COVID-19 – Current restrictions on travel to Australia and changes to visa processing services
From 9pm AEDT 20 March 2020, only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can travel to Australia.
All persons, including current visa holders, who are not Australian citizens, permanent residents or immediate family members cannot travel to Australia at this time.
Please see the following page on the Department of Home Affairs website for more information: https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/coming-australia. Travel restrictions are subject to change and you should check the website regularly. See below for detail on exemptions.
During this period:
- All visa processing will be delayed until further notice, including all Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) applications and all other applications previously lodged with the Australian High Commission.
- The Department of Home Affairs is prioritising processing visa applications for those travellers in the exempt categories to support urgent travel.
- We encourage applicants to apply online wherever possible, as these applications will be processed faster than those lodged on paper.
- The Australian Visa Application Centre (AVAC) is closed until further notice. Applicants will not be able to provide biometrics until the AVAC reopens. While applicants will be given additional time to provide biometrics, we are unable to finalise visa applications until all visa criteria are met.
Travel Restriction Exemptions for Visa Holders
Only certain people can travel to Australia:
- You can travel if you are an Australian citizen, or permanent resident of Australia.
- You can travel if you are a New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia and can demonstrate your residency.
- Partner and Child visa holders (except for Prospective Marriage visa holders) may travel to Australia
Limited exemptions apply for some visa holders:
- If you are not an Australian citizen or permanent resident but are an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident (spouse, dependent or legal guardian), you may apply for an exemption, but only if you hold a visa.
Please do not seek to travel until granted an exemption.
For more information on the travel ban and to apply for an exemption as an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident, visit the Home Affairs website: https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/immediate-family-australian-citizen-or-permanent-resident. The link to apply for the exemption is at the bottom of the page.
If you do not hold a visa
If you do not hold a visa you cannot travel to Australia. Apply for a visa and if appropriate provide proof of your relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
Apply for a visa through this website: https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-finder.
If we grant you a visa you must not travel until advised that you are exempt from the travel restriction.
Apply for the exemption here once you have obtained your visa: https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-support/departmental-forms/online-forms/covid19-enquiry-form.
Travellers, who are neither Australian citizens, permanent residents or immediate family, but who have a compassionate or compelling reason to travel to Australia, will need to have an exemption from the Australian Border Force Commissioner. You must not attempt to travel until advised that you are exempt from the travel restriction. For more information, please see: https://covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au/travel-restrictions-0.
Information for Malaysian Nationals
If you hold a temporary visa and have obtained an exemption to travel to Australia, please be aware the Malaysian government is currently imposing restrictions on some citizens departing Malaysia, and may still prevent you from departing Malaysia if you are not a Permanent Resident of another country. We recommend you carry hardcopies of your visa grant letter and evidence that you have been exempted from Australia's travel restrictions.
Electronic Travel Authorities (ETAs)
If your online application for an ETA was not approved, you will need to send further information by email to [email protected]. Please follow the instructions here. Please do not approach the High Commission in person.
Applications that do not include all required information will experience delays, or may be decided on the basis of material already before an officer.
Please do not finalise flights or travel commitments until you have a visa to travel to Australia.
We will notify you by email once a decision is made on your ETA application.
No, an ETA does not permit you to pick fruit, or undertake other paid work, in Australia.
An ETA permits you enter Australia for up to three months at a time as a tourist or for business visitor purposes. Business visitor activities include:
- making general business or employment enquiries
- investigating, negotiating, signing or reviewing a business contract
- activities carried out as part of an official government-to-government visit
- participating in conferences, trade fairs or seminars, as long as you are not being paid by the organisers for your participation.
Business visitor activities DO NOT include undertaking paid work in Australia.
If you work in Australia in breach of your visa conditions, you may be detained and removed. You may also be subject to a 3 year re-entry ban or exclusion period. It is your responsibility to know what your visa allows you to do while in Australia. Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) provides an online service to check your visa details and conditions.
If your ETA has been cancelled, notification regarding the decision and reasons for the decision have been sent to the email address you provided with your application. If you have not received the notification you should check with your travel agency or the agent who organised the visa.
The notification letter includes important information. It provides instructions about how you can apply for revocation of the decision to cancel your visa and the timeframes in which you must apply for revocation.
As you do not have a visa to travel to Australia you should not book alternative travel arrangements or enter into further commitments until you have received a decision on your revocation request.
Applying for other visas
There are a number of visa options available for people who wish to enter Australia for the purposes of tourism, business, work, study or permanent residency. Comprehensive information on all visa types is provided on the Department of Home Affairs website.
The Department cannot give you advice on which visa you should apply for. You can use the ‘Visa Finder’ facility on the Department’s website to determine what visa would best suit your individual circumstances.
Alternatively, if your circumstances are complicated and you would like more specific advice about the best visa option for you, you can seek the assistance of a registered migration agent, who will advise you on your visa options and help you apply for a visa. Registered migration agents can be found on the website of the Migration Agents Registration Authority.
