While this is now old news, we felt that this was still an important change to immigration policy that we would news flash.

The Pandemic Event Visa has officially closed to new applications. As of 2 September 2023, the Pandemic Event visa will only be available to existing Pandemic Event visa holders. 

Why is the Pandemic Event visa closing? 

Now that Australia’s borders are open and temporary visa holder numbers in Australia have returned to pre-COVID levels, The Department of Home Affairs has decided that the Pandemic Event visa will no longer be required. 

Next steps for existing Pandemic Event visa holders and lodged Pandemic Event visa applications

As part of the staged closure: 

  • All visa applications lodged on or after 2 September 2023 will have a stay period in Australia of up to 6 months.
  • All applications lodged on or after 2 September 2023 will incur a Visa Application Charge of AUD405.00.
  • The Pandemic event visa closes to all new applications on 1 February 2024. 
  • At the time of application, you must hold a Pandemic event visa that expires in 28 days or less.
  • Applications lodged before 2 September 2023 will continue to be considered for a period of stay in Australia of up to 12 months. 
  • Your Pandemic Event visa will remain valid until its expiry, or you are granted another visa. 

Next steps for employers preparing for closure 

Employers of a Pandemic Event visa holder should check what their employee’s plans are, including whether they intend to transition to another visa or depart Australia. 

It is the responsibility of employers to ensure that they employ overseas workers with valid visas, otherwise, they risk significant penalties. 

If you found this article useful, give us a call and book your consultation with M Legal today!

Written by Sarah Mathew on behalf of M Legal’s lawyers

From the 1st of July 2023, all New Zealand (NZ) citizens who are granted a special category visa (SCV) will be considered permanent residents for citizenship purposes. This will mean that all SCV holders will have a direct pathway to apply for Australian Citizenship without becoming permanent residents first. This is under the condition that the requirement of four years of residence and other eligibility requirements are met. In our view, this is a monumental shift in citizenship requirements, with a game-changing effect on NZ citizens who have made Australia their home.

Ordinarily, to meet the general residence requirement for the purpose of citizenship by conferral, an applicant must be lawfully present in Australia for four years, including 12 months as a permanent resident, immediately before the date of application. 

The changes that will take effect from 1 July 2023:

  • All New Zealand citizens holding an SCV will be considered permanent residents for citizenship purposes.
  • New Zealand citizens granted an SCV before 1 July 2022 will have their period of permanent residence for citizenship purposes backdated to 1 July 2022.
  • New Zealand citizens granted an SCV for the first time on or after 1 July 2022 will be considered permanent residents for citizenship purposes from the date of their SCV grant.

The above provisions will apply to New Zealand citizens in Australia as well as New Zealand citizens who are overseas but held an SCV before leaving Australia. 

These changes will impact children who are born in Australia on or after 1 July 2022 to an SCV holder as they will automatically acquire Australian citizenship at birth. 

The change will ultimately bring about new opportunities for New Zealand citizens and their children born on-shore, and will finally reward SCV holders who have lived in Australia for an extended period of time so as to receive the benefits associated with citizenship and be valued as  part of the Australian community. 

M Legal’s lawyers’ experience makes us well-equipped to help provide clarity on this entire process. With our knowledge, we can assist you with your next Australian Citizenship application and put the most robust case together for you to make this work easier for you.

If you found this article useful, give us a call and book your consultation with M Legal today!

Written by Sarah Mathew on behalf of M Legal’s lawyers

Here’s what you need to know and why.

Despite borders opening and tourism being encouraged in Australia while the country’s economy recovers, applicants will find that the Subclass 600 Visitor Visa (600 visa) is not as easy to secure. Refusal of 600 visas has become more common recently.  For this reason, understanding the criteria of the 600 visa is integral to ensure you can put forward the best visa application and obtain a positive outcome.

What is a visitor visa?

The 600 visa is a temporary visa that allows you to visit Australia as a business visitor or see family and friends for up to 12 months. The streams provided under this visa includes:

  • Tourist Stream 
  • Sponsored Family Stream
  • Business Visitor Stream
  • Approved Destination Status Stream
  • Frequent Traveller Stream

*It is important to note that each stream has differing criteria, and as an applicant you need to consider which stream you are applying for, and if you meet the criteria for that particular stream.

