SBS Language | These temporary visa holders no longer need to apply for exemptions to return to Australia

Temp visa holder


Holders of Business Innovation and Investment visa stranded offshore by the COVID-19 border restrictions are no longer required to apply for an individual travel exemption to return to Australia.

They, however, need to carry evidence to prove they belong to the exempt categories listed by the Department of Home Affairs when travelling.


  • A blanket exemption for holders of Business Innovation and Investment visa stranded offshore 
  • Business (subclass 188) visa holders no longer need to apply for individual travel exemptions
  • ABF Commissioner releases case scenarios where he has generally approved travel exemptions

Business Innovation and Investment visa is a state-nominated four-year provisional visa, for people who want to own and manage a new or existing business in Australia.

Once established an ownership interest in Australian business, the applicant can apply for permanent residence through the Business Innovation & Investment (Residence) Subclass 888 visa. 

Can you exit Australia when keeping bridging visa?

These visa holders no longer need to apply for exemptions to return to Australia


As per the figures released by the Home Affairs, 3612 intending migrants received nominations from state and territory governments from 1 July 2019 to the end of June 2020.

Former senior Immigration Department official Abul Rizvi said the exemption is not likely to impact a significant number of visa holders.

“The provisional 188 is a small portion of the total business migration program and is not very popular because business migrants prefer a permanent visa.

“There are two cohorts of business visa holders who will benefit from this update- those who had gone to visit their home countries and others who were yet to make their first entry which most likely would be a very small number of people,” he said.

As per the current travel restrictions, only the following are exempt from the travel restrictions and can enter Australia:

  • an Australian citizen
  • a permanent resident of Australia
  • an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident*
  • a New Zealand citizen usually resident in Australia and their immediate family members
  • a diplomat accredited to Australia (holding a subclass 995 visa)
  • a traveller transiting Australia for 72 hours or less
  • airline crew
  • maritime crew including marine pilots
  • recruited under the Government approved Seasonal Worker Program or Pacific Labour Scheme
  • holder of a Business Innovation and Investment (subclass 188) visa

All others are required to apply for an inward travel exemption.

A spokesperson for the Australian Border Force told SBS Punjabi that “these travel restrictions have been successful in slowing the spread of coronavirus in Australia and were implemented on the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).”

Scenarios where the ABF Commissioner has generally approved inwards travel exemptions:

The ABF has submitted a document to the Senate committee on COVID-19 outlining case scenarios where the Commissioner has generally approved requests from people seeking to enter Australia.

Cases involving separation of minors from their family unit, including:

  • Minors needing to travel to Australia to reunite with their parent/s or guardian. One accompanying close family member (aunt, uncle, grandparent) has been approved, where parents cannot accompany the child.

Cases demonstrating strong compassionate circumstances that, if not recognised, would result in “serious, ongoing and irreversible harm and continuing hardship to a person lawfully in Australia,” including:

  • Those seeking to attend the funeral of a close family member or visit a close family member in critical care at end of life. Up to four persons permitted to travel.
  • Those seeking to visit a close family member who is seriously or critically ill, particularly where there is little support in Australia.
  • The partner of a person who is in Australia (including temporary visa holders) in the final trimester of their pregnancy or otherwise due to give birth.

Other scenarios include:

  • Delivery of critical medical services
  • Non-citizens travelling at the invitation of the Commonwealth or State governments
  • People with critical skills
  • A strong economic or scientific benefit to Australia would result from the person being entering Australia (not including students)
  • Non-citizens requiring urgent or critical medical treatment in Australia
  • Military personnel
  • The immediate family member of a non-citizen with critical skills in Australia, where the person in Australia holds a temporary or provisional visa
  • Elite sporting teams and their entourages
  • Non-crew members who are critical to the operation of a vessel

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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