The Australian Government has announced that certain visa holders will be eligible to apply for a waiver or a refund of their visa application charge (VAC) if their travel or stay in Australia (or both) has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below are the temporary visas that will benefit from the new policy measure:
Temporary Skill visa (Subclass 482 and 457)
An estimated 40,000 skilled migrants on 482 and 457 visas are currently stuck offshore due to travel restrictions, some of whom have not made their initial entry into Australia and others who have had to return to their home countries due to the pandemic.
Under the new policy measure, those affected will now be able to apply for a waiver of the VAC for their subsequent applications, allowing them to return to Australia once travel restrictions are lifted.
- Visa applicants who were granted visas and were unable to enter Australia, and
- Visa holders who departed during the validity of their visas, were unable to re-enter Australia and their visa ceased to be in effect between 1 February 2020 and 31 December 2021
Visitor visa (Subclass 600)
Visitor visa holders, whose previous visa subclass 600 expired or will expire while outside Australia, will be eligible to apply for another visitor visa without paying the VAC.
With this measure, those visitor visa holders who were unable to travel in Australia for initial entry, as well as those who had travelled and departed but were unable to return on a multiple entry visa due to travel restrictions, will now be able to apply for a Visitor (subclass 600) visa in the Tourist, Business Visitor, Sponsored Family or Approved Destination Status streams with a nil VAC. We note that the concession does not apply to applicants in the Frequent Traveller stream.
What are the requirements?
- The applicants of a new visitor visa will not pay a VAC if all of the following circumstances apply:
- the applicant is outside of Australia when they apply for the visa
- they apply for the visa between 27 February 2021 and 31 December 2022
- before 21 March 2021 they were previously granted a Subclass 600 visa while outside of Australia
- the previous visa they held expired, or will expire between 20 March 2020 and 31 December 2021
- the previous visa was either a multiple entry visa or a single entry visa that was not used to enter Australia
- if they have made a previous application under the instrument, a visa was not granted or refused to be granted in relation to that application
Working Holiday visa (Subclass 417 and 462)
Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa holders will be eligible to apply for a waiver or a refund of their visa application charge (VAC) if they were unable to travel to Australia or had to leave Australia early.
There is no maximum time that a former WHM visa holder must have spent in Australia before departure and the new visa or refund must be applied for before the end of 2022.
Who benefits from the waiver?
Visa holders who were granted a Working Holiday Maker visa but were unable to travel to Australia due to travel restrictions or departed due to COVID-19, they may be able to receive a VAC waiver for a future application.
Who benefits from the refund?
Visa holders who were granted a Working Holiday Maker visa but were unable to travel to Australia due to travel restrictions or departed due to COVID-19, and now are unable to apply for a new WHM as they have now passed the relevant age limit, they may be able to receive a VAC refund.
Other arrangements for WHM
The Government has updated the list of countries where an applicant is exempt from providing evidence of:
- home government support
- the education requirements for applicants from various countries
- the place and manner for making an application for a subclass 462 Work and Holiday visa.
The countries added to the list are:
- Czech Republic
- Slovak Republic
Prospective Marriage visa (Subclass 300)
Prospective Marriage visa holders, former visa holders, and visa applicants will be eligible to apply for a refund or extension of visa if they were or will be unable to enter Australia before their visa ceases or were unable to marry their sponsor because of exceptional circumstances arising out COVID-19.
Who benefits from the refund?
Refunds must be requested by 31 December 2022 if one the following circumstances apply:
- The visa ceased to be in effect between 20 March 2020 and 5 October 2020 while the visa holder was outside Australia.
- The visa ceased to be in effect between 20 March 2020 and 5 October 2020 while the visa holder was in Australia, but the visa holder was unable to marry their sponsor before the visa ceased because of restrictions imposed by COVID-19, such as quarantine requirements or restrictions on interstate travel.
- The visa was in effect between 6 October 2020 and 10 December 2020, the visa holder was outside Australia on 10 December 2020 and did not enter after that date. This circumstance only applies when, at the time the visa holder requests the refund, the visa had either ceased to be in effect or the visa holder had already asked the Minister to cancel the visa before the application for refund.
Who benefits from the extension?
Prospective Marriage visa holders or former visa holders who were outside Australia on 10 December 2020, and who held that visa at any time between 6 October 2020 and 10 December 2020 had their visa validity period extended to 31 March 2022.
Also, to assist visa applicants, the visas granted from 27 February 2021 may have a validity period of between 9 to 15 months. This is a change from the previous standard 9 months validity.
Pacific Labour Scheme (Subclass 403) and Seasonal Worker Program (Subclass 403)
- Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program visa holders may be refunded if all of the following circumstances apply:
- the visa was granted before 20 March 2020 but the person was not able to enter Australia on or before the date specified on the visa;
- a refund is requested on or before 31 December 2021 and, at the time of decision on the request for a refund, the visa was no longer in effect; and
- if the visa ceased to be in effect because it was cancelled (the cancellation only occurred because the visa holder requested to cancel the visa)
If you are eligible and you would like to apply for a VAC waiver or refund and you need support, please get in touch with our team and we’ll find the best immigration pathway for you and your family.