The Morrison Government is making it easier for highly skilled migrants to remain in Australia and for international students to return.
Australia’s Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alex Hawke said these measures recognise the contribution of skilled migrants who remained in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to encourage them to stay in Australia.
“Eligible skilled workers, already in Australia, will continue to support local businesses facing critical shortages, particularly in health, hospitality and our regions,” Minister Hawke said.
“This recognises the economic value-add of these critical workers, and retaining them will greatly assist in Australia’s economic recovery.”
“The changes compliment the Government’s recent announcement that fully vaccinated eligible temporary and provisional visa holders may enter Australia without a travel exemption from 1 December 2021,” he said.
These visa changes will improve access to permanent residence for:
• Existing Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa holders in the short-term stream
• Legacy Temporary Work Skilled (subclass 457) visa holders who no longer meet the age requirement.
“This is a special concession recognising those highly skilled migrant workers who chose to stay in Australia throughout the pandemic, while continuing to address Australia’s acute shortages. This allows them to stay here, with a pathway to Australian citizenship,” Minister Hawke said.
“There are currently about 20,000 primary Temporary Skill Shortage and 457 visa holders in Australia who may benefit from these arrangements. Most of these workers are employed in the highest-skilled occupations and the largest cohorts of workers benefiting from these changes include those currently employed in the health and hospitality industries, including many workers in regional Australia,” Minister Hawke said.
The Government will also extend visas for skilled regional (provisional visa) holders (subclass 489, 491 and 494) in recognition that this cohort has been adversely affected by COVID-19 related travel restrictions.
“Current and expired skilled regional provisional visas will be extended, providing additional time to meet regional work requirements for permanent residence,” Minister Hawke said.
“There are currently around 9,000 skilled regional provisional visa holders overseas. These visa holders can enter Australia from 1 December 2021, and they will also be eligible for an extension of their visa,” he said.
In recognition of ongoing border arrangements, the Government will also extend by a further six-months Visa Application Charge waivers for new Visitor visa applicants overseas where their visa expired, or will expire, between 1 January 2022 and 30 June 2022.
“This measure will support the tourism industry by welcoming back visitors once it is safe to do so,” Minister Hawke said.
The Government has announced further measures to support the return of international students and graduates, bolstering the international education industry by:
• Allowing Temporary Graduate visa holders, who have been unable to travel to Australia as a result of COVID-19 international border restrictions, to apply for a replacement visa;
• Increasing the length of stay on Temporary Graduate visas in the Masters by Coursework and Vocation Education and Training (VET) streams;
• Simplifying the requirements for Temporary Graduate visa applicants for VET sector graduates; and
• Extending the existing measure for student and temporary graduates to recognise time spent offshore studying online to count towards qualifying for a Temporary Graduate visa application.
Concessions for offshore temporary graduate visa holders
Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa holders who have been unable to travel to Australia as a result of COVID-19 international border restrictions will be able to apply for a replacement visa.
Minister Hawke said this would allow current and former Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa holders whose visas expired on or after 1 February 2020 to re-apply for a new subclass 485 visa of the same duration as their original visa.
“This recognises the importance of international students in our community, as well as our workforce, and aligns with other visa concessions made as a result of COVID-19,” Minister Hawke said.
“We look forward to welcoming fully vaccinated Student and Temporary Graduate visa holders back into our communities from 1 December 2021.”
Education and Youth Alan Minister Tudge said this announcement will give confidence to international students that they will have the opportunity to use their skills and qualifications in Australia.
“Australia’s border settings have been an important part of our health response to COVID-19, but we understand the impact that restrictions have had on current and former international students who remain overseas,” Minister Tudge said.
“The Morrison Government’s new Strategy for International Education will guide the recovery of the sector, strengthen the sector’s resilience to market disruptions and support growth. This announcement forms part of that Strategy.”
In normal circumstances, applicants are limited to just one initial subclass 485 visa in a lifetime and a further visa is only available on the basis of regional work and study.
There are about 30,000 Temporary Graduate visa holders who lost time in Australia due to travel restrictions, who will now have the opportunity to apply for another subclass 485 visa. Fully vaccinated Temporary Graduate visa holders outside Australia will be able to travel from 1 December 2021.
Those graduates whose visas have expired will be able to apply for a replacement visa from 1 July 2022.
There will also be other changes to Temporary Graduate visa settings to ensure Australia remains a competitive and attractive destination for international students.
• The stay period on the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa for Masters by Coursework graduates, will increase permanently from two to three years, to match the stay period for Masters by Research graduates.
• As a concession during the COVID-19 pandemic, the stay period on the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa Graduate Work stream, will increase from 18 to 24 months, and application requirements will be streamlined by removing the requirement for graduates to nominate an occupation from the skills occupation list.
• These changes to Temporary Graduate visa stay periods will be implemented from 1 December 2021, and the removal of skilled occupation list requirements from 1 July 2022.
“Increasing the length of Temporary Graduate visas for Masters by Coursework and Vocational Education and Training (VET) graduates and expanding opportunities for VET graduates to apply for a Temporary Graduate visa will benefit our economy,” Minister Hawke said.