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What you need to know about the Australian COVID Vaccination Policy as an expat in Australia

Making safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available to all Australians is a key priority of the Australian, State and Territory governments. But what does this mean to expats staying in Australia?

The Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy (Policy) outlines the approach to providing COVID-19 vaccines in Australia. It sets out key principles, such as that COVID-19 vaccines will be made available for free to all Australian citizens, permanent residents, and most visa-holders. Further, it outlines how COVID-19 vaccines will be accessible on a rolling basis, dependent on vaccine delivery schedules and the identification of groups for most urgent vaccination.

Who is covered by this policy?

The COVID-19 vaccination will be free for all Medicare-eligible Australians and all visa-holders excluding the following:

  • excluding visa sub-classes 771 (Transit)
  • 600 (Tourist stream)
  • 651 (eVisitor)
  • 601 (Electronic Travel Authority).

In terms of preliminary priority population groups, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) identified the top three priority for the vaccination which are:

  • Those who are at increased risk of exposure and hence being infected with and transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others at risk of severe disease or are in a setting with high transmission potential. This includes health and aged care workers; other care workers, including disability support workers; and people in other settings where the risk of virus transmission is increased, which may include quarantine workers.
  • Those who have an increased risk, relative to others, of developing severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19 including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, older people and people with underlying select medical conditions.
  • Those working in services critical to societal functioning including select essential services personnel and other key occupations required for societal functioning.

For further information about the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, you may download the Australian Government Policy here.

Update on Australia’s Travel Restrictions

The global pandemic has affected workers from all over the world. Australia, like other nations, have implemented strict regulations on the travel of foreign nationals into their country. 

Exemptions on Australia’s Travel Ban 

In the latest amendment in Australia’s travel ban, the Border Force Commissioner has been given authority to approve travel in compelling and compassionate situations. 

If your work involves critical infrastructure projects, and health and essential services, then there is a chance that you would be approved to travel to Australia. 

If you have a split family or if you’re a temporary visa holder with a prior established residence in Australia and was caught offshore by the travel restrictions You may be included in the travel ban exemptions.

The list of exemptions has been gradually expanded since the initial lockdown in March. The current list of exemptions includes:

  • travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations, and delivering critical medical supplies
  • person with critical skills or working in a critical sector in Australia
  • person sponsored by an employer to work in Australia in an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL).  
  • entry would otherwise be in the national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority
  • military personnel, including those who form part of the Status of Forces Agreement, Commonwealth Armed Forces, Asia Pacific Forces and Status of Armed Forces Agreement
  • a student completing year 11 and 12, with support from the relevant Australian State or Territory government health authority and education department
  • travelling for compassionate and compelling reasons.

Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List

The Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List categorizes the 17 occupations that provide the critical skills needed to help the recovery of Australia’s economy from the COVID-19 impact. Here are the occupations included in the PMSOL list:

  • Chief Executive or Managing Director 
  • Construction Project Manager 
  • Mechanical Engineer 
  •  General Practitioner
  •  Resident Medical Officer 
  • Psychiatrist 
  •  Medical Practitioner nec 
  • Midwife
  • Registered Nurse
  • Developer Programmer 
  • Software Engineer 
  • Maintenance Planner

Visa applications for other occupations will still be processed but those that fall under the PMSOL list will be given priority. Under continuous monitoring of the labour market and the development of required skill to recover from the COVID-19 impact, the Government and National Skills Commission may change and update the list.

What is a critical skill?

If your skillset covers the following, then it is considered as a critical skill:

  • travelling at the invitation of the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response
  • providing critical or specialist medical services, including air ambulance, medical evacuations, and delivering critical medical supplies
  • with critical skills required to maintain the supply of essential goods and services (such as in medical technology, critical infrastructure, telecommunications, engineering and mining, supply chain logistics, aged care, agriculture, primary industry, food production, and the maritime industry)
  • delivering services in sectors critical to Australia’s economic recovery (such as financial technology, large scale manufacturing, film, media and television production and emerging technology), where no Australian worker is available
  • providing critical skills in religious or theology fields
  • sponsored by your employer to work in Australia in an occupation on the PMSOL
  • whose entry would otherwise be in Australia’s national interest, supported by the Australian Government or a state or territory government authority.

You can request for an exemption through the Commissioner’s Discretion – your request must be accompanied by the following:

  • Passenger details: name, DOB, visa type and number, passport number, Australian residential address, Australian telephone number)
  • Case information: why this case should be considered for Commissioner discretion/exemption
  • Supporting statement: the request should be accompanied by a statement and evidence of how you meet one of the grounds for an exemption or excise of the Commissioner’s discretion listed above.

One important thing that you should take note of is that all travellers are required to provide evidence to immigration that you meet one of the exemptions mentioned before travelling. 

How businesses are affected by the travel ban

If you are running a business in Australia and want to employ an expat, they must have a valid Australian visa and an approved waiver of the travel ban. But there is no guarantee that the application to travel will be approved as the decision is subjective and there are approximately 20,000-25,000 applications each week. The chances of approval are very minimal so it is advisable to seek out a person who can work remotely rather than having to apply to travel to Australia.