408 Visa: The COVID-19 Visa stream explained
Written by Luke Musto, Associate
Last month the Federal Government announced plans for a new visa stream that would allow certain temporary residents to remain in Australia during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This is the “COVID-19 Pandemic event” stream of the Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408).
We have already received a few enquiries from clients as to the application of this visa and in what circumstances they could apply for it. In today’s post, we will explain this visa and its eligibility criteria.
What is the purpose of the visa?
The purpose of this visa is twofold – firstly, to enable people already working in a “critical sector” the ability to remain lawfully in Australia. Secondly, it can provide a short term visa to people who are ineligible for any other visa or cannot return home due to the coronavirus.
“Critical sectors” are defined by the Department of Home Affairs as including agriculture, food processing, health care, aged care, disability care or childcare. The Department has the ability to modify these sectors as required.
This is actually not a new visa – the Australian Government has added legislation to define the coronavirus pandemic as an event for the purposes of this visa, thereby creating a new stream. It should be stressed, however, that this visa will only be available in limited circumstances.
Who can apply for this visa?
This visa has a very narrow application in the following circumstances:
- Work and Holiday Visa Holders: These visa holders can apply for a 408 visa in order to continue working within a critical sector. Evidence of employment (either ongoing or an offer) must be provided in the application.
- Seasonal Worker Programme: Holders of this visa will be granted a 408 visa so as to continue working. Evidence of employment must be provided in their application.
- Other temporary visa holders: Other temporary visa holders may be granted this visa if they are not eligible for any other visa and are unable to depart Australia. How this is to apply in practice is not yet clear— as an example, most people would be eligible for a 600 tourist visa. For workers not working in a critical sector, they would be granted a visa without work rights, with visas to be granted for a maximum of 12 months (and shorter periods, so as to allow the holders time to depart Australia).
It is important for interested temporary visa holders to review the conditions attached to their visa. In the event that a No Further Stay condition is attached (8503, 8534 or 8535), a separate application for a waiver of the condition must be applied for prior to applying for a 408 visa.
How do I apply for this visa?
In order to qualify for this visa, you must meet the following criteria:
- Make the application online from Australia;
- Have a visa that will expire in the next 28 days, or otherwise your last substantive visa must have expired less than 28 days ago;
- Be able to demonstrate you are ineligible for any other visa;
- Be engaged in or have skills to undertake work relating to the supply of essential goods and services;
- Have substantially complied with the conditions of your previous visa;
- Have and maintain health insurance for the duration of your stay in Australia.
The Health and Character requirements apply as they do to all visa applications.
It is essential that your application shows you have a skill set highly relevant to a critical sector or have a critical sector employer who is supporting you in the application.
There is no application fee for this visa – that is, it is free.
What is the length of stay for this visa?
The government has indicated that visas will be granted for stays of up to 12 months. Extensions under this visa are not possible, so if a holder wishes to stay longer than this a new visa must be applied for.
Can family members also apply for this visa?
Family members of the principal applicant may apply as secondary applicants to the application.
The 408 COVID-19 visa stream will enable certain visa holders to stay in Australia, however, we encourage people to view it cautiously given that there are many eligibility criteria that severely restrict its scope, and many potential visa holders will not qualify. In addition, the fact that many visas will be issued with a lack of working rights means that these visa holders will face substantial financial pressure. If you have questions or need guidance regarding this visa, get in touch with our experienced team today.
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