Many tourists and other temporary visa holders have been badly affected by the pandemic, a large number stranded in other countries with time ticking on their visas. Now, temporary visas that expired or will expire during lockdown are eligible for refunds or waivers of the Visa Application Charges (VAC) when applying for a new visa to Australia.
Applicable to working holiday makers, visitors, prospective partners, and temporary skilled workers, the move by the federal government hopes to boost Australia’s tourism and agriculture industry.
Australia had closed its borders in March 2020 to non-citizens and non permanent residents and has indicated that they will not reopen borders or remove travel restrictions till at least late 2021.
With this new move, those stranded outside Australia will be relieved of additional visa extension costs.
Visitor and Working Holiday Maker visas
Visitor visas that expired or will expire between March 2020 and December 2021 are eligible for waivers. This can apply to parents, family members, and other visitors who had intended to visit Australia.
The same will apply to backpackers on Working Holiday Maker visas, many of whom left Australia early due to border closures and lockdowns.
For those backpackers who have passed the age limit of the Working Holiday Maker visa and will not be able to return, they are eligible for refunds.
Employer-sponsored skilled migrants
In a move to support local businesses, waivers of the Visa Application Charges (VAC) will be available for upcoming applications for temporary employer sponsored skilled migrants. Many had to return to their home country due to border closures or were unable to make their initial entry to Australia.
However, this doesn’t replace the strict labour market testing requirements of the visa.
Prospective Marriage visa
For prospective marriage visa holders who are typically required to travel to Australia within nine months of receiving the visa, to marry a citizen or a permanent resident, refunds will be available.
In the case of Prospective Marriage visas that expired, new applications are expected to be prioritised. Moreover, extensions are available for these visas that are still valid.
Seasonal Worker Program
Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme visa holders, who often meet labour demands in industries like farming, are available for refunds if their visa was granted before 20 March 2020 and they are unable to return.
For those still in Australia, they have the option of extending the visa for up to 12 months.
The Department of Home Affairs will explain further details on the website in coming weeks.
In July, the government had announced international students could apply for student visa applications free of charge if their visas expired while outside the country during the pandemic, among other crucial changes.