on a quarantine-free flight.

Quarantine-free flights will only carry passengers who have been in New Zealand for 14 days or more prior to travel and have not been in any COVID-19 hotspots. Please contact your airline for further details on how to book quarantine-free flights. All travellers must present a completed COVID-19 Declaration Form when checking into quarantine-free flights at the airport. Dedicated “green” and “red” zones have been created at Australian airports to separate passengers on quarantine-free flights from all other inbound arrivals who must still undergo mandatory quarantine.

Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand is available into New South Wales and the Northern Territory only at this stage. Please note that a valid visa is still required to enter Australia. New Zealand citizens are generally eligible for a Special Category (subclass 444) visa upon arrival in Australia. Other nationalities should confirm their visa requirements prior to travel.

Please note the New Zealand travel bubble does not apply to New Zealand citizens who are outside of New Zealand. It would be necessary for overseas-based New Zealand citizens to return to New Zealand for 14 days or more before being eligible for quarantine-free travel into Australia.

These travel and quarantine-free requirements do not yet apply to Australian citizens travelling to New Zealand. The New Zealand border remains closed for now. Please feel free to bookmark this website for further updates.

 

Update as at 10 September 2020

Expanded travel exemption criteria

The Department of Home Affairs will now allow additional categories of persons to be automatically exempt from travel restrictions to enter Australia. This means that the following categories of traveller are not required to apply for a travel exemption prior to arrival in Australia:

  • an Australian citizen
  • a permanent resident of Australia
  • an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • a New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia and their immediate family members
  • a diplomat accredited to Australia (holding a subclass 995 visa)
  • a traveller transiting Australia for 72 hours or less
  • airline crew
  • maritime crew including marine pilots
  • recruited under the Government approved Seasonal Worker Program or Pacific Labour Scheme
  • holder of a Business Innovation and Investment (subclass 188) visa

Family members of Australian citizens or permanent residents will still require a visa before entering Australia.

Labour market testing for employer sponsored permanent residence applications (186 & 187)

Further to our update on 2 September, the Australian Government now expects positions to be advertised on its Jobactive website before a subclass 186 or 187 (ENS or RSMS) permanent residence application is lodged. Although it is not strictly a requirement, the Government has indicated it will look at job advertising undertaken when it considers if there is a genuine need for an overseas worker to fill a permanent position in Australia. The rationale is to ensure that job opportunities for Australian workers are being prioritised in the current economic environment.

Please note that job advertising is expected to occur for all positions nominated for a 186 or 187 visa, including those which were exempt from labour market testing (LMT) at 482 visa application stage. Unfortunately international trade obligations or other LMT exemptions/alternatives will not be recognised for a permanent 186 and 187 application.

It is not clear when the expectation to advertise positions for a proposed 186 or 187 application commences, although it is likely from 1 October in line with the enhanced LMT requirements for the 482 visa program (see our update below from 2 September). It is also unclear whether a full 4 weeks of job advertising (or a lesser period) is required on Jobactive for 186 and 187 applications; the Department of Home Affairs will likely clarify this in due course.

In line with the above, we can expect the Department of Home Affairs to scrutinise 186 and 187 applications in relation to Australian workers you may employ in similar occupations, including:

  • if there have been any retrenchments, stand downs or reductions of hours in the past 12 months
  • if there have been any reduction in pay and conditions in the past 12 months
  • if there are any temporary visa holders on conditions less favourable than comparable Australian workers recruitment of temporary visa holders beyond the ordinary scope of the business.

If any of the points above apply to your business and you wish to use the 186 or 187 programs in future, please contact your PwC Australia immigration representative for assistance.

