As nations around the world crack down on international travel and airlines slash overseas flights, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to leave thousands of people stranded away from home.
Among those caught in limbo due to changing travel bans are those visiting Australia on temporary visas.
Director of True Blue Migration, Joy Hay, said there has been a flood of inquiries relating to visas in the last 48 hours but it remains to be seen how lenient Australia will be on visa holders who are unable to leave the country.
Of particular concern, are those whose visas contain the No Further Stay clause included in most student and tourist visas.
“We lodged quite a few applications to have those conditions waived but we’re still waiting to see how generous they’ll be in granting extensions or new short-term visas to allow people to stay,” she said.
The Federal Government has already made some quick changes to current visa provisions.
For example, those on a student visa are now able to work longer hours if they work for supermarkets as opposed to being limited to their normal 40 hours per fortnight.
Ms Hay said the changes are mutually beneficial in the current crisis and the consequences of forcing visa holders to leave could have dire effects on Australian industries and businesses.
“Those who are applying for a third working holiday visa have to work six months on a rural farm and if denied that then that’s a huge loss for Australia too, that’s a whole group gone because thousands of people will no longer be available to work for Australian farmers who really need help right now,” she said.
“If you’re trying to prop up industries that are struggling you need employees in key jobs.”
Under current legislation, visa-holders are able to apply for a new visa if they fulfill the conditions of “compassionate and compelling circumstances” preventing them to leave the country.
Ms Hay said she is hopeful those who are now unable to travel due to the coronavirus outbreak will be able to seek relief under this legislation which has previously only been used in a handful of circumstances.
Will there be any exceptions given the coronavirus situation?
The Department of Home Affairs has not announced any specific relaxations or exceptions to the current visa requirements, however those applying for new visas or an extension to their current visa will have their circumstances taken into consideration.
“Non-citizens seeking to extend their stay in Australia should review information on the Department’s website and apply for another visa,” a spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told Nine.com.au.
“Any visa application will be assessed considering the COVID-19 enhanced border measures and an applicant’s individual circumstances. Applications for a new visa should be made before their current visa expires.”
My visa has a ‘No Further Stay’ condition. What do I do?
Many visas including tourist visas and student visas including a No Further Stay clause that prevents you from staying or extending your visa.
Check your current visa conditions and if this is the case, you will have to apply to have this condition waived. But the government advises visa-holders not to do this if their visa still has more than two-months validity remaining.
“If their current visa includes a ‘No Further Stay’ condition, they are unable to make a valid application for most other visas while they are in Australia. If they wish to remain in Australia beyond their visa’s expiry date, a request to waive this condition must be made,” government advice reads.
I’m outside Australia and can’t provide additional information for my visa due to lockdown requirements. What do I do?
The government has advised that if you are in China and have been asked to provide further information for your visa application within 28 days and can’t due to lock down and self-isolation measures, the government will automatically make an exception for you.
“The Department is aware that some services in China are temporarily closed which affects applicants’ ability to obtain biometrics, health and police clearances,” they said in a statement on their website.
“These applicants will be provided additional time to complete checks and provide requested information. You do not need to contact us to seek an extension of the timeframe while these services are unavailable.”