Who is eligible for this visa and who would apply?

You would also need to apply for this particular visa on the basis that you do not meet the requirements of an eVisitor (Subclass 651) or an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). 

The common eligibility for this visa is inclusive of:

  • Intends to visit Australia as a tourist, business visitor, relative of an Australian permanent resident or citizen or ‘other’ reasons allowable under the 600 visa 
  • Having access to or have adequate funds, enough to support your stay in Australia (as well as departure)
  • Being classified as a Genuine Visitor, that is, do you have a genuine intention to stay temporarily in Australia?

This eligibility needs to be thoroughly considered when deciding upon applying for a visitor visa as you will undergo the scrutiny of a Department of Home Affair’s decision maker.

What makes applying for the 600 visa challenging?

We see 600 visa refusals mainly due to applicants failing to meet the ‘Genuine Intention to visit Australia temporarily’.  This appears to have become a focal point in decision makers refusing entry to individuals. 

In determining whether an applicant has a genuine intention to stay temporarily in Australia, a decision maker must consider the following:

  1. Whether the applicant has complied substantially with the conditions of their past visas
  2. Whether the applicant intends to comply with the conditions of their 600 visa
  3. Any other relevant matter

(b) and (c) are usually the two considerations where the decision maker has quite a broad discretion to consider a number of factors to be able to finally assess if the applicant can meet the genuine intention criteria.  This unfortunately can lead to unfair findings made by the Department’s case officer.

Some of the considerations for (b) are:

  • Adverse information or allegations against any applicant or a contact in Australia
  • Financial support during the applicant’s stay (without engaging in any work in Australia)…

Some of the considerations for (c) are:

  • Your employment and financial conditions
  • Economic, social and political situation relative to the applicant’s home or usual country of residence
  • Incentive to return to their home country or usual country of residence…

Why is this important to understand?

A lot of clients believe that applying for a 600 visa is straightforward.  In most cases it can be, however at other times, understanding how to put the best case forward by applying the laws, making succinct arguments and supporting the case with the right evidence, can improve your chances of success towards a positive visa outcome.

This is particularly important as overseas applicants mostly do not have a right of appeal of any 600 refusal decision.

The 600 visa stands as one of the most popular immigration visas, and thus, due to the high number of applications received by the Department of Home Affairs each year, the legislation for approval of this visa is strict and non-negotiable.  

M Legal’s lawyers’ experience makes us well equipped to help navigate and give you clarity on this entire process. With our knowledge, we can assist you with your next 600 visa application and put the most robust case together for you to make this work easier for you.

Contact Us

If you found this article useful, give us a call and book in your consultation with M Legal today!

Written by Sarah Mathew on behalf of M Legal’s lawyers.

Navigating the current COVID-19 restrictions and travel exemptions to enter Australia

As Australia tentatively steps towards resuming a new normal, there’s no question that there’s still a lot of trepidation around the strict border measures currently in place.

As such, international travel to and from Australia without exemptions has been limited. Updates on the current travel restrictions will be subject to the Commissioner’s Guidelines and Operation Directives.

As your migration lawyers, we’ve collated the latest information on travel exemptions for your understanding.

What is a travel exemption?

With nationwide travel restrictions in place, a ‘travel exemption’ grants individuals and families the permission to exit or re-enter Australia. You cannot enter Australia unless you are in an exempt category or have been granted an individual exemption to the current travel restrictions.

Automatic travel exemption categories

According to the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, an individual travel exemption is not needed for entering Australia if you are:

  • An Australian citizen
  • A permanent resident of Australia
  • An immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident*
  • A New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia and their immediate family members
  • A person who has been in New Zealand for 14 days or more immediately prior to arrival by air in Australia
  • a diplomat accredited to Australia, including their immediate family members (each member of the family unit must hold a valid subclass 995 visa)
  • A person transiting Australia for 72 hours or less
  • Airline crew, maritime crew including marine pilots
  • A person recruited under the Government approved Seasonal Worker Program or Pacific Labour Scheme
  • A person who holds a Business Innovation and Investment (subclass 188) visa

Please refer to the Inwards Travel Restrictions Operation Directive for further details on the travel exemption categories.

