The Australian government will introduce visa concessions so parent visa applicants don’t have to leave the country to get their visa approved during the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision marks another temporary move to ease the concerns of visa applicants who would otherwise have been forced to exit Australia to have visas approved.
It is common for offshore parent visa applicants to travel to Australia using tourist visas during the lengthy waiting period of the approval process.
Melbourne-based couple Can Liu and Julie Jin’s parents, from China, have been in Australia since May last year and are applying for a contributory parent visa.
Ms Jin said her parents-in-law Dong Liu and Lixia Wang had been concerned about flying out of Australia to complete the final step in the parent visa process.
“‘We read all the news about people getting stranded overseas and they can’t go back to there home country – so we are very worried,” she told SBS News.
Ms Jin is hopeful the temporary concession will mean her parents-in-law don’t have to go through “all this trouble” and can continue to help support their family in Australia.
“It’s really a great relief for our whole family,” she said.
“Bottom line it just makes us feel safe to be able to stay together.”
The change applies to applicants of parent (subclass 103) visas, contributory parent (subclass 173) and (subclass 143) visas who had initially made their applications while overseas.
In the past, applicants would often travel to Australia to see their loved ones, and take short-trips or holidays overseas to have visas approved.
But applicants have raised concerns that border closures and quarantine requirements linked to the COVID-19 pandemic have meant many can no longer freely travel overseas.
The costs associated with this travel also presented a daunting prospect for families.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the government continues to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on visa holders.
“The Government is pursuing changes to allow certain parent visa applicants who have applied for their visa outside Australia to be granted that visa while in Australia during the COVID-19 period,” he said.
“This temporary concession would apply to parent visa subclasses and will allow eligible applicants who are in Australia and unable to travel offshore due to COVID-19 impacts to be granted that visa.”
Settlement Council of Australia CEO Sandra Wright also welcomed the change for families facing the uncertainty of having their parent visas approved.
“We’re really happy to see that the government has shown flexibility on this in what has been a difficult time for families,” she told SBS News.
“Parents provide a lot of support for their children and they’re a huge benefit to them.”
Labor MP Julian Hill has advocated on behalf of families calling for the government to act on amending the visa conditions.
He said the decision is overdue.
“Already hundreds of people have risked their health, they have wasted their savings making unnecessary and dangerous trips overseas,” he told SBS News.
“Forced to fly there and back again by the government just to get their visas granted.”
The changes won’t impact the processing time of applications.
The changes are expected to come into effect in the first quarter of 2021.