Since the COVID-19 pandemic has been announced, one of the most frequently asked questions has been whether it is possible to travel to Australia as a tourist or for a family or friends visit, especially now when the holidays are approaching and the summer has started in Australia.
In short, the answer to this question is “no”, but that does not mean that you cannot lodge a visitor visa application or that your visa cannot be granted even at this moment. A more precise answer would be that “it depends on your circumstances”.
Australian Government has introduced some restrictions when the pandemic was announced in order to limit the number of people entering and leaving Australia and to control the epidemic situation. Australian borders are officially closed and they will remain closed until further notice, but those with special circumstances can be exempt from this travel ban.
In this article, we will explain how you can enter Australia if you are a visitor visa holder.
Visitor visa and exemption to enter Australia
New measures imply that you can no longer enter Australia with just a valid passport and a visa, you need to have an exemption to travel, that is to show that you are exempt from the travel ban that is in effect.
In case you already have a valid visitor visa you need to have an exemption to travel and for that purpose, you can lodge the request for exemption to enter Australia, if you meet the eligibility criteria for the exemption.
Request for the exemption to travel is a separate application in which you submit supporting documents to show your circumstances and reasons for entering Australia.
Since the introduction of the procedure for obtaining an exemption to travel, we have successfully worked on exemptions for visitor visas subclasses 600 and 651 holders. If you need just the exemption to travel you can get in touch with us through some of our available contacts so we could determine if it is advisable for you to lodge the travel exemption request now and give you our offer if you want us to work on your case.
If you still do not have a visitor visa granted, we suggest you read this article and find out what are the requirements you need to meet and what would be your further steps or you can just contact us.
Circumstances for having an exemption to travel for Australia granted for visitor visa holders
If you are a visitor visa holder and are an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or a permanent resident and/or you have compassionate and compelling reasons to travel to Australia you can be exempt from this rule.
Immediate family members include:
- a spouse/de facto partner,
- a parent of a minor Australian citizen/permanent resident, or
- a minor or financially dependent child of an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
Compassionate and compelling reasons for coming to Australia include serious health conditions of an immediate family member, death of an immediate family member, or some other circumstances, that can vary from one case to another.
Requirements for lodging a visitor visa application for Australia
Apart from the mentioned circumstances that are currently in effect due to the borders being closed, it is necessary that you meet all the other general requirements for a visitor visa for Australia.
As with almost any other visa for Australia, it is very important that you meet health and character requirements.
Also, you are required to show that you have enough funds for the intended period of your stay in Australia.
However, the most important one is the GTE – Genuine Temporary Entrant to prove that you genuinely intend to stay in Australia temporarily, meaning you don’t plan to stay in Australia permanently, what your are not allowed anyways with your visitor visa.
Visitor visa application processing time
Before the COVID-19 pandemic and based on our experience, the average processing time for a visitor visa subclass 600 was around 20 days while for the visitor visa subclass 651 was between 1-7 days.
Based on our experience, decisions for visitor visas are made quickly under the condition that your exemption to travel is granted based on your circumstances.
Decision on exemption to travel request is taken quite fast between 1-7 days on average.
Visitor visa application charge
Visa application charge for a visitor visa subclass 600 offshore is $145 AUD while lodging the visitor visa application subclass 651 is free of charge.
Lodging the request for exemption to travel to Australia is free of charge.
Request for the exemption to travel can be lodged after the visa application.
This visa application charge is paid to the Department of Home Affairs and does not include additional costs such as requests and translation of documentation, medical examination (if required), biometric data collection (if required), English language tests, registered migration agent services, and others.
Flight to Australia for those who have a visitor visa
For those who managed to successfully pass all the stages and obtain a visitor visa as well as the exemption to travel to Australia, a new challenge appears – finding a flight to Australia.
Australia has limited the number of international arrivals at all airports and these restrictions are still in effect although the situation is improving. However, the flexibility of these limitations will benefit primarily Australian citizens and permanent residents.
Having a visa and an exemption to travel to Australia granted does not guarantee you will find a flight to Australia. This reality is somewhat different and you will have to be patient in most cases in order to find and book a flight that will not be cancelled or postponed.
The good news is that recently some of our clients have been entering Australia more often than in the previous months and we are happy to share the information on where to search for the flight with our clients.
Mandatory quarantine in Australia
The last challenge you will face is the mandatory quarantine that you need to undergo in a hotel that has been assigned to you by an Australian state or territory you landed in. Quarantine lasts for 14 days and upon landing at the airport the staff will directly take you to your accommodation for the next 14 days.
Some Australian states/territories charge the quarantine, so make sure you are well informed before your departure.
Usually, the deadline for paying the quarantine fee is 30 days from the day you left the quarantine and the amount you need to pay ranges from $2,500 AUD and above, depending on the number of family members that stay in quarantine. Some states give the possibility to pay in installments or you can even be exempt from paying. We suggest you check all the details on the official website of the state/territory you are coming to.
If you need assistance to lodge the visitor visa application or the request for exemption to enter or leave Australia, be free to contact us on some of our available contacts or schedule a consultation with our registered migration agent here.