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New coronavirus temporary visa: A ‘safety net’ for some

7 April 2020
visa safety net

The Australian Government has created a new coronavirus temporary visa option to help people who cannot leave due to coronavirus related travel restrictions.  The new legal change applies to the Temporary Activity (Subclass 408) visa.

The ‘Government Endorsed Event’ stream of the subclass 408 visa has been extended in response to advocacy from the migration legal community including the Law Council of Australia. So now not only T20 cricket stars can apply for this visa! We have broken down what the changes mean and the new criteria below:

First, what is the Temporary Activity (subclass 408) visa?

Broadly speaking the Temporary Activity visa (Subclass 408) is used for specific temporary events or temporary work in Australia. There are lots of different streams for the 408 visa including religious, entertainment and sporting streams. It usually allows you to stay in Australia for up to four years and it normally costs $310 to apply. For those applying under the new coronavirus option, the fee is free.

I am not a super star T20 cricket player, but I need a visa option to stay in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic. Could this new coronavirus temporary visa option help me?

The short answer is yes, this might be a good visa solution for you. As mentioned, there are many different streams (or categories) of the subclass 408 visa. In the past, our friends playing T20 have used the ‘Government Endorsed Event’ stream of the subclass 408 visa to play cricket in Australia.

We agree that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic might not seem like a ‘Government Endorsed Event’. For legal reasons though, the Australian Government has used this stream to act as a safety net visa for those who are here in Australia due to the coronavirus pandemic and have no other visa options.

This sounds promising. What are the criteria?

Before you think this is the vaccine to your visa troubles, here are the key criteria from the new announcement that you must meet to be eligible for this visa. You:

  • Must be in Australia and unable to depart Australia as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; and
  • Hold a substantive temporary visa that ceases in less than 28 days; or
  • Have held a substantive temporary visa within the last 28 days; and
  • Be unable to make a valid application or meet the criteria for any other temporary visa.

You also need to specify work directly related to the ‘associated event’ that you would complete whilst in Australia. In this case you would need to specify work related to the coronavirus pandemic.  There is no endorsement or sponsorship required. The explanatory statement accompanying the new stream states:

‘The purpose of the instrument is also to implement a measure to respond to workforce shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to areas including, but not limited to, agriculture, aged care and public health. The instrument is designed to allow holders of temporary visas who are engaged in or have the relevant skills to undertake critical work relating to supply of essential goods and services, provided the applicant falls within the class of persons specified by the instrument.’[1]

Whilst the statement is not part of the specific criteria, certainly if you work in these areas or have skills in these areas, you stand a better chance of meeting the visa criteria.

Is there anything else I should know about this new coronavirus temporary visa option?

Like many other temporary visas, you need to show you only intend to stay temporarily in Australia for the purpose of performing the relevant activity. You will also need to ensure you have enough money to support yourself and have health insurance in place.

You also need to show that you do not intend to engage in activities that will have ‘adverse consequences’ for the employment or training opportunities for Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents.

Does the visa have any conditions?

Yes, the new coronavirus temporary visa option will have condition 8107. Condition 8107 says:

  • You cannot stop your employment with the employer that sponsored you, or
  • You cannot work in a position or occupation that is inconsistent with the position or occupation in relation to which the visa was granted, or
  • You cannot work for another person or yourself while undertaking the employment in relation to which the visa was granted.

Now, given you do not have to have a sponsor or endorser for this stream you might be a little confused as to how this condition applies. The answer is, it is a bit confusing. We strongly recommend you obtain migration advice to ensure you meet all these criteria before applying.

How do I know that I am unable to make a valid application or that I am ineligible for any other temporary visas?

You call a good migration lawyer! Whether you can lodge a valid application for this new coronavirus temporary visa option or any other visa whilst in Australia will require a review of your circumstances. We recommend you get advice from an specialist migration law firm (like ours) to ensure you meet this criteria. We offer a free 10 minute phone or video call  with a migration lawyer.

I have been refused a visa whilst in Australia or I hold a ridging visa. Can I apply for this visa?

The short answer is probably not. But we recommend you contact us for advice as we have some great ideas in relation to how this visa might be used in certain situations.

We note the above is information only and is not legal advice. The information above is current as at the time of publishing and we continue to publish new information as the coronavirus pandemic evolves. We recommend you speak to one of our migration lawyers for a free 10 minute phone or video call to discuss your temporary visa situation.

You can access the Australian Government legal instrument and explanatory statement here.

An experienced migration lawyer can make all the difference when you need.