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Clarification on Travel for 489 Visa Holders

It has come to our attention that some 489 visa holders and employers believe the need to live and work in a regional location means a 489 visa holder cannot go to the major cities. We have sought official clarification from the Department of Home Affairs about this matter, and we have received the following details that indicate that there is is flexibility and 489 visa holders may visit Sydney, Melbourne or Newcastle, for leisure or work related travel, keeping in mind the current requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Below is a copy of the advice we received from the department:

Time in Australia spent outside a designated regional area

Under the 489 visa, Condition 8549 (now referred to under the new visa programs as condition 8579) requires that while the visa holder is in Australia, they must live, work and study only in a designated regional area.

Condition 8579 is not intended to prevent a visa holder from engaging in incidental activities outside a Designated Regional Area (DRA). Such activities may include:

• holidays;

• work-related travel;

• work-related training

The Department will adopt a flexible approach to the assessment of compliance with condition 8579, taking account of the personal circumstances affecting individual visa holders.

However, extended absences from the DRA may result in further scrutiny by the Department to ensure that the visa holder is or was living, working and studying in the DRA during the relevant periods.

The Department may request further evidence from the visa holder on the reason for travel outside the DRA, where:

  • the holder spends more than 90 days in total per annum outside the DRA, or
  • the holder spends more than 60 continuous days outside the DRA, or
  • there is a pattern of extended and/or frequent absences that are indicative of employment outside the DRA.

Employer based outside a designated regional area

In determining whether the person is working in a DRA, the Department must establish where the person is physically located in relation to their usual place of work. Where the Department is able to establish that the person's usual place of work is in a DRA, the person has met the requirements of this condition.

In cases where an employer is based in a metropolitan area of Australia, or overseas, but is operating in a DRA through a local office of branch, if the visa holder is working in the local office located in a DRA, then they meet the work requirements of condition 8579.

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