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CovidImmigrationTravel restrictions

Update from the ABF Commissioner expanding the “critical skills” and “critical sectors” travel exemption categories

By 29 July, 2020November 18th, 20212 Comments4 min read

travel exemptions

Although Australia’s strict border restrictions due to COVID-19 continue to be in force, the ABF Commissioner may grant a temporary visa holder an exemption for a limited number of reasons:

  1. 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
  2. providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations and delivering critical medical supplies
  3. a non-citizen with critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services
  4. a non-citizen delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery, where no Australian worker is available
  5. a non-citizen whose entry would otherwise be in the national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority
  6. military personnel, including those who form part of the Status of Forces Agreement, Commonwealth Armed Forces, Asia Pacific Forces and Status of Armed Forces Agreement
  7. a student completing year 11 and 12, with support from the relevant state and territory government
  8. travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons.

Although previously very restricted, the ABF Commissioner has expanded the examples of “critical skills” and “critical services”, recognising that the obvious health risk with COVID-19 must be balanced with the economic impact of the current measures.

A more detailed summary of the exemptions (for both temporary visa holders and permanent residents / citizens) are set out here, but given the fluid nature of the changes (and additional practical considerations in travelling to Australia) we recommend you speak to your Hannan Tew adviser or preferred immigration specialist prior to making any travel plans.

What does it now mean to have “critical skills”?

Exemptions can be granted for temporary visa holders who provide critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services, such as:

  1. medical technology
  2. critical infrastructure
  3. telecommunications
  4. mining and engineering
  5. supply chain logistics
  6. agricultural technology
  7. food production
  8. maritime industry

We recommend travel exemption applications should include supporting evidence such as employment contract, position description and a letter from the employer setting out clearly why the activity is critical.

What does it now mean to undertake work in a critical sector?

Exemptions can be granted for temporary visa holder who provide services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery, where no Australian worker is available, such as:

  1. financial technology
  2. large scale manufacturing
  3. film and television production
  4. emerging technology

The wording indicates a blanket sector exemption, provided that some form of submission in relation to the labour market is provided. That is, a support letter should be provided by the company evidencing why there are no Australian workers available (e.g. highly specialised role and / or the applicant’s proprietary knowledge).

What is the process to apply for a travel exemption?

The  process for such applications has not changed – that is, an individual can submit a request for a travel exemption under this category or a business can submit a request on their behalf. The applications of multiple travellers within the same group/business can be linked, so that the requests are considered together. The link to apply online is here.

An individual does not need to hold a valid visa to make the permission to travel request, but both a visa and permission to travel will be required before they can enter Australia. We assist our clients by preparing both simultaneously.

Any questions?

Bear in mind that practical ramifications include limited international flights, quarantine requirements on arrival, and State border restrictions which must also be complied with. Either contact us at [email protected], or see the governement’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for travellers and the state or territory government health department website for further information.

This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult an immigration professional for up to date information.
Mihan Hannan

Author Mihan Hannan

Formerly a Senior Associate in one of Australia’s most reputable immigration litigation and review practices, Mihan is solutions focused and well versed in all aspects of Australian immigration law. Mihan also has a subscription addiction, being obsessed with tools to improve the firms immigration work flow.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Ypros says:

    I would like to know what the requirements are for including my wife and kids in my application as a temporary visa holder who is employed in the critical skill occupation.

    I have already submitted a letter stating that I am an Engineer working in a mining site. Is it the necessary to submit a supporting statement from my employer?

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