Australian Government Closure of the Pandemic Event Visa from February 2024

australian government closure of the pandemic event visa

The Australian Government has announced the closure of the Pandemic Event Visa—the Temporary Activity visa—beginning February 2024. Introduced in 2020 to support sponsored individuals unable to enter Australia due to COVID-19 travel bans, this subclass 408 visa provided critical access during border closures.

With borders reopened and immigration levels rising, the Government is sunsetting this short-term solution. As the deadline approaches, you must reassess your options. This decision signals a broader shift toward pre-pandemic operations.

What it means for your visa status, event participation, and ability to enter Australia requires consideration. Assess your situation objectively to determine suitable alternatives. This policy change marks a turning point.

Overview of the Pandemic Event Visa

The Australian Government introduced the Pandemic Event Visa (subclass 408) in April 2020 to legally allow temporary migrants, including international students, to remain in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. This visa will be closed to all applicants, including current visa holders, beginning 1 February 2024.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the Pandemic Event Visa, applicants must:

  1. Currently in Australia
  2. Have 28 days or less remaining on their current visa or have had their last visa expire within the past 28 days
  3. Meet health and character requirements

Visa Conditions

The Pandemic Event Visa allows holders to remain in Australia for up to 12 months from the grant date. Additional key conditions include:

  • No work rights unless the visa holder has permission to work on their last substantive visa
  • Study rights only if the visa holder has permission to study on their previous substantive visa
  • Travel rights only if to depart Australia

Pandemic Event Visa holders must abide by all visa conditions to maintain legal status in Australia. Failure to do so may result in visa cancellation.

Visa Closure

The Australian Government has announced the Pandemic Event Visa will be closed to all new applicants beginning 1 February 2024. Current visa holders will have until 31 January 2025 to either depart Australia, apply for a new visa, or become eligible to apply for another visa.

The closure of this temporary visa aims to encourage temporary residents to return home or find alternative visa options once border restrictions ease and economic activity increases. Depending on individual circumstances, alternative options include student, work, or family visas.

The Pandemic Event Visa provided temporary relief during an unprecedented time. With Australia transitioning to living with COVID-19, temporary migrants are advised to prepare to depart or find suitable long-term visas. Government support programs for temporary visa holders will also be ending.

Timeline of the Pandemic Event Visa Program

From February 2024, the Australian Government will close the Pandemic Event visa program to all applicants.

Existing Pandemic Event Visa Holders

Existing Pandemic Event visa holders can apply for a subsequent visa until 1 February 2024. To be eligible, they must continue meeting the Pandemic Event visa criteria.

Achieve Migration recommends existing visa holders apply for a subsequent visa as soon as possible to avoid potential processing delays closer to the closure date.

Last Date to Apply - 2 September 2023

The Pandemic Event visa will only remain open to new applications from individuals who currently hold a Pandemic Event visa until 2 September 2023. After this date, the program will be closed to all new applicants.

Program Closure - 1 February 2024

From 1 February 2024, the Pandemic Event visa program will be closed permanently. No new applications will be accepted after this date.

Alternative Visa Options

With the closure of the Pandemic Event visa, individuals seeking to travel to or remain in Australia will need to apply under alternative visa programs, such as:

  • Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) visa (subclass 400)
  • Training and Research visa (subclass 402)
  • Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482)
  • Temporary Work (International Relations) visa (subclass 403)
  • Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) visa (subclass 188)
  • Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189)

Achieve Migration can assess your eligibility for alternative visa programs and assist you with the application process. We recommend commencing this process as early as possible to avoid potential processing delays and ensure a smooth transition to an alternative visa.

The closure of the Pandemic Event visa program marks the end of Australia’s temporary measure to support individuals affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

While this will mean changes for many visa holders and applicants, Achieve Migration is here to help guide you through the available options according to your unique situation.

Reasons for Closure of the Pandemic Event Visa

visa closure

Now that Australia’s borders have reopened and temporary migration levels have normalized, the program is no longer required.

