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COVID-19 impact: Australia temporarily suspends skilled migration program

Source: Getty Images/Rawpixel

States and territories across Australia have announced that their nomination program will remain temporarily suspended while they await the federal government’s allocation of state nomination places for the program year 2020-21.

The General Skilled Migration Program (GSM) is aimed at skilled workers in particular occupations ­­willing to migrate to Australia to improve the country’s workforce, and also to meet the changing needs of businesses within the states and territories. ­

Every year all jurisdictions receive quotas from the government, based on which the states and territories nominate skilled and business migrants for  Skilled Nom­inated Subclass 190 and the Skilled Regional Sponsored Subclass 491 visa categories.


  • States and territories in Australia have announced that their nomination program will remain temporarily suspended 
  • The federal government has not yet allocated state nomination places for the program year 2020-2021
  • "Government is closely monitoring migration and visa settings": Department of Home Affairs

'COVID-19 pandemic to have a significant influence on the shape of Australia’s Migration Program'

However this year, the Department of Home Affairs has advised the states and territories to put their programs on hold until further notice.

In a statement to SBS Punjabi, a spokesperson for the Department said that migration continues to make substantial contributions to Australia’s economic prosperity, national well-being and social cohesion.

“The government is closely monitoring migration and visa settings to ensure they are consistent with public health measures, are flexible and do not displace job opportunities for Australians so that Australia can deal with the immediate and post-recovery impacts of COVID-19,” said the spokesperson.

The forecast assumes the overall migration program will be delivered at around 160,000 in most years with a one-third to two-third balance in favour of the skill stream
States and territories have temporarily suspended their skilled nomination programs

The Department further stated that the ongoing impacts of the pandemic worldwide, both medically, socially and economically, will have a "significant influence on the shape of Australia’s Migration Program going forward."

"The Australian Government is considering how best to shape the Migration Program into the future to drive economic growth and support job creation."

Nominations will be made available to States and Territories in line with these considerations - Department of Home Affairs spokesperson

'Skilled migration has not stopped, it has been temporarily suspended'

Explaining the reason behind the delay, Adelaide-based migration agent Mark Glazbrook said skilled migration will remain suspended until the federal government decides on the size and composition of the Migration Program which is set each year through the Budget process.

“But as the budget will now be delivered in October instead of May due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been no formal announcement about the 2020-2021 Migration Program year and as a result of that states and territories haven’t been advised about what their individual quotas are,” he said.

The delay has given rise to speculation among existing visa holders and prospect skilled migrants already reeling under economic pressures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Melbourne-based migration agent Navjot Kailay said while the delay is significant, visa seekers must remember that “General Skilled Migration is an integral part of the Australian migration program and has not been stopped.”

“A lot of misleading statements around skilled migration are in circulation since July 1. I would like to clarify that skilled migration has been temporarily suspended, but it has not stopped or will ever stop. There have been delays in the past as well, the only difference is that this year instead of one month, it has been suspended for a longer period,” he said.

“While applications in some states remain open - this implies that applicants meeting current criteria can apply for Expression of Interest (EOI) and nomination application if invited by the relevant state authority. However, nominations will only be issued once the quota is allocated to the respective state for this financial year.”

Victoria closed skilled nominated visa
General Skilled Migration Program (GSM) is aimed at attracting skilled workers in particular occupations willing to migrate to Australia.
Getty Images

Here’s a state-wise update on the skilled nomination:


State nomination program remains temporarily closed. But applicants can still lodge an EOI through the Department of Home Affairs SkillSelect system.

“The 2020-21 Victorian state nomination program will open at a date to be advised after further advice from the Commonwealth Government," according to the information available on the state migration website.

New South Wales:

NSW is currently closed to applications for nomination under the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) and the Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491).

The state will open to new nominations once they receive their quota for the current financial year.  

“Invitation rounds for NSW nomination under the Skilled Nominated visa (subclass 190) will also commence at this time. At this stage, we are unable to advise when this will occur," the state government has declared on its website.

South Australia:

The state’s business and skilled migration programs are scheduled to re-open from early August.

This will be dependent on the Commonwealth Government’s allocation of state nomination places for the program year 2020-21," as per the state website.


Business and Skilled Migration Queensland (BSMQ) has also announced that its state nomination program will remain closed until further notice. The state has declared that it will not be accepting any EOIs.

The state is now awaiting advice from the Department of Home Affairs with regards to its nomination allocation for the financial year 2020-21.

“BSMQ has not yet received advice from Home Affairs in regard to Queensland’s nomination allocation for FY20-21 and when we will be able to re-open the business and skilled program," BSMQ announced on its website.

Australia increases regional migration intake
Department of Home Affairs has reportedly advised the states and territories to put their nomination programs on hold until further notice.


Applications remain open and will continue to be considered, but no nominations can be made until the state receives its allocation for the program year.

“Migration Tasmania currently does not have an indication of the size of the 2020 -2021 nomination quota and cannot guarantee all eligible applicants will be nominated," wrote Tasmania Migration.

Northern Territory:

NT Government has also declared that it is currently unable to issue nominations under the skilled and business migration programs.

“At this stage, if you are currently living in the NT, you will still be able to lodge new applications for NT nomination under the GSM program, and these applications will continue to be assessed. Offshore GSM nomination applications remain closed. BIIP nomination applications remain open," as per the Territory website.

No update is available for Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

South Australian state nomination applications for the 2019/2020 program year will close this weekend
Delay in GSM could impact certain visa holders say migration agents
Getty Images

Impact of the delay:

Mr Glazbrook said visa holders whose visas are due to expire in months leading to October will be “significantly disadvantaged” due to delay in allocation of state nomination places.

“There are certainly a number of applicants who will be impacted where they might have a visa that expires in the next few months and was going to apply for a skilled migration visa or was going to apply to be sponsored by a state or territory, those programs are temporarily on hold then that could result in those people who ordinarily would have been eligible to apply for a skilled visa, that’s no longer available to those people,” he said.

Onshore student visa holders looking to apply for skilled visas, applicants who have lodged EOIs and have not been invited and some offshore visa holders awaiting permanent residency may also be affected.

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

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