New sub-stream on Subclass 408 visa for COVID-19

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The coronavirus has caused chaos all around the world. Many countries have closed their borders meaning countless people are struggling to get back to their home country.

The ripple effect of the closed borders can be seen in immigration. Telephone lines to advisers are buzzing with anxious people calling in to ask what happens when their visas expire.

Australia has adopted an approach of asking those people who are still able to return to their home countries to do so. This is not possible for everyone to do, though, as we now know.

To assist certain individuals with temporary visas, Australia has introduced important changes to the Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408). This visa ordinarily allows someone to come to Australia to work on a short-term basis, but will now also enable former and current holders of temporary visas to lawfully remain in Australia.

COVID-19 now considered under ‘Australian Government Endorsed Events’ on the 408 visa

The Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408) allows for short-term work in Australia for a wide range of activities. Some of these approved activities include:

  • Elite Player, Coach, Instructor or Adjudicator
  • Religious Workers
  • Superyacht Crew
  • Research
  • Staff Exchange
  • Australian Government Endorsed Events

The COVID-19 pandemic has now been classified as an event for the purposes of applying for a subclass 408 visa. It thus falls under ‘Australian Government Endorsed Events’.

This means eligible applicants can now apply for a subclass 408 visa to remain lawfully in Australia  during the crisis if they’d otherwise have to leave Australia, but are unable to due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Who is eligible for the subclass 408 visa?

Temporary visa holders with no other visa options and temporary visa holders who work in Australia’s critical sectors are eligible to apply for the subclass 408 visa.

For these reasons, you must be able to meet these criteria to be eligible for a subclass 408 visa:

  • You’re in Australia.
  • You’re unable to leave Australia due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
  • You work in Australia’s critical sectors including healthcare, disability and aged care, childcare, and agriculture.
  • There are 28 days or less remaining on your current visa or you held a temporary visa that expired no more than 28 days before the date of your application for a subclass 408 visa; and
  • You are unable to meet the criteria for the same temporary visa that you hold or previously held, and you are also unable to meet the criteria for any other temporary visa subclass.

You don’t need an endorsement to apply

The subclass 408 visa ordinarily requires a written endorsement as part of the application, but the Government has waived this requirement for anyone applying for the subclass 408 visa under the new legislation for the COVID-19 pandemic.

You must apply for a subclass 408 visa online

The subclass 408 visa is only open for online applications. You can get step-by-step instructions on how to do this on the website of the Department of Home Affairs. If the Department of Home Affairs approves your application, you’ll be able to remain in Australia.

In the event that you’d want to extend your stay beyond the validity of your visa, you’ll have to apply for a new visa according to the ordinary conditions of the subclass 408 visa. Whether the Australian Government will keep this requirement in place for visa holders that apply due to the COVID-19 pandemic remains to be seen.

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