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Australian visas: Good news for temporary visa holders and international students stranded by COVID-19 border closure

New rules for Australian partner visas from late 2021. Source: AAP/Getty

Offering huge relief to visa holders stranded offshore, the Australian government has made significant amendments to its Migration Regulations to assist some temporary and provisional visa holders stranded offshore by COVID-19 border closure.

The Australian government has introduced significant legislative amendments to its Migration Regulations that will come into effect on 19 September 2020.

As per a statement issued by the Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge, the ‘COVID-19 Concessions’ are being introduced to limit the impact of the pandemic on visa holders stranded outside the country.


Highlights:

  • Australia introduces major COVID-19 visa concessions for certain temporary and provisional visa holders
  • The COVID-19 concession period commences from 1 February 2020 and is an interim arrangement
  • Major amendments have been made to Temporary Graduate (485) and Skilled Regional visas (887)

The amendments coined as the 'COVID-19 concessions' have been brought in to allow individuals to continue on their visa pathway if they have been disadvantaged by "COVID-19 border closures, business restrictions or the economic downturn."

Australian visa
Australian visa update
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“The Migration Amendment (COVID-19 Concessions) Regulations 2020 (the COVID-19 Concessions Regulations) amend the Migration Regulations 1994 to assist certain temporary and provisional visa holders, including individuals who are on a pathway to permanent residence," outlines the explanatory statement.

Amendments to (Subclass 485) Post-study work stream amendment:

On July 20, Minister Tudge announced that graduates affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions would be able to apply for and be granted a Temporary Graduate visa outside Australia “where they have met all the requirements. He has now delivered on that promise.

In simple terms, applicants will now be able to lodge their applications offshore, and those who meet the requirements will be granted a post-study work stream visa, while they remain outside Australia.

Interpreting the change, migration agent, Navjot Kailay said this would also mean that successful applicants will be able to return to the country once the travel restrictions lift without having to worry about the duration of their visa grants.

“Those who are outside Australia can apply, and once they receive their visa grants, they will be able to return to Australia after the travel restrictions are lifted or in some cases, if they are approved for 'travel exemptions,' They would not have to worry about their date of entry as their visa duration will start from the date of entry as opposed to the date of grant,” he said.

Other key changes to the regulations affecting 485 visa applicants stranded by COVID-induced restrictions include:

-Applicants will no longer be required to have held a student visa within the six-month period immediately before making the application.

-The period to meet the Australian Study Requirement (ASR), which is the period between completing the course and lodging the application has been extended from six to 12 months.

Explaining the fine print in this amendment, Mr Kailay said that this, however, will only apply to students who were outside Australia between specified dates.

“This will only apply to applicants who were offshore for all, part or a portion of the period starting on 1 February 2020 and ending on 19 September 2020,” he said.

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Australian visa
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Amendments to Skilled – Regional visa (Subclass 887)

In another major respite, COVID concessions to lodgement and eligibility requirements will also be available to prospective Skilled – Regional visa (subclass 887) applicants where they meet the following criteria:

  • Eligible prospective subclass 887 visa applicants can make their visa application outside Australia during the concession period and be granted the visa while they are outside Australia.
  • Applicants outside of Australia who lodge during the concession period are given access to shorter employment requirements and shorter residence requirements.

Explaining the above amendment, migration agent Ranbir Singh said prior to this change, applicants were required to be in Australia and hold an eligible visa at the time of filing a subclass 887 visa application.

“Before this amendment, 887 applicants were required to fulfill two requirements- live in a regional area for two years and undertake full-time work in the area for one year of that period.

“Now the Department has given significant concessions by considering at least 6 months of applicant's offshore residence towards meeting the 24 months onshore regional residence requirement.

"The regional work requirement has also been reduced from 12 to 9 months provided the application is made within three months of the end of the concession period,” he said.

In addition to making amendments to Subclass 485 and Subclass 887, respectively, the Department has also introduced changes to business visas (Subclass 888 and Subclass 188), Safe Haven Enterprise visa (Subclass 790). 

Click on the player above to listen to the interview in Punjabi.

Disclaimer: This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Find out what restrictions are in place for your state or territory.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at http://www.sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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