 

Update as at 2 September 2020

New Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) introduced

A new skilled occupation list underpinning the 482 visa program has been released today. To be known as the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL), it comprises 17 occupations focussing on the engineering, health and IT sectors. The 17 occupations and ANZSCO codes are:

482 visa applicants who are sponsored by Australian businesses in a PMSOL occupation can access priority processing and easier access to travel exemptions in order to enter and work in Australia. The existing skilled occupation lists (the STSOL and MLTSSL) remain active and 482 visa applications based on these lists will continue to be processed. However, 482 visa applications based on the PMSOL will be given priority.

Enhanced labour market testing measures

Please note that enhanced labour market testing measures must accompany all 482 applications from 30 September onwards (not just those applications lodged using a PMSOL occupation). In addition to the requirement for two national job advertisements, sponsors must also advertise roles on the Government’s job active website.

For subclass 482 nominations lodged from 30 September onwards, the following advertising requirements must be met:

  • An advertisement on the Employment Department’s Jobactive website (http://www.jobactive.gov.au/); and
  • At least two advertisements on one or more the following forums:
    • A recruitment website with a national reach in Australia (other than Jobactive; examples include Seek and Indeed);
    • Print media with national reach in Australia;
    • Radio with national reach in Australia;
    • If you are an accredited sponsor, on your company website.

All job advertisements must be live for at least four weeks, and the advertisements must occur in the four months immediately prior to a 482 nomination lodgement. Each advertisement must be commissioned or authorised by the sponsor directly.

Existing alternatives to job advertising are still available (in limited circumstances) to satisfy the labour market testing requirement. For example, job advertising is not required where an applicant’s annual earnings are greater than AUD 250,000 per annum. Similarly, exemptions based on International Trade Obligations (ITOs) continue to apply.

These enhanced labour market testing provisions are intended to give Australian citizens and permanent residents first access to job opportunities before overseas workers are considered. Jobactive is a Government online jobs portal that is free to use.

The PMSOL will be responsive to changes in Australia’s skills needs during the COVID-19 recovery period, so please bookmark this page for further updates.

 

Update as at 5 August 2020

Travel exemption criteria for those with critical skills

Until recently the criteria to obtain a travel exemption to enter Australia has been narrow. The Australian Government has now moved to expand its criteria slightly by recognising a wider range of sectors as critical to the workforce. Travel exemptions may now be granted to people in categories including:

  • those delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery (including financial technology, large scale manufacturing, film and television production and emerging technology), where no Australian worker is available; and
  • those with critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services (such as critical infrastructure, medical technology, telecommunications, engineering and mining, supply chain logistics, agricultural technology, food production and the maritime industry).

Please note that appropriate evidence must be submitted with a travel exemption request. Travel exemptions can be submitted online by either the individual, or by a business on the individual’s behalf. 

This change to travel exemption policy recognises the important role of technology and other essential services in Australia’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery. It also provides an indication of upcoming changes to the skilled occupation lists that underpin the Temporary Skills Shortage visa program. Please keep checking this page for further updates, and contact your PwC immigration representative if you have any questions.

 

Update as at 17 July 2020

Cap on international travellers inbound to Australia 

The Australian government has announced a cap on international arrivals to Australia in order to manage ongoing quarantine arrangements. The following cap on arrivals is now in place until further notice:

  • Perth: a cap of 525 international passengers per week.
  • Brisbane: a cap of 500 international passengers per week.
  • Sydney: a cap of 450 international passengers per day, with a view to make further reductions in subsequent weeks.
  • Melbourne: no international passengers.

Interstate travel restrictions

NSW – yes (from Victoria only). NSW has temporarily shut its border with Victoria to contain the spread of COVID-19. People entering NSW from Victoria will need a NSW border entry permit. Those entering NSW from Victoria are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival, get tested for COVID-19 and abide by a COVID-19 Safety Plan. Self-isolation can be at a place of residence or suitable accommodation in NSW. The border closure affects anyone who has been in Victoria in the last 14 days. Special provisions have been made for residents of Victoria and NSW border communities, those performing critical services and interstate residents transiting through NSW.