*If you hold a temporary visa or do not yet hold a valid visa for Australia, you will be required to provide proof of your relationship to the Department prior to travelling. Please find further information here.

Applying for an individual exemption, and for compassionate and compelling reasons

If you do not fall in the exemption categories above, you may be able to apply for an individual exemption online. To complete your request, you should hold a visa, or have applied for a visa, and be able to provide all the necessary information and documents to support your exemption application.

The individual exemption request also applies if you are wanting to travel for compassionate and compelling reasons, such as the death or critical illness of a close family member.

You will need to apply for the travel exemption at least two weeks, but not more than two months, before your planned travel date. The success of your travel exemption application will be determined by the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force.

You must hold a visa and have an exemption to Australia’s travel restrictions prior to travel. You can apply for your individual travel exemption here.   

What are the types of situations that may be successful in being exempted for travel?

Subject to the approval of the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force, the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs has outlined their individual exemptions criteria for inbound travel.

You may be entitled to an individual exemption for travel into Australia if you are:

  • A non-citizen travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • A non-citizen whose entry into Australia would be in the national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority
  • Providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations and delivering critical medical supplies
  • Providing critical skills or working in a critical sector in Australia – see critical skills and sectors
  • Sponsored by your employer to work in Australia in a Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) approved occupation
  • Military personnel, including those who are part of the Status of Forces Agreement, Commonwealth Armed Forces, Asia Pacific Forces and Status of Armed Forces Agreement
  • A person who resides on a vessel that seeks safe port for reprovisioning or safety reasons for a limited duration, supported by the local State or Territory government where relevant
  • A student completing year 11 and 12, with endorsement from the federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) and; support from the relevant Australian State or Territory government health authority and education department – refer to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment website for further information
  • A student completing your final two years of study of a medical, dental, nursing or allied health profession university degree, with evidence of a confirmed placement in an Australian hospital or medical practice which begins within the next two months.
  • Travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons

Why you should engage a migration/immigration lawyer to assist with your travel exemption application

With the ever-changing conditions, the M Legal team is diligently staying abreast of the latest advice from the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Department of Health. Keeping you informed, and always working in your best interests, we can assist you through your travel exemption application process.

Whether you’re wanting to make future travel arrangements or applying for an Australian visa, we strongly encourage you to consult with us prior to getting started. Tailored to your individual situation, we’ll provide you with the transparency and accountability you need during these times of uncertainty.

As your immigration experts, we’ll address all your concerns and questions for peace of mind, guiding you the whole way through. For more information on travel exemptions or applying for your Australian visa, please contact us by calling 0490 697 090 today.

As we enter a new phase of COVID-19, there are more uncertain times ahead for all of us.  From an immigration perspective, tighter measures are being enforced by Australia’s border security and we urge travelers in and out of the country, to consult with immigration experts if they have concerns or questions about their migration situation.

It is important we share the right information given that government policy is changing rapidly and is having a far-reaching impact on individual movement.

What we do know

  • There are travel bans for those who are arriving (and transiting) from Mainland China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy.  Australian citizens and permanent residents traveling from these countries are exempted from this ban.
  • If you are arriving in Australia from any other country, you are required to self-isolate for 14 days.  Heavy penalties will apply in some States if you do not abide by this guideline;
  • International cruise ships are banned from arriving in Australia for the next 30 days
  • If you are an on-shore tourist visa holder wishing to extend your stay, the Department has put into place some arrangements to grant extensions.  Please contact M Legal should you be considering to extend your stay.    

What we don’t know

  • As the government diverts resources to dealing with the COVID-19 migration matters, it is undetermined whether this will have a major impact on other visa categories processing timeframes
  • If there could be a response by the government to slow down the grant of all temporary visas for individuals applying off-shore
  • What other travel bans are on-foot and will be implemented soon

We highly recommend that you consult M Legal before making travel arrangements or apply for a visa for Australia.  We continue to stay abreast of the latest advice from both the Australian Department of Health and NSW Health as well as the Department of Home Affairs so that we can inform our clients accordingly.

On behalf of everyone in M Legal, we hope you and your family stay safe.