As Australia reopens to the world, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has announced significant visa changes to retain highly skilled migrants in critical sectors and concessions for those stranded overseas due to COVID-prompted border restrictions.
In a significant move to assist the country's economic recovery, the Australian government has announced that certain skilled migrants who chose to stay and work in the country during the pandemic will be eligible for permanent residency.
The special concession will benefit the existing Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa holders in the short-term stream, who were previously restricted to a two-year stay without a permanent residency pathway.
- Australia offers a permanent residency pathway to certain skilled migrants to address the skill shortage
- Government to provide visa extensions to skilled regional (provisional visa) holders (subclass 489, 491 and 494)
- Government announces new visa settings for temporary graduate visa holders (subclass 485)
Melbourne-based migration agent Rohit Mohan said access to permanent residence for 482 visa holders in the short-term stream is "life-changing news."
"The 482 visa holders working in occupations like a cook who earlier did not have any hopes for permanent residency will be elated with this news," he said.
The other primary beneficiary of this concession would be the visa holders of the abolished Temporary Work Skilled (subclass 457), who no longer meet the age requirement.
There are nearly 20,000 primary 457 visa holders in Australia who may benefit from these arrangements. The largest cohorts of these workers will include those currently employed in the health and hospitality sectors, including many working in regional areas.
"Similarly, subclass 457 visa holders who had crossed the age limit for applying permanent residency can now look at making Australia a permanent home for themselves and their families. They have been working in Australia for so long and finally, the government has returned the favour," Mr Mohan said.
Visa changes to support the reopening of Australia
Announcing the visa changes on Thursday, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said providing access to a permanent residency pathway is a special provision recognising the economic value of those highly skilled migrants who chose to stay and support the local businesses during the health crisis.
"This [concession] allows them to stay here, with a pathway to Australian citizenship," Minister Hawke said in a press release.
In addition, the government has also decided to provide visa extensions for skilled regional (provisional visa) holders (subclass 489, 491 and 494) who remain stranded overseas due to COVID-induced border restrictions.
"Current and expired skilled regional provisional visas will be extended, providing additional time to meet regional work requirements for permanent residence," the immigration minister said.
'It's like spotting a rainbow after the storm'
Artist and business owner Rebecca Taylor who had travelled to Bengaluru in southern India for a corporