Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has told SBS Punjabi that it is very hard to predict when Australia will be able to lift its coronavirus-induced international border restrictions for temporary visa holders despite a significant reduction in COVID-19 infections in Victoria and the rest of the country.
Addressing multicultural media during a virtual press conference earlier today, Minister Tudge said the likelihood of opening international borders largely depends on the development of a vaccine and its availability in Australia.
“It’s very difficult to predict when we can reopen the borders probably again. Obviously, if there is a vaccine that is developed which become globally available that will be the game-changer,” Minister Tudge said while responding to a question raised.
Australia’s pace to open international borders has slowed down: Tudge
The Acting Immigration Minister said the second wave of coronavirus outbreak in Victoria was responsible for slowing down the country’s path and ability to lift its border restrictions.
“You can see that we have all these state border closures now and in part because everyone is nervous about Victoria and probably means it has slowed down our path to being able to open our international borders.
“Previously, we had foreshadowed that we might have some trials for international students by now. That we may have been able to have that bubble with New Zealand open by now but that hasn’t happened,” said Minister Tudge.
In late March, Australia clamped down its international borders to temporary visa holders, including visitors and international students to prevent the import of infections through returned overseas travelers.
While the country’s strict border measures have been critical in slowing the spread of the virus, the restrictions have come at a huge cost for work visa holders and international students many of who remain stranded outside the country. They now have no means to return, other than lodging requests for travel exemptions from the stringent border ban.
“The more they delay, the worst would be the impact on visa holders. Most of the visas either cannot be extended offshore and require applicants to apply for a new visa. And if the government continues to delay reopening of borders this could very well be an end of an Australian dream for many,” he said.
Acknowledging the frustration of the likes of Mr Suraj, Minister Tudge said an inward travel exemption remains the only return pathway available to temporary visa holders until the borders remain closed.
He, however, added that groups including those working in healthcare and information technology will have their exemptions fast-tracked to fill skill shortages as part of the government’s post-pandemic recovery plan.
“They are coming back in small numbers already and we have started processing some temporary migrant applications again,” said Minister Tudge.
Just a few days ago I announced a new priority skills shortage list which consists of 17 occupations and they will be prioritised first and will now have exemptions automatically at the borders as well to be able to come in: Alan Tudge
Under the proposal, a small number of sponsored skilled workers who have one of the 17 occupations on a Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL), will be allowed to return in sooner than the others.
The list of sponsored skilled workers would include chief executives and managing directors, construction project managers, mechanical engineers, doctors, psychiatrists, nurses and IT professionals.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 meters away from others. Find out what restrictions are in place for your state or territory.