Faced with this global virus, governments are taking unprecedented measures to limit the coronavirus spread. We tell you more about the current COVID-19 situation in Australia and what it means for travellers and Working Holiday Visa holders.
If you are in Europe and are planning a departure to Australia
Since March 20, 2020, at 9 p.m., the borders are closed to foreigners. You will not be able to enter the country. Australia allows entry to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families. A quarantine of 14 days will always be imposed on them.
For those who had planned a trip to Australia in the coming days or weeks, here is some useful information:
- For your plane ticket: urgently contact your travel agency or the airline directly. Ask about reimbursement methods or the possibility of changing your flight dates. Please note, however, that the border closure is currently recommended for 6 months by the Australian government.
- For your health insurance: If your contract has not yet taken effect, contact your insurance as soon as possible to inform them of the impossibility of your trip.
- If you have booked accommodation for your arrival: cancel as soon as possible.
If you are already in Australia
Since March 17, the borders of the European Union have been closed to nationals of non-European countries for non-essential travel. However, Europeans can return to their homes. Countries urge their citizens to return home. Those who want to return to the UK soon should take account of the fast-moving situation and plan accordingly.
If you are in Australia and have questions about the coronavirus and the restrictions and risks, you can contact the state health authority or territory or the national virus hotline:
COVID-19 hotline: 1800 020 080
The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs has asked the airlines to maintain the necessary connections.
If you are in Australia and wish to return to Europe, this remains possible as long as there are still flights available.
For people on a Working Holiday Visa in Australia
If you are already in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, please check following things:
- Travel Insurance: read the details of your travel insurance carefully, and check that you are covered, and contact your insurer if you are uncertain. You may need to consider a specialist policy.
- Be prepared to follow the advice of the Australian authorities. Be ready to comply with local isolation or quarantine requirements, and to rely on the local health system. More Information can be accessed here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-isolation-guidance
Covid-19 Work & Travel Health Insurance
For those who have made the choice to stay in Australia, please make sure you be well covered! Some insurance providers cover well if you are ever affected by the virus.
- WorldNomads: You need to check on their Website if you are covered as it will depend on your country of residence. UK’s residents are not covered in the case of Coronavirus. But residents from the US or Canada will benefit from WorldNomads travel Insurance. Please visit their Website and check your coverage.
- GoWalkabout: If you catch Coronavirus or require medical treatment, then cover will be in place for emergency and necessary treatment.
- World First: If you catch Coronavirus or require medical treatment whilst travelling, then yes cover will be in place for emergency and necessary treatment.
- TrueTraveller: The provider will consider claims for Coronavirus for policies taken out before 13:00 GMT on 16 March 2020.
- Medicare: Certain countries such as the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta have signed bilateral agreements with Australia. Nationals of these countries can benefit from Medicare. However, coverage is lower than that provided to Australian citizens, which means Medicare only covers essential care.
If you are currently on a temporary trip abroad, it is advisable to take the necessary measures for a rapid return to your home country as long as the commercial lines remain open.
For UK residents: If you wish to leave Australia, contact your airline or travel company and your insurance provider as soon as possible, and keep up to date with the latest developments. International travel has become significantly more difficult. The UK government only organises assisted departure in exceptional circumstances.
For students in Australia
If you are currently in Australia to study and wish to return home. Please start to prepare your departure as soon as possible.
Since March 20, 2020, the borders are closed to travellers on a temporary Visa which also affects Student Visa holders. Students unable to return to Australia to continue their studies may need to have their study deferred. This will not affect their visa status.
The Australian government has temporarily extended work rules for students. Up to now, foreign students could work 20 hours a week or 40 hours a fortnight maximum. The government has announced more flexibility on limiting the number of working hours allowed. For more info click here.
If you are a permanent resident
Regardless of your destination, age or health, all Australian permanent residents are advised to not travel overseas.
For all those whose visa is about to expire and who find it difficult to return to Europe
You must take the necessary steps to maintain the legality of your stay AND make these steps imperatively before the expiration of your visa. There will be no tolerance from the Australian authorities if you have not taken these steps in time.
You must apply for a new visa before your current visa expires
You have to apply immediately for a Bridging visa: immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/bridging-visa-e-050-051
You have a visa which does not entitle you to renew it
We are talking here about people on a tourist visa or on a WHV visa and who have not fulfilled the conditions to renew their visa.
Make a request for a NO FURTHER STAY WAIVER and fill out the form 1447.
In section 15 of form 1447, indicate the Coronavirus crisis and the disruptions in air transport. Keep your airline messages in case of planned flight cancellations.
Start this process well in advance. If your visa expires before the decision, you will be considered as an overstay.
The fact that you have initiated the process will be credited to you if you find yourself in an overstay situation against your will. Not finding a flight to your home country will not necessarily be considered as sufficient reason, if it is possible to find flights to another close country.
Your Visa can be renewed
You are for example on a Working Holiday Visa and you can apply for a second or third year. Lodge your application before your current visa expires.
While processing your application, your stay is considered as lawful until a decision is made on your visa application.
The situation if you are in Australia and travel
The states and territories the least affected by the virus are taking steps to protect themselves. For example, Tasmania announced last week that it would close its borders and make 14 days compulsory isolation for anyone entering the state.
As of Tuesday, March 24, South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory, close their borders. With these new rules, anyone entering one of these states will be forced to self-isolate for 14 days.
Closures of non-essential businesses
All non-essential businesses temporarily closed their doors at midnight on March 23, 2020. Among them, Pubs, clubs, casinos, gyms, cinemas, and shops. Cafés and restaurants remain open, but will only be able to offer take-out products or home deliveries.
Remain open: supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies, liquor stores.
On March 25, 2020, Australia moved to Stage 2 protective measures. Since that date, food courts in shopping centres have been closed, the Takeaway remains possible. Friends and family gatherings are prohibited. Museums, galleries, libraries, etc. are also closed. Beauty salons, tattoo parlours are also closed.
What remains open: supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies, liquor stores, medical centres, construction sites, post office and banks, mechanical workshops.
Schools, childcare facilities remain open for the moment, but parents can choose to keep their children at home. The State of Victoria has decided to advance the school holidays which will start on March 24 instead of March 27 normally. Many schools offer online courses and encourage parents to keep their children at home.
Closure of certain public places
Last weekend, many people did not respect the distance rules (2 meters between each person). As a result, the government tightened the rules and many places where gatherings were possible are now closed. Bondi Beach as an example but this is also the case for many lookouts on the Great Ocean Road or even national parks. In Queensland, elected officials are discussing closing the also crowded beaches last weekend.
Important: The caravans parks, rest areas, camp spots are being closed to prevent the spread. If you are in a van in the country, we advise you to find accommodation as soon as possible.
Certain regions, notably Margaret River in WA, expressly ask travellers in a van and using public toilets and showers to find accommodation for the coming weeks or to leave the area to avoid the spread of the virus.
Relaxed conditions for Working Holiday Visa holders
Farmers fear a labour shortage due to border closures and the hasty departure of thousands of backpackers. According to several media, including SBS, it is possible that the rules for obtaining and renewing WHV visas may be relaxed to alleviate the shortage of labour. The government has not released any information to date. They are dealing primarily with the current economic situation and the massive job losses. However, we will communicate on this matter as soon as official sources make a press release.