Queensland – yes (from declared COVID-19 hotspots). Anyone entering Queensland from NSW, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and Northern Territory must complete a border declaration before entering Queensland. For people entering Queensland from overseas or from a COVID-19 hotspot within 14 days of arrival, a 14 day quarantine is required. Declared COVID-19 hotspots are listed on the Queensland Government website, and currently include all of Victoria and parts of Western Sydney. Exemptions may be granted in exceptional circumstances only.

Northern Territory – yes (all interstate arrivals). NT requires all interstate arrivals to complete a Border Entry application. The application must be completed no more than 72 hours prior to arrival, and can be completed online through the Northern Territory government’s website. From 17 July, anyone arriving in the NT from a declared COVID-19 hotspot must complete 14 days of mandatory quarantine at their own cost.  Declared COVID-19 hotspots are listed on the NT government website, and currently include all of Victoria and parts of Sydney.  

Western Australia – yes (all interstate arrivals). WA’s border remains closed. Any interstate traveller wishing to enter WA must obtain a travel exemption (known as a G2G Pass). This can be obtained from the WA government’s G2G website. 

South Australia – yes (from Victoria, NSW and ACT). Victorian residents, other than essential travellers, are not permitted to enter SA. Travellers from NSW and the ACT entering SA must self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival. Travellers from NT, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia are able to enter SA without restriction. All interstate travellers must complete a Cross Border Travel Registration at least 3 days before they set off for SA. 

Victoria – no

Tasmania – yes (all interstate arrivals). Tasmania requires all interstate arrivals to register for a G2G Pass prior to arrival. All interstate arrivals must then self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival. All non-Tasmanian residents who have spent time in Victoria in the 14 days prior to arrival are not permitted to enter Tasmania and will be turned back at their own expense, unless a compassionate exemption is obtained.

Quarantine fees

NSW – The NSW Government will begin charging international travellers for their hotel quarantine accommodation from Saturday 18 July. Travellers will be charged $3000 for one adult. Additional adults will be charged at $1000 each, additional children at $500 each and no charge for children under 3 years. Therefore a family of four (2 adults and 2 children) will be charged $5000. 

Quarantine fees include hotel room costs and meals. Travellers will receive an invoice at the end of the 14 day quarantine period for fees, and will be required to pay the NSW Government within 30 days. 

Quarantine fees apply to all international travellers entering NSW including Australian citizens and permanent residents. Please note quarantine fees are not retrospective. Travellers in transit through Sydney to another state or territory will not be charged a fee if transit is less than 24 hours. A pro-rata fee will be charged for stays greater than 24 hours. 

Queensland – The Queensland government is charging travellers for mandatory quarantine. The fees are $2800 for one adult, $3710 for two adults and $4620 for 2 adults and 2 children.  Quarantine fees include hotel room costs and meals. Travellers will receive an invoice at the end of the 14 day quarantine period for fees, and will be required to pay the Queensland Government within 30 days. 

Northern Territory – from 17 July, anyone arriving into the Northern Territory from a COVID-19 hotspot must complete 14 days of mandatory quarantine at their own cost. The cost per person is $2500. Declared hotspots currently include large areas of Victoria and Sydney. Exemption from quarantine can be requested in certain circumstances (e.g. specialist services for industry or business or emergency service workers). Exemptions are considered invalid if you are travelling from an identified COVID-19 hotspot.

Western Australia – from 17 July, international arrivals to WA are required to pay for their 14 days of mandatory quarantine. The fees are $2520 for one adult, $3360 for two adults and $5040 for a family of four.  

South Australia – from 18 July, international arrivals to SA are required to pay for their 14 days of mandatory quarantine. Travellers will be charged $3000 for one adult. Additional adults will be charged at $1000 each, additional children at $500 each and no charge for children under 3 years. Therefore a family of four (2 adults and 2 children) will be charged $5000. 

Victoria – to be advised.