There are several reasons why the Pandemic Event visa will cease:

  1. The temporary migration program has stabilized after years of disruption from the global health crisis. Non-citizens can now more easily enter Australia, obtain visas, and travel internationally. The Pandemic Event visa is no longer necessary to support temporary visa holders remaining in Australia.
  2. Closing the Pandemic Event visa will contribute to a well-managed migration system. The Department of Home Affairs can now shift resources and focus away from the temporary Pandemic Event visa to other visa categories and priorities. Removing this temporary visa aims to simplify Australia’s migration program.
  3. Ending the Pandemic Event visa signifies Australia’s return to normal migration operations. After prolonged international border closures, Australia is transitioning out of the pandemic response phase. Closing a visa introduced specifically due to COVID-19 represents a milestone in Australia’s recovery journey.

The Australian Government appreciates the contributions of temporary visa holders in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Pandemic Event visa provided much-needed support, Australia’s migration system is now ready to operate as usual.

The closure of this temporary visa category marks an important step towards normality in Australia’s migration program.

What Happens to Current Visa Holders After Closure?

As of February 1, 2024, the Australian Government will discontinue the Pandemic Event visa (subclass 408). However, current visa holders will face no immigration consequences due to this policy change.

According to the official announcement, those already holding a Pandemic Event visa will still be permitted to remain in Australia for their visa validity period.

The visa allows people to stay in Australia for 6-12 months to participate in government-endorsed events. If visa holders meet all other visa conditions, they may remain in Australia until their authorized temporary stay expires.

Once a Pandemic Event visa expires, the holder must apply for a different visa to remain in Australia legally. Some options include other temporary visas like the Visitor visa (subclass 600).

Permanent visas are also available for those who meet the eligibility criteria, such as the Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189) or the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa.

what happen to current visa holders

Current Pandemic Event visa holders:

  • Will not face any penalties or immigration consequences due to the program’s closure.
  • They can continue their authorized stay in Australia until their existing visa expires.
  • Must apply for a new visa to remain in Australia legally after their Pandemic Event visa expires.
  • They have various temporary and permanent visa options to consider based on their unique situations and eligibility.

The Australian Government regularly reviews and adjusts its visa programs to align with the country’s priorities and needs. The closure of the Pandemic Event visa is part of an ongoing effort to streamline temporary visa options.

While the change may be inconvenient for some, current visa holders can rest assured their ability to remain in Australia will be unaffected if they maintain lawful status.

The key is for individuals to explore alternative visa pathways well before their authorized stay ends.

Alternative Visa Options After February 2024

Once the Pandemic Event visa closes in February 2024, several alternative visa pathways are available for current and prospective visa holders to remain in or enter Australia.

Skilled Visas

For those with skills and experience in occupations on the Skilled Occupation Lists, the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) and Skilled Nominated visa (subclass 190) provide options for permanent residence.

The Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491) leads to permanent residence after 3 years. Each requires meeting a points test and skills assessment.

Temporary Skill Shortage Visa

The Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482) allows employers to sponsor skilled workers for temporary entry for up to 4 years, with the potential for permanent residence through the Employer Nomination Scheme. Candidates must have a job offer in an eligible occupation.

Student Visa

The Student visa (subclass 500) permits international students to study full-time in Australia for 5 to 6 years. Post-study work options like the Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) and Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) provide paths to longer stays.

Working Holiday Maker Program

For younger visitors, the Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462) and Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) enable stays of up to 12 or 24 months for tourism, temporary work, and study. The Seasonal Worker Program provides short-term agricultural work.

Family Visas

The Partner visa (subclasses 820 and 801) and Child visa (subclass 101) enable family members of Australian citizens, permanent residents, and eligible New Zealand citizens to migrate to and remain in Australia long-term.

The Australian Government recommends current and prospective visa applicants explore these alternatives and develop plans to facilitate their entry or extended stay following the closure of the Pandemic Event visa program.

With proper planning and preparation, there are paths forward to experience all Australia has to offer.

Steps to Take Before the Visa Closure Date

To ensure your Pandemic Event visa application is processed before the closure date of February 1, 2024, there are several steps you should take:

steps on getting a visa

Submit a Complete Application

A complete application with all required documentation will allow for efficient Department of Home Affairs processing. Be sure to include:

  • A completed online application form
  • A certified copy of your valid passport
  • Evidence of sufficient funds for your stay
  • A return air ticket or proof of onward travel arrangements
  • Health insurance for your entire stay

Check Your Passport Validity

Double-check that your passport will be valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended arrival date in Australia. If you still need to, you must renew your passport before being granted a visa.

