COVID-19 Update: What Can Stranded Visitor Visa holders do?

When Australia’s borders closed last Friday 20th March 2020, many Australian temporary residents were affected, including subclass 600 Visitor Visa holders.

Australia requires all non-citizens to have a valid visa to enter the country but also to exit the country as well. Failure to do so can result in an undesirable red flag against the traveller’s name which could make entry to Australia in the future very difficult.

But with the rapid closure of more and more borders around the world, along with the cancellation of flights, some subclass 600 Visitor Visa holders find themselves stranded in Australia. Despite every intention of complying with their visa conditions, some subclass 600 Visitor Visa holders face a situation whereby their visa will expire before they can leave the country. In the present environment, this is often because their scheduled flight has been cancelled and there isn’t another flight available before their visa expires. So what are their options?

In some special instances, you can ask for an extension on your stay. For this to happen, the immigration department needs to be swayed that a major change in your situation has occurred which is out of your control. A global pandemic should meet the criteria.

Extending your stay involves making an application for a new visa. While that new visa application is being processed, the visa-holder is placed on a bridging visa (Australia’s migration system has 8 different bridging visas each with distinct conditions). The bridging visa means you can remain in Australia or leave Australia lawfully.

For those looking to enter Australia, since last Friday 20th March, only Australian citizens and their immediate family, permanent residents and their immediate family and New Zealand citizens resident in Australia will be granted entry into Australia. Some exemptions will be granted to travellers needing to enter Australia for exceptional compassionate or compelling reasons.

All travellers arriving back in Australia, regardless of where they have come from, must self-isolate for 14 days, and notify medical staff if they have any corona virus symptoms.

The Australian Government’s travel advice to Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents is: do not travel.

The pressure to meet visa conditions, however, places temporary visa holders in a confusing and stressful situation. If your temporary residency is about to expire, contact the Australian Business Migration Group to understand your options for lawfully remaining or departing Australia.

Australian visitor visa extension