Novel Corona Virus/COVID-19 Update 19/02/2020

The disease resulting from the potentially lethal corona virus and recently named COVID-19 continues to spread, although predominately within mainland China and its ongoing threat has convinced the Australian government to maintain travel restrictions for the time being.

On February 15th, the initial 14 day restriction was extended, to be further reviewed after seven (7) days. Given the growing number of infections being reported however, it seems highly likely that some form of ongoing restrictions will be announced on February 22nd.

What does this mean for travellers from China?

  • All travellers from mainland China, including visitors and students who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents, will be subjected to enhanced border control measures, both at point of departure and upon arrival. While the bans are in force they will not be admitted into Australia.
  • Australia will continue to deny entry to anyone who has left or who has transited through mainland China within the previous 14 days, with the sole exceptions being Australian citizens, permanent residents, New Zealand citizens resident in Australia, accompanying immediate family members of Australian citizens or permanent residents, including spouses, de facto partners, dependents, legal guardians and diplomats.

So how do the current restrictions impact holders of temporary visas?

  • If you have spent time in mainland China and you hold a visitor visa for Australia, your airline should disallow you any attempt made to board the flight.
  • If you do manage to arrive in Australia and it is determined that you have been in mainland China within the prior 14 days, your visa will be immediately cancelled.
  • New Zealand citizens on Special Category (subclass 444) visa, who are returning to Australia from mainland China, would be required to prove their usual residence in Australia. This would require evidence at check-in; for example, driver license, home ownership/rates documentation, rental property paperwork etc.

Matters awaiting clarification – stay tuned!

  • Sellanes Clark and Associates, through its affiliation with the Migration Institute of Australia, is seeking further clarification from authorities regarding the processes available for the return of partners of Australian citizens and permanent residents where those involved, although having applied for partner visas, currently hold only visitor or student visas.
  • Clarification is also being sought regarding the documentation required for presentation at airports, in order to evidence that they are bona fide partners of Australian citizens or permanent residents and are therefore excluded from the travel ban.
  • The exact processes surrounding revocation and cancellation of visas and the expiry of visas by operation of time have yet to be fully clarified by the Department. Cancellations in particular carry a long term impact on an individual’s migration record, so this explanation has been requested as a matter of priority.
  • Also unknown at this time; whether the Department will announce the issue of very short term visitor visas, which would provide opportunities for those whose current visas have expired whilst stranded offshore, to return to Australia upon removal of travel restrictions, in order to appropriately apply for their bridging visas.

COVID-19 is an extremely serious disease and one which, as far as is possible, must be contained. Australia is just one of many countries which have closed borders; decisions which have had a significant personal and economic impact upon all parties concerned.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Australian Government will be keen to reopen its borders as soon as it is safe to do so then, at Sellanes Clark, we’ll be on hand to help.

Call us for help or assistance

Immigration law is a complex area; one which is constantly developing and evolving. We make it our business to stay in the forefront of this evolution, armed with the knowledge to provide clients with the genuine assistance they deserve.

 

For more information on this or on any relating issues, contact the migration law experts – Sellanes Clark and Associates – specialising in all immigration law matters.