 

Update as at 22 June 2020

Suspension of issuance of certain new US visas through 2020: Only brand new H-1B, L-1 and J-1s visas impacted.

What Australians Need to Know

Effective 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on June 24, 2020 (2pm Australia time on the 25 June), President Trump’s Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the COVID-19 Outbreak will come into effect through Dec. 31, 2020 (with potential for modifications every 30-60 days). 

Highlights: 

  • Applies to all new visa applicants in the H-1B, H-2B, J-1, and L-1 category who are outside of the US and who do NOT already have a visa stamp in their passport as of the effective date of the proclamation.
  • This suspension applies to all dependents of these visas who are outside US and who do not have a visa stamp in their passport.
  • Suspension is effective starting Wednesday, June 24th at 12:01 am NY time, Thursday, June 25th at 2pm Sydney time. 
  • Suspension goes until December 31, 2020, but will be monitored at 30 days and then every 60 days and possibly modified.
  • Those whose entry is in the national interest (i.e. defense, law enforcement, diplomacy, national security, medical care related to covid-19, medical research connected to covid-19) may apply for exemption to the government.
  • Those whose entry is essential to the US “food supply chain” may apply for an exemption to the government. 
  • Those whose entry is “necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States,” may apply for an exemption. 
  • It appears that Canadian nationals may be exempt as they do not require a visa stamp for the suspended classifications. Travel should be discussed with PwC until we receive additional clarification from the government.
  • Although the suspension most likely does not apply to those already in the US as of the effective date, if someone is currently in the US in H-1B, H-2B, J-1, L-1 or any dependent status and does not already have a valid visa stamp in their passport, they SHOULD NOT travel outside the US as they will not be allowed to return.
  • We are awaiting additional clarification from the government as to those in valid status in the suspended categories and their ability to obtain visa renewals, as it is not clear what evidence someone already in the US needs to show to prove that they are exempt from the suspension. 
  • Temporary workers already seeking new H-1Bs or L-1s were already impacted as US Consulates are closed due to covid-19, so as with the immigrant visa suspension, this proclamation does impact many workers. 
  • Proclamation 10014 relating to immigrant suspension remains in effect, and has been extended until Dec. 31 2020. 

Of interest is the exemption for those whose entry is “necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.” How this will be adjudicated is undefined and unclear, but leaves open the argument for a worker who can prove their role will help with the US economic recovery may still be able to start a new US role. 

Right now, temporary workers (such as Aussie E-3, E-2) already in the US are not impacted by this Proclamation and Aussie’s who would like to apply for a new E-3 or E-2 may be able to do so under emergency procedures.

 

Update as at 19 May 2020  

COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa – Temporary Activity (subclass 408)

As an extraordinary response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian government has introduced the COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa, under the Subclass 408.

Applicants for the visa must:

  • be in Australia; and
  • be unable to depart Australia due to COVID-19 travel restrictions; and
  • not eligible for any other visa; and
  • hold a temporary visa which is about to expire (in less than 28 days) or which expired less than 28 days before the application.

If applicants can evidence current employment in critical sectors (which include health care, disability and aged care, childcare and agriculture), a permission to work may be granted with the visa. Other applicants, who do not work in critical sectors and therefore whose application is only aimed at remaining lawful in the country, must evidence that they are simply not eligible for other visas.

There is no visa fee or subsequent temporary application charge associated with this visa. The visa can be granted up to 12 months for applicants working in critical sectors and up to 6 months for applicants who will apply to remain lawful in Australia in the absence of any other possible visa.

 

Update as at 29 March 2020

From 29 March 2020, all travellers entering Australia (including Australian citizens and permanent residents) are required to undertake a mandatory quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Travellers will be transported directly from the airport of arrival to designated facilities. The designated facilities where the quarantine will take place (for example a hotel) will usually be in the city of arrival in Australia. This mandatory quarantine requirement is in place until further notice. 