The Department's preferred method of lodgement is online through ImmiAccount. You can apply online for most visas and Australian citizenship by descent. If you are eligible to apply online, we encourage you to do so as it can be easier and quicker to apply online than in person. Use the 'Visa Finder' tool on the Department’s website to find out if you are eligible to apply for your visa or citizenship product online.
To apply online, you must have an ImmiAccount. Further information on what types of applications can be lodged online, and how to create an ImmiAccount, can be found on the Department’s website.
If you are unable to apply online, paper applications for certain visas and Australian citizenship by descent applications from persons living in Malaysia or Brunei should be lodged at the Australian Visa Application Centre (AVAC), operated by our service delivery partner, VFS Global. Applications cannot be lodged directly at the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.
If you are living in any part of Malaysia (including residents of Johor Bahru) and want to lodge a paper application for one of the following types of visas:
• Visitor Visa
• Permanent Entry Visa
• Medical Treatment Visa
• Work and Holiday Visa
You must submit your application in person to the AVAC, as you will need to provide your biometrics (fingerprints and/or facial photograph) as part of the application.
Note: If you decide to lodge your application by post/courier, you will still be asked to provide your biometrics in person at the AVAC. This may significantly delay the processing of your application and, if you ultimately do not provide biometrics when requested, your application is likely to be refused.
The following paper applications must also be submitted to the AVAC, however as applicants do not need to provide their biometrics, these applications can be submitted to the AVAC by post/courier or in person.
• Citizenship by Descent (CBD)
• Resident Return Visas (RRVs)
• Australian Declaratory Visas (ADV)
The AVAC is open for application submission and enquiries between 8am and 3pm, Monday to Friday (except public holidays) and is located at:
Suite 19.06, 19th Floor,
163 Jalan Ampang
Brunei residents may lodge an application for any type of visa (including a Resident Return Visa or Australian Declaratory Visa) or Australian citizenship by descent at the AVAC in Malaysia, either in person or by post/courier. Brunei residents who mail or courier their application from Brunei are not required to provide their biometrics at the AVAC.
Please note that if a Brunei resident chooses to lodge a visa application (other than a Resident Return Visa or Australian Declaratory Visa application) in person at the AVAC in Malaysia they will need to provide their biometrics like other Malaysian-based applicants.
Once you have lodged your application with the AVAC, it is forwarded the next working day to the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur for processing.
Applications are processed in the order in which they are received by the visa office in the Australian High Commission, unless there is a genuine need for the application to be expedited (such as death of a family member in Australia). We will not expedite the processing of an application based solely on your proposed date of travel or because you have already booked a flight.
The visa office endeavours to finalise a high percentage of all applications within the Department’s published global processing times. However actual processing times are dependent on a number of factors.
Your application will be allocated to a case officer as soon as possible for assessment. If a case officer cannot decide your application based on the information provided at time of lodgement, the case officer may request further information from you. However, please note that under Australian migration law, the case officer can decide the application based on the information provided at time of lodgement and is not legally obliged to request further information from you before making a decision. You are therefore encouraged to lodge a complete application.
A complete application is one in which:
- the correct application form has been used;
- the correct visa application or citizenship charge has been paid;
- all relevant questions in the application form are answered;
- all relevant information and supporting documents specified in the checklists on the individual application pages on the Department’s website have been provided; and
- the application has been signed.
We are able to process complete applications more quickly than those where we have to request additional information from the applicant.
Exclusion periods of varying lengths are imposed under a number of different circumstances. The only circumstance that will lead to permanent exclusion from Australia is if you have been in Australia and had a visa cancelled on character grounds, or if you have been deported from Australia under certain sections of the Australian Migration Act.
If you are not subject to permanent exclusion from Australia, but are subject to an exclusion period for another reason (for example, because you overstayed your visa or been caught working in breach of your visa conditions) you can apply for most visas. The visa may be able to be granted whilst the exclusion period is in force, depending on what type of visa you are applying for and/or if the exclusion period is waived by a departmental officer. A case officer will provide you with an opportunity to provide information for consideration of a waiver.
If you are granted a visa while an exclusion period is in force, the exclusion period is not ‘extinguished’ as a result and will remain in force for the full duration.
If you plan on taking your domestic helper on holiday with you to Australia you need to ensure that they are granted the appropriate visa. Failure to do so could lead to your helper being refused entry to Australia or having their visa cancelled and being asked to depart Australia.
The type of visa that you need to apply for will depend on whether or not you will be requiring your domestic helper to complete their duties in Australia.
If they will be performing their domestic helper duties in Australia then they need to apply for a subclass 600 – visitor visa in the 'Business Activities' stream. It is important that you select this stream as if you choose the 'Tourism' stream the application will be refused and we will be unable to provide a refund. Australia does not have a specific scheme for employment of domestic helpers. However, it is acknowledged that employment of domestic helpers is culturally prevalent in Malaysian society and that domestic helpers over time can become an integral part of the family unit. In recognition of this, policy allows for domestic helpers to apply for a temporary work visa to accompany their employers on holidays to Australia.
If you are taking your domestic helper on a holiday to Australia and you will not be asking them to do any domestic duties (such as babysitting, cleaning etc) and they will just be on holiday, then they may apply for a visitor visa in the 'Tourism' stream. Further information on visitor visas can be found here.