Apply Well in Advance

Though processing times can vary, submitting your Pandemic Event visa application at least 6 to 8 weeks before your planned trip to Australia is recommended. Applying with ample time will avoid delays and ensure your visa is granted before the closure date.

Gather Documentation

In addition to the required documents listed above, gather any additional evidence to support your application, including:

  • An official letter of invitation to the event from the event organizer
  • Proof of your role or participation in the event

Check the Visa Conditions

Once granted, be sure you understand the conditions of your Pandemic Event visa, including:

  • The duration of your allowed stay
  • Any restrictions on work or study
  • Requirements to notify the Department of Home Affairs of any changes in circumstances

Following these steps and being well-prepared will maximize your chances of being granted an Australian Pandemic Event visa before the closure date.

Preparing Your Application Before February 2024

To secure your Pandemic Event visa before the February 2024 deadline, you must prepare the necessary documentation immediately. Start the application process at least 3-6 months before the deadline to allow adequate time for processing.

  • To apply for a Pandemic Event visa, you must prove that you currently hold a subclass 408 temporary activity visa that expires within 28 days of your application date.
  • This includes uploading a copy of your current visa grant letter. You must also pay the required application fee, which is currently $405 AUD.

In addition to proof of your current visa status and payment, your application must demonstrate that you meet all standard health, character, and safety criteria to enter Australia.

This means obtaining health examinations for all applicants, police clearances for those over 16, and any other requested documentation to verify your identity or relationship status.

A skilled migration agent can ensure all required documentation is included, help avoid delays or refusals, and increase your chances of securing the visa before the deadline. They can also advise you on any potential risks or complications.

With thorough preparation and the assistance of a migration expert, you can successfully obtain your Pandemic Event visa and gain entry to Australia to participate in approved activities.

However, it is critical to begin the process before the February 2024 closure date as early as possible. It would be better to ensure your ability to file an application and receive an outcome within the limited timeframe.

Pandemic Event Visa FAQs: Answering Your Top Questions

The Australian Government has announced the closure of the Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408) Australian Government-endorsed events (COVID-19 Pandemic event) visa, commonly known as the Pandemic Event visa, as of 1 February 2024.

If you currently hold this visa, you likely have several questions about how this decision impacts you. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

The Pandemic Event visa (subclass 408) will be closed to all new applicants beginning 1 February 2024. This means the Department of Home Affairs will no longer accept applications for this visa after this date.

However, those currently holding the Pandemic Event visa can remain in Australia for the duration of their visa.

The Pandemic Event visa was introduced as a temporary measure to address critical skills shortages in industries like healthcare, emergency services, and food supply during the COVID-19 crisis.

As Australia’s border restrictions have eased and the impacts of the pandemic have stabilized, the need for this particular visa category has diminished.

Closing the Pandemic Event visa will also help reduce administrative pressures on the immigration system.

Individuals currently holding a Pandemic Event visa will not be impacted by its closure and can remain in Australia for the duration of their visa.

However, once their visa expires, they must apply for a new visa to remain in Australia legally. Options may include applying for permanent residency or another temporary work visa like the Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189) or Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) Visa (subclass 491), depending on their skills and experience.

While the Pandemic Event visa temporarily relieved critical skills gaps, Australia’s critical industries are not expected to be significantly impacted by its closure.

Border restrictions have eased, allowing more migrants and temporary workers to enter Australia. The Skilled Migration Program and other standard temporary work visas will continue addressing skills needs. Employers can utilize these established visa pathways to recruit workers for critical roles.

Final Thoughts about the Closure of the Pandemic Event Visa (Subclass 408)

As the Australian government phases out pandemic support programs, the closure of the Pandemic Event visa signals a shift toward pre-COVID operations.

While this change may challenge organizations that benefited from flexible immigration policies, it also reflects Australia’s progress in containing COVID-19. As you plan future events and activities in Australia, monitor updates on visa programs and requirements.

Consider developing contingency plans to adapt if pandemic-era accommodations like the 408 visa remain unavailable. Though this closure marks a transition, Australia’s enduring appeal to visitors and immigrants will likely withstand policy changes. Approach the coming months with optimism as Australia moves steadily ahead.


Andre Albuquerque is an Immigration Attorney in Australia helping businesses and people to achieve their dreams and goals with over a decade of professional experience.

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