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Migration Newsflash: COVID-19 – update on travel restrictions

COVID-19 – update on travel restrictions

KPMG outlines the recent travel restrictions imposed by the Australian Government and how this will impact visa holders both within and outside Australia. While Australia’s borders remain closed, exemptions apply, including changes to temporary visa holders.

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On 19 March 2020, the Australian Prime Minister announced that Australia would close its borders to all non-residents of Australia. These enhanced border measures are in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. The Australian Government has suggested the borders may remain closed for up to 6 months, subject to medical advice.

Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members, and New Zealand citizens who can show they are normally resident in Australia, will be allowed entry to Australia but will need to quarantine in a government designated hotel for 14 days from date of arrival.

We have been successful in assisting some clients holding temporary visas re-enter Australia in circumstances where they could demonstrate they had been living in Australia and had been stranded outside the borders. Those temporary visa holders have also been required to comply with the strict quarantining measures.

Concessions for temporary visa holders

On Saturday, 4 April 2020 the Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multiculturalism announced further information concerning the rights and entitlements of temporary visa holders in Australia.

In the context of large-scale temporary layoffs being announced by many businesses, the Australian Government has contemplated employers being permitted to reduce the hours of temporary skilled visa holders without it amounting to a breach of visa conditions. We are awaiting further details from the Department of Home Affairs as to how these practices will be implemented.

The Australian Government has clarified that temporary skilled visa holders (including subclass 457 and subclass 482 visa holders) who are temporarily laid off:

  • will maintain their visa validity where the visa holder remains employed
  • may access up to $10,000 of their superannuation this financial year
  • are not eligible to access JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments (unless they are citizens of New Zealand who hold a subclass 444 visa)
  • should depart Australia in circumstances where they have been laid off and are unable to find new employment.

Employers of holders of working holiday visas in health, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing and childcare have also benefitted from the announcement that those employees may continue working in their current roles beyond the six month working limitation in circumstances where their visa is due to expire in the next 6 months.

New visa response to COVID-19

F2020L00409 - LIN 20/122: COVID-19 Pandemic event for Subclass 408 (Temporary Activity) visa and visa application charge for Temporary Activity (Class GG) visa) Instrument 2020 has come into effect and provides a pathway for certain former and current holders of temporary visas to lawfully remain in Australia in circumstances where their visa is due to expire and they are unable to leave Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is intended that the visa holder must be part of a response to workforce shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to areas including, but not limited to, agriculture, aged care and public health.

To be eligible, a person:

  • must hold a visa that is 28 days or less from ceasing to be in effect; or
  • held a visa that is no more than 28 days from ceasing to be in effect; and
  • must be undertaking work directly associated with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • are unable to apply for the same temporary visa they hold or held or any other subclass of temporary visa other than the subclass 408 visa.

We can assist employers and employees make applications for a subclass 408 visa under this new legislative instrument.

Contact us

KPMG Australia will be closely monitoring the status and impact of these new travel restrictions and will provide further updates as they are available. Employers and visa holders impacted by the travel restriction are encouraged to contact us as soon as possible to consider their options.

© 2020 KPMG, an Australian partnership and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”) is a Swiss entity. Member firms of the KPMG network of independent firms are affiliated with KPMG International. KPMG International provides no client services. No member firm has any authority to obligate or bind KPMG International or any other member firm vis-à-vis third parties, nor does KPMG International have any such authority to obligate or bind any member firm.

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