In April 2020, the Department of Home Affairs announced a new visa pathway for certain current or former visa holders affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This pathway will allow applicants to maintain a lawful status in cases where people are required to depart, but unable to do so due to Covid-19.
Subclass 408 Australian Government Endorsed Event (AGEE) Stream is a visa option for people who:
- Are onshore
- Are unable to depart due to Covid-19
- Are holding a visa that is due to expire in the next 28 days or which has expired less than 28 days ago
- Can demonstrate that are not eligible to meet requirements for any other visa based on the purpose of their stay
- Meet one of the two streams explained below: “Working in critical sectors of the economy” or “visa of last resort”.
Working in critical sectors of the economy
This stream is available for temporary visa holders whose visas are about to expire or have expired less than 28 days ago and are unable to meet requirements for any other visa subclass AND are working in critical sectors, for example, in age care, disability care, childcare, agriculture, food processing, health care, etc.
Applicants must provide evidence of ongoing employment (i.e. offer letter, reference letter). They are also required to prove that the position cannot be filled by Australian Citizens or Permanent Residents.
Visa holders will be given permission to work and may be granted a visa to stay for up to 12 months.
Subclass 408 as a visa of Last Resort
This visa subclass could also be an option for temporary visa holders who are not working in critical sectors, are unable to meet requirements for any other visa and cannot depart Australia due to Covid-19.
This visa option will allow applicants to remain lawfully in Australia until it is safe and possible to depart. Holders will not be given work rights and will be required to provide financial evidence to demonstrate that they can support themselves.
Other Visa Options
Temporary visa holders who are unable to depart Australia should consider applying for another substantive visa, such as the same visa they are or were holding or a Visitor Visa Subclass 600 and, if unable to meet the criteria, for a Bridging Visa E.
Subclass 600 (Visitor Visa) is usually granted without permission to work. However, there are provisions available in the legislation to request this restriction to be lifted if the person’s circumstances have changed after their arrival in Australis and, consequently, they are experiencing financial hardship.
Current industry surveys indicate that the Department of Home Affairs has been granting visas with permission to work valid until October 2020, assuming that it will safe and possible for to people to depart by then.
Bridging Visa E is a not a substantive visa, but a compliance visa and it is always granted without permission to work. However, under financial hardship provisions, this condition can also be lifted. After applying for a Bridging Visa E, applicants are normally interviewed by a Case Officer and if requirements are met, a visa is granted on the spot. It is quite common that visa holders are asked to notify the department in advance of changes in residential address and contact details and are normally required to present themselves to immigration on a regular basis.
It is always recommended that potential applicants of a Bridging Visa E speak to a Registered Migration Agent before lodging the application. This type of bridging visa has future migration implications and personalised advice should be sought.