Update: As of 9pm Friday 19 March 2020 Australian borders were shut to all non-residents. Australian citizens and permanent resident visa holders and their families can still return, as can New Zealand citizens usually resident in Australia.  All people entering Australia must self-isolate for 14 days or risk facing penalties.

Original article: As of midnight Sunday 15 March 2020 all arrivals to Australia, regardless of country of origin, will be required to observe a mandatory 14 day self-quarantine period. This measure, along with other measures escalating Australia’s response to the continuing spread of COVID-19 in the Australian community, was announced by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison after consultation with Cabinet and State and Territory leaders over the weekend.The other border measure announced was a ban on cruise liners from foreign ports arriving at Australian ports for 30 days.

The effect of these announcements is that Australia will fall into line with many nations, including New Zealand, who have shut or are gradually closing their borders in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Australia’s borders are now effectively closed to visitors (business or pleasure).

These announcements come off the back of existing travel restrictions in place since 12 March 2020 applying to foreign nationals (other than Australian permanent residents) who have travelled through mainland China, Iran, the Republic of Korea or Italy.

What does this mean for temporary visa holders?

Put simply, unless you are an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident, then this is not a time to travel to Australia. If you have been in mainland China since 1 February 2020, in Iran on or after 1 March 2020, in Korea on or after 5 March 2020, or in Italy on or after 11 March 2020, then you risk having your visa cancelled should you arrive in Australia. If you arrive from any other country, you will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

If you are currently outside of Australia and the holder of a temporary Australian visa with a validity period (or travel facility) that is about to expire, then you will need to make a new visa application in order to travel to Australia once these restrictions are lifted.

If you are currently in Australia and the holder of a temporary Australian visa with a validity period that is about to expire, and you wish to remain in Australia due to the current travel climate, then you must make a new visa application.  If your current visa is subject to a ‘no further stay’ condition, then you must seek a waiver.

How will self-quarantine be enforced?

The Australian Government has indicated that failure to self-quarantine will be a criminal offence. How it will be policed, and what penalties will apply, will be a matter for States and Territories.

What do these measures mean for visa application processing?

There is no indication that the Department of Home Affairs will be stopping the processing of visa applications. It is hoped the validity and travel facility periods for new visa grants will reflect the current climate and Australian Government travel measures.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice.  It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances.  Please also note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.