Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge had announced five significant visa changes in July to limit the impact of COVID-19 on international students. One of them was to allow graduates to apply for a Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) from outside Australia.
The Department of Home Affairs has successfully implemented all the COVID-19 induced visa changes it had announced earlier this year, barring one.
On July 20, Minister Tudge announced that graduates affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions will be able to apply for and be granted a Temporary Graduate visa outside Australia “where they have met all the requirements.”
- Home Affairs has not yet started granting Temporary Graduate visa to applicants outside Australia
- Delay in implementation of change may impact international students offshore who've completed their degrees
- Work is underway to effect this change, which requires amendments to the Migration Regulations: Department of Home Affairs
But the promised change that had brought reprieve to international students who have completed their degrees remains unimplemented, causing stress to recent graduates who are keen to work in Australia and live in the country as temporary migrants.
One of them is Indian-origin overseas student Ashish Singh who completed his master’s degree in international tourism and hotel management earlier this year and remains stranded in Raipur in central India.
Speaking to SBS Punjabi, the 33-year-old said the announcement that had brought him out of depression in July has now propelled him further into the throes of anxiety. He is now worried that the delay in implementation may cost him his Australian dream.
“It has been nearly two months since they announced the change and allowed students like me who have completed their degrees to apply for a post-study work visa while remaining offshore, but they still haven’t implemented it, god knows why,” he said.
According to the existing migration regulations, students must lodge their visa application for a Temporary Graduate (Subclass 485) visa within six months of completing their course.
But Mr Singh who received the notification of his final results in March passed the six-month mark on September 9 and is now worried that he may have lost a “window of opportunity.”
“My student visa expired in April while my six months window expired on September 9th and now even if they implement the change and allow graduates to apply for 485, I may not be eligible unless they amend the regulations further to waive off this particular criterion,” he said.
Explaining the condition, Melbourne-based migration agent Ranbir Singh said the six-month window to lodge 485 visas is critical and violating it may result in a refusal.
“The six-month window to lodge the 485 visas is critical as the applicant has to submit a valid application onshore within 6 months of the last course completion date.
“In the current circumstances, the problem is that unless the Department grants an exemption to the rule, many applicants stranded offshore may miss the deadline due to their inability to lodge a valid application because of the travel restrictions,” said Mr Singh.
‘Work is underway’: Department of Home Affairs
As part of the student visa measures announced by Minister Tudge on 20 July 2020, there were two changes relating to the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa.
- The first change allows online study undertaken by student visa holders outside Australia as a result of COVID-19 to be counted towards the Australian Study Requirement for a Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa. This change came into effect from the date of the Minister’s announcement on 20 July 2020.
- The second change will allow graduates affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions to apply for and be granted a Temporary Graduate visa outside Australia where they have met all the requirements.
Acknowledging the delay in implementing the second change, a Department spokesperson told SBS Punjabi that they are currently working on implementing the change.
Work is currently underway to effect this change, which requires amendments to the Migration Regulations- Department of Home Affairs
Adelaide-based migration agent Mark Glazbrook said the Department must honour its commitment made to international students stuck outside the country because of the restrictions imposed by the federal government.
“The government has made changes to other parts of the Migration Program recently so that shows they can make changes if they want to. It would be nice if they would honour the commitment they have made and stop giving false hope to people stuck outside Australia,” he said.
According to a survey conducted by Deakin University last year, post-study work visa that allows international graduates to stay and work in the country temporarily emerged as a key factor that draws overseas students to Australia.
While the overall rate of the importance of access to this program was 76% among the participants, the survey found that Indian students were most affected by the availability of post-study work rights.
Mr Glazbrook said that the government’s delay in implementing the change could affect the lives of many such visa holders who chose to study in Australia so they could stay here and work after finishing their education.
“Within the structure of the 485 visa program, it says that you have got 6 months from the date you have received your notification of results to apply for your 485.
“Now if the changes aren’t implemented by the government within that six months period, then it means that some people are going to lose that opportunity which is very unfortunate because a lot of people originally made a decision to come and study in Australia based on the ability to get a post-study work visa so that could have a significant impact on people’s future careers and opportunities to work in their industry sectors,” he added.
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