 

Updates as at 25 March 2020

From midday 25 March 2020, Australian citizens and permanent residents are restricted from travelling outside Australia (by air or sea or the operator of an outgoing aircraft or vessel), unless an exemption is granted to them. This Determination is in force for an initial period of 4 weeks. 

If an Australian Citizen or permanent resident must travel, they are required to make a request in writing only if one of the following exemptions apply:

  • they are a person ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia;
  • they are a person who is member of the crew of an aircraft or vessel (other than an outgoing aircraft vessel) or if a worker associated with the safety or maintenance of the aircraft or vessel;
  • they are a person engaged in the day to day conduct of inbound and outbound freight;
  • they are a person whose travel is associated with essential work at an offshore facility;
  • they are a person who is travelling on official government business (including a member of the Australian Defence Force);
  • exceptional circumstances or compelling reason for needing to leave Australian territory.

An exemption must be granted to the Australian Citizen or permanent resident prior to them departing Australia. A person who fails to comply with the travel restriction may commit a criminal offence and be imprisoned for a maximum 5 years, or be fined 300 penalty units ($63,000).

PwC’s immigration team can assist with travel exemptions for individuals travelling inbound to or outbound from Australia, if there are compelling or compassionate reasons. Please contact your PwC immigration advisor for further details.

 

Updates as at 20th of March

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has confirmed the Australian travel ban is for all international travellers to Australia. The only exemptions are for:

  • Australian citizens
  • Australian permanent residents
  • Immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents (immediate family includes spouses, legal guardians and dependents)
  • New Zealand citizens who live in Australia as Australian residents, and
  • New Zealand citizens transiting through Australia on their way to New Zealand and Pacific Islanders transiting through Australia on their way to their home countries.

Please note the travel ban takes effect from 9pm AEDT on Friday 20 March 2020. Restrictions are in place until further notice. Please bookmark this website for further updates.

Those exempt from the travel ban will continue to be subject to a 14 day self isolation period upon arrival in Australia.

You should consider the following at this time:

  • If you are a temporary visa holder (including a 482 visa holder), and are currently outside of Australia and wish to return, we recommend that you return to Australia before the 9pm AEDT travel ban commencement on Friday 20 March 2020
  • When entering Australia, we recommend all visa holders carry evidence of adequate accommodation arrangements in Australia to comply with the 14 day self isolation requirement
  • Immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents must ensure they hold a valid Australian visa in their own right. Before attempting to travel to Australia, immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents (who are not permanent residents themselves) should contact the Department of Home Affairs using the Immigration Enquiry Form provided on the Department’s website for pre-travel clearance. Here is a link: https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-support/departmental-forms/online-forms/australian-immigration-enquiry-form . Immediate family members must attach proof that they are related to an Australian citizen or permanent resident into the Immigration Enquiry Form. This can include a marriage certificate, evidence of de-facto relationship (such as shared finances and/or property), birth certificates for children etc. We also recommend carrying proof of relationship with you when you enter Australia
  • Partner and Child visa holders (except Prospective Marriage visa holders) are exempted from the travel ban and can come to Australia. They will need to self isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Australia, either at home or in a hotel
  • New Zealand citizens who live in Australia as Australian residents may wish to carry evidence of their Australian residency when entering Australia (for example an Australian driver’s licence or other official documentation showing their name and residential address in Australia)
  • New Zealand and Pacific Island nation citizens transiting through Australia should carry evidence of their onward flights out of Australia
  • Temporary visa holders already in Australia may remain in Australia. However temporary visa holders must maintain a valid visa. 

These are challenging times, and we are here to support you in any way we can. Please contact PwC Australia’s immigration team if you need help or advice. 

 

Update as at 19th of March

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has announced a travel ban on all non-residents and non-Australian citizens coming into Australia. This will be effective from 9pm AEDT on Friday 20 March 2020. More details on how this will impact existing Australian visa holders to follow.

 

Content Source: Pwc.com.au




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