If you have already lodged a visa application
Our global processing times are published on the Department’s website.
Global processing times are published monthly and provide you with an indicative estimate of how long it is taking to process a particular visa subclass, stream or citizenship application globally. Two processing times are displayed for most subclassess, indicating how long it takes to finalise 75 and 90 per cent of applications globally.
To ensure that your application falls within the published processing times, you will need to submit a complete application. Please note that applications are processed on a case-by-case basis and actual processing times can vary due to individual circumstances including:
- whether you have lodged a complete application, including all necessary supporting documents
- how promptly you respond to any requests for additional information
- how long it takes to perform required checks on the supporting information provided
- how long it takes to receive additional information from external agencies, particularly in relation to health, character, and national security requirements
- for permanent migration visa applications, how many places are available in the migration programme
- for citizenship applications, the time taken to attend a Citizenship Ceremony or receive a Citizenship Certificate.
No, applications are processed in the order in which they are received by the Australian High Commission, and will not be prioritised unless there is a genuine need for the application to be expedited (such as death of a family member in Australia).
We will not expedite the processing of an application simply on the basis that you have already booked a flight to Australia. The Department will not be liable for any financial loss incurred by a client whose visa application was finalised later than expected or where an application is unsuccessful.
You should not book flights or make travel commitments until you have a visa to travel to Australia.
Australia’s Privacy Act prohibits disclosure of personal information to third parties, including Australian spouses/sponsors. Therefore, we will not release any personal information to a third party unless we have been given permission to do so by the applicant.
If you would like a third party to act on your behalf in relation to a visa application, you can nominate anyone (using Form 956A) to be your authorised recipient.
An authorised recipient is a person appointed to receive documents from the Department on your behalf. The Department cannot discuss matters relating to you with your authorised recipient unless they are also acting on your behalf as your migration agent/exempt person, or you have separately provided the Department with consent to disclose your personal information to them. You can only have one authorised recipient. The Department is legally obliged to send all correspondence in relation to your application to the most recently appointed authorised recipient, not to you.
You may also nominate a migration agent/exempt person (using Form 956) to provide you with immigration assistance in relation to your visa application. ‘Exempt persons’ include close family members (spouse, child, adopted child, parent, brother or sister of a visa applicant) and visa application sponsors. The Department will discuss your application with your migration agent/exempt person, send written communications to them (if they have also been appointed as your authorised recipient), and seek information from them.
For more information about Australia’s privacy policies, please visit the Department’s website.
The Department does not issue visa labels for any type of visa.Australian visas are recorded electronically. You do not need a visa label in your passport to travel to, enter or stay in Australia. You can use Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) for free to check your visa status and entitlements.
You can check your own visa details with VEVO through the following link: www.homeaffairs.gov.au/VEVO.
When we notify you of a decision to refuse your visa application, we will advise you if the decision can be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). The AAT assesses the merits of Departmental decisions, and will either: affirm the decision, remit the decision back to the Department with instructions or set aside the decision, based on all information before the tribunal at the time.
If the decision is not one that can be reviewed by a tribunal (and no legal error has been made by the Department), then the decision cannot be revisited.
If there is additional information that you wish to provide, then you have the option to apply for a new visa and include the additional information for consideration. However, please note that if your circumstances have not changed, or you aren’t able to provide any significant new information or evidence since the first application, it is unlikely a new application will lead to a different visa outcome.
The Visa Application Charge (VAC) is paid for the processing of the application and must be paid regardless of the application outcome. Please note that there are legislative requirements limiting when a VAC can be refunded. There are no provisions to refund the VAC solely on the basis that the visa application was withdrawn or refused.
For visa applications lodged at the Australian Visa Application Centre (AVAC), further supporting information should be submitted at the AVAC.
For visa applications lodged online, supporting documents can only be considered if uploaded through ImmiAccount. We do not accept attachments for online visa applications via email.
If you have a technical problem, help for ImmiAccount (including quick reference guides, FAQs and information on error messages) is available on the ImmiAccount webpage.
My passport has been lost or stolen / I’ve been issued with a new passport / I've changed my address. What should I do?
If you have been issued with a new passport since you lodged your visa application or your visa was granted, you will need to notify us of your new passport details or apply for a new visa before you travel. Otherwise you may face delays at the airport.
If you are an ETA holder, you will need to apply for a new ETA to be linked to your new passport. ETAs in a previous passport can no longer be used once a new passport has been issued.
If you hold another type of visa and applied online, you can check your own visa details with VEVO through the following link: www.homeaffairs.gov.au/VEVO.
Please update your details on your ImmiAccount or download Form 929 at https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/change-in-situation and email the completed form to [email protected].
Please note that Passport changes may take 24-48 hours to be reflected in VEVO. This will not affect your travel.
If you did not apply online
All general enquiries should be directed to the AVAC, VFS Global Malaysia:
Telephone: +60 3 2166 6550 (between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, except public holidays)
Email: [email protected]
Street and postal address (the AVAC office is open between 8am and 3pm, Monday to Friday, except public holidays):
Suite 19.06, 19th Floor
163 Jalan Ampang