As the Deputy will be aware, the Australian authorities have taken exceptional measures to restrict international travel in response to the pandemic. Entry into Australia and the issue of visas are matters solely for the Australian authorities. However, I am very conscious of the impact which these travel restrictions are having on many Irish people both here and in Australia, especially those who have not seen family and friends for a very long time, and often in very difficult situations. This was something that I raised with my Australian counterpart, Foreign Minister Marise Payne, when we met virtually in June.
A Bridging Visa is a temporary Australian visa granted in certain circumstances, for example, while a substantive visa application is being considered. Bridging visas were issued to the holders of temporary Australian visas when those visas expired during the pandemic. This enabled the holders, including many Irish citizens, to remain in Australia and to work there. In general, however, these bridging visas do not give the holder a right to return to Australia if they leave. I fully appreciate that this has left many Irish citizens in Australia in a very difficult position during the pandemic. Full information on bridging visa applications is available on the Australian Department of Home Affairs website at www.homeaffairs.gov.au/.
I welcome the recent indications by the Australian authorities that they plan to ease international travel restrictions on a phased basis. It is anticipated that fully vaccinated holders of qualifying visas will be permitted to depart and return to Australia from this week onwards and without needing to apply for a special travel exemption. However, the list of qualifying visas does not include bridging visas, even if the holder has applied for one of the qualifying visas. My Department is endeavouring to mitigate the impact of Australia's international travel restrictions on our many Irish citizens in Australia. Our Embassy Canberra and Consulate General Sydney will continue to closely monitor developments and will liaise with the Australian authorities on the easing of travel restrictions, particularly as they affect the Irish holders of Australian bridging visas. Throughout this pandemic, often in difficult circumstances, the Embassy, the Consulate and the Irish Support agencies in Australia have provided consular support to our affected citizens and they will continue to do so as Australia begins to open up to international travel.