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Temporary skilled workers and visitor visa holders will now be eligible to have the visa application charge (VAC) for a subsequent visa application waived, to allow them to return to Australia once travel restrictions are lifted.
Revealing details about the measure that was announced as part of the permanent residency migration shakeup in the Federal Budget last week, Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge today said the aim is to ensure that Australia remains an attractive destination for tourists and temporary visa holders who often fill critical skills shortages where locals can’t fill vacancies.
- Australia to refund visa application charge for temporary visa holders affected by COVID-19 border closure
- Tourists, working holidaymakers, seasonal & pacific workers, prospective partners and temporary skilled workers will be eligible
- Aim is to ensure Australia remains an attractive destination for temporary visa holders when borders reopen
Supporting tourism and businesses through VAC changes:
Tourists, working holidaymakers, seasonal and pacific workers, prospective partners and temporary skilled workers whose travel has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible – Alan Tudge
The policy is estimated to reduce government revenue by $275 million over the four-year forward estimates period, according to the budget papers.
Here’s a list of visa holders who are eligible to apply for a refund:
Visitor visa holders who are outside Australia 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 under the new changes.
Minister Tudge said the move is aimed at ensuring Australia remains a preferred choice of destination for tourists once international borders reopen.
“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 in a media release.
As per Treasury estimates, international travel is assumed to remain largely closed off until late 2021 after which it is expected to gradually return over time.
Temporary skilled visa holders (Subclass 482 and 457):
An estimated 40,000 skilled migrants on 482 and 457 visas are currently stranded offshore due to travel restrictions, many of whom have not made their initial entry to Australia or had to go back to their home countries due to the pandemic.
Under the new policy measure, those affected will now be able to seek a waiver of the VAC for their subsequent applications.
“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,” said Mr Tudge.
Is the policy in favour of businesses in regional areas?
Adelaide-based migration agent Mark Glazbrook said the VAC waivers do offer a respite to visa holders, but it is hard to understand how these changes would help businesses struggling to fill workforce gaps particularly in Australia’s remote and regional areas.
“What about the business owners? They have gone through the entire lengthy visa process and then whey they have had the visa approved, they can’t have that person travel to Australia to fill a role within that business.
“Sometimes these roles are critically important especially in regional and low population areas where they rely on the Migration Program to fulfil their critical vacancies. Now if they no longer have access to the program, what are they going to do to address their current and future workforce needs?” questioned Mr GLazbrook.
“That is not supporting businesses in regional and remote areas no matter what the Department of Home Affairs says,” he said.
Prospective Marriage visa holders (Subclass 300):
Visa fee refunds will also be available to Prospective Marriage visa holders who have been blocked from entering the country before their visa expired, due to the current travel bans.
“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,” Minister Tudge said in his statement to the media.
In addition, visa extensions will also be available to visa holders whose visas are still valid.
The Prospective Marriage visa provides holders nine months to travel to Australia to marry an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
Explaining the waiver process and its impact on Prospective Marriage visa holders, Melbourne-based migration agent Navjot Kailay said all current visa holders under the category who remain stranded outside the country will be eligible for a fee refund.
“All prospective marriage visa holders whether they have spent their nine-month period outside Australia or will do so in months to come can seek a VAC refund under the new policy,” he said.
This is good news for Prospective Marriage visa holders who have paid a VAC of nearly $8,000, and whose visas are about to expire
“But all they will get is the principal amount they have paid as visa application fee and not any overhead expenses that may have incurred in the form of agent fee etc,” added Mr Kailay.
Other visa holders:
Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme visa holders will also be eligible to claim a refund of the VAC if they were granted a visa before 20 March 2020 and have been unable to travel to Australia due to the pandemic-prompted travel restrictions.
This waiver will also be available to backpackers on Working Holiday Maker visas when they decide to return to Australia – who have been unable to come into the country or had to leave early due to COVID-19. Visa holders in this category who cannot return because they have passed the age limit for the said visa can also seek a refund.
Disclaimer: This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.
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