Australia to waive off visa fees for certain temporary visas

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To ensure Australia remains an attractive destination for tourists, and temporary visa holders, the federal government has offered refunds or waivers of Visa Application Charges (VAC) for certain visa holders. Find out if you are eligible. 

Thousands of temporary visa holders who hold a valid Australian visa have been unable to come to Australia due to border closures.

Australia shut down its international borders to non-citizens and non-permanent residents in March 2020, with borders expected to remain shut until late 2021.

The Australian government has now announced that those who were unable to travel due to the border closures will be eligible for a visa fee waiver for their next visa or be eligible to receive a refund.

‘Australia’s success in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and our economy will continue to make Australia an attractive destination for tourists and temporary workers. These measures will reinforce that when our borders open up, Australia will remain a nation that welcomes and values our international visitors,’ Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge and Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said.

Who is eligible?

Temporary skilled workers, tourists, prospective partners, international students, working holidaymakers, seasonal and pacific workers and whose travel has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible.

There is a different criterion for each visa type.

Visitors visa holders to get a waiver on new visa

Visitor visa holders who are overseas and whose visas expired or will expire between March 2020 and December 2021 will be eligible for a waiver when they apply for a new visa.  

‘This will help support the rebound of Australia’s $45 billion international tourism sector when international travel restrictions ease,’ Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said.

‘We know many of our tourism destinations and operators are doing it tough right now and these arrangements will help encourage people to travel to Australia when our international borders re-open and once again inject vital tourism dollars into our economy,’ he said.

This means those parents who were visitor visa holders but could not travel due to COVID-19 and wish to visit their children will get a free visa next time.

Temporary skilled workers to get a waiver on subsequent applications

Due to travel restrictions, there are many Temporary Skill Shortage and Temporary Work (Skilled) visa holders who have not made their initial entry to Australia, or have returned home due to COVID-19 and may wish to apply again.

‘To support local businesses that seek to access critical skills not available in the local labour workforce, the Government will offer a waiver of the VAC for subsequent applications by affected temporary employer-sponsored skilled migrants,’ Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said.

However, these subsequent skilled visa applications will be subject to the strict labour market testing requirements.

Prospective Marriage visa holders to get a refund

The Prospective Marriage visa provides holders with nine months to travel to Australia to marry an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

VAC refunds will be available for Prospective Marriage visa holders who have been unable to enter Australia before their visa expired, due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

‘Refunds will ensure these visa holders are able to apply for another visa to travel to Australia and hold their wedding once travel restrictions are lifted. For those visas that have already expired, any new application will be prioritised,’ Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said.

‘Visa extensions will be available for Prospective Marriage visa holders whose visas are still valid,’ he added.

International students to get a fee waiver

International students will be able to lodge a further student visa application free of charge if they are unable to complete their studies within their original visa validity due to COVID-19. 

In July, the federal government made a number of changes to student visa arrangements where they said students who held a student visa on or after 1 February 2020 and who couldn’t complete their course within their original visa validity due to the impacts of COVID-19 will be eligible for a visa application fee waiver to allow them to lodge a further student visa application to complete their study.

This includes students who:

– deferred their study as they were unable to enter Australia due to travel restrictions
– were forced to reduce to a part-time study load
– were unable to complete their work-based training or placements.

Working holidaymakers eligible for a waiver or claim a refund

Backpackers on Working Holiday Maker visas who have been unable to come to Australia or who had to leave Australia early due to COVID-19 will also be eligible for a waiverwhen they decide to return to Australia.
Those who are unable to return because they have passed the age limit for a Working Holiday Maker visa will be able to claim a refund.
‘Working Holiday Makers are a major contributor to Australia’s tourism industry and also fill critical workforce shortages, particularly in regional and rural Australia.  On average, they spend all their money in Australia, contributing more than $3 billion a year to the economy and supporting local jobs,’ Mr Tudge said.
‘These changes build on a number of measures announced by the Morrison Government to allow Working Holiday Makers to remain in Australia longer and support the critical sectors of health, aged care, disability care, childcare, agriculture and food processing.’

Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme workers will get a refund

Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme visa holders will also be eligible for a refundof the VAC if they were granted a visa before 20 March 2020 and have been unable to travel to Australia due to COVID-19
Visa conditions for these workers have also been temporarily relaxed and options are available for them to extend their stay in Australia for up to 12 months to support the agriculture sector. 

Source: SBS

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