On 18 March 2020, the Australian Government implemented travel restrictions for Australian Citizens, Permanent residents from leaving and entering Australia.
These travel restrictions have been extended over the past 18 months and at the time of writing have been extended until 17 September 2021. It is likely that the restrictions will continue until mid-2022 when the Australian Government is targeting completion of its vaccination program.
If you are an Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident, you can leave Australia if you have been granted an outbound Travel Exemption. This means that you are exempt from the COVID-19 travel restrictions.
However, the treatment of Temporary Visa holders to Australia has been vastly different, and depending on your individual circumstances, obtaining a Travel Exemption into Australia can be very difficult.
How can I come into Australia with a Temporary Visa?
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a drastic reduction in migration which has resulted in limited inward travel to Australia. While there are Government guidelines for all intended inbound visitors to Australia, the final decision is made on a ‘case-by-case’ basis, including in compassionate and compelling circumstances.
Applying for a Travel Exemption can be daunting, and many applicants, especially Temporary Visa holders face refusals. This is because the threshold for circumstances that will be considered compassionate is high.
For example, the circumstances that are considered are those that would result in serious, ongoing and irreversible harm and continuing hardship to an Australian citizen or an Australian family unit.
5 ways to boost your chances of a Travel Exemption to Australia
Evidence must be provided to support a request, and all documents must be officially translated into English.
Anyone (including Temporary Visa holders) seeking a Travel Exemption into Australia should follow these 5 steps to boost their application’s chances of success:
1. Understand what a successful Travel Exemption into Australia requires
The first step to a successful Travel Exemption into Australia is to carefully read the Australian Government’s guidelines found here, to understand what is involved in the Travel Exemption process before applying.
2. Collect the necessary documentary evidence to support your Travel Exemption into Australia
A requirement of successful applications is documentary evidence to support your claims. If your Travel Exemption application is based on the serious, ongoing and irreversible harm and continuing hardship criteria it is important to provide third party evidence such as:
- providing critical or specialist medical letters indicating travel is necessary;
- official records (e.g. birth certificates or death certificates);
- letters of support from Government Agencies;
- a Statutory Declaration to support your claims (e.g. obtaining Statutory Declarations from relevant family members).
3. For compassionate claims you may need to collect additional evidence to support your Travel Exemption into Australia
If you are relying on a Travel Exemption request to demonstrate a strong case of compassionate circumstances to visit immediate family, such as a spouse or de facto partner, you must show evidence that is continuous and consistent with your claims such as:
- letters, photographs, records of messages and telephone calls;
- marriage or de facto certificate;
- sworn statements from friends and family who have observed your relationship to be genuine.
4. Enlist support and guidance from a professional immigration lawyer to maximise your chances of success with a Travel Exemption into Australia
To boost your chances of obtaining a Travel Exemption, you should obtain independent advice from an Australian immigration lawyer. An immigration lawyer is in the best position to advise on the information that should be submitted to give your Travel Exemption request a better chance of being granted. This is because an immigration lawyer is constantly reviewing the guidelines and Australian Government policies, monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia and can tailor your individual circumstances to the Australian Government’s requirements.
5. Do you fit into special criteria for a Travel Exemption into Australia?
You may also fit into special criteria, discussed below, which will also improve your chances of obtaining a Travel Exemption such as being on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) or in a critical skills sector.
An immigration lawyer can help you explore special criteria possibilities to boost your chances of success in applying for a Travel Exemption into Australia.
A word of caution for Temporary Visa holders wanting to leave and then return to Australia
If you are currently in Australia on a Temporary Visa and want to leave, you may leave Australia. However to return to Australia may prove very difficult and therefore it is advisable that you should consider the risk of being outside of Australia and the potential consequences if you cannot return within the period of your intended travel.
I am currently outside of Australia but hold a temporary work visa for Australia – how do I get a Travel Exemption into Australia?
If you have been granted a temporary work visa for Australia and are sponsored by your employer, you must be coming to Australia to work in a skilled occupation (PMSOL can be found here).
The Australian Government may also grant a temporary work visa holder an exemption the individual possesses critical skills in a “critical sector”. Criteria for these Travel Exemptions include:
- travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response;
- providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations and delivering critical medical supplies;
- critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services (such as in medical technology, critical infrastructure, telecommunications, engineering and mining, supply chain logistics, aged care, agriculture, primary industry, food production, and the maritime industry);
- service delivery in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery (such as financial technology, large scale manufacturing, film, media and television production and emerging technology), where no Australian worker is available;
- providing critical skills in religious or theology fields;
- a worker whose entry would otherwise be in Australia’s national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority.
Further tips on obtaining a Travel Exemptions for temporary work visa holders currently outside Australia
Similar to the 5 steps outlined above when preparing your Travel Exemption request outside of Australia you must include:
- traveller details: name, date of birth, visa type and number, passport number
- proposed residential address and phone number in Australia
- your reasons for coming: why you should be granted an exemption
- a supporting statement: setting out how you meet one of the grounds for an exemption
- other accompanying evidence that can support your application.
Why use an immigration lawyer to support your Travel Exemption into Australia?
There are regular changes to Australia’s immigration policies and processes for Temporary Visa holders, with some changes seemingly announced without warning or changes that create confusion.
To be successful in obtaining a Travel Exemption may take more than one application. While it is not an ideal situation to be in, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted Australia’s border system and control measures.
To avoid wasted time, effort and money, you should consider consulting an immigration lawyer before submitting anything to the Department; this input can be crucial to give your Travel Exemption application the best chance possible of success.
Or, if your Travel Exemption request has been refused, seek legal advice as to whether you can improve your Travel Exemption request with more evidence and relevant information. Engaging expert Immigration lawyers can be key to achieving the best possible outcome for your circumstances.
CMN has a team of experienced Immigration lawyers who understand it can be a complex and confusing process. Our Immigration lawyers are are at the ready to advise and guide you through the Travel Exemption process and related temporary visa issues. For a confidential discussion about your Travel Exemption or any other immigration matter, please contact our team on 1300 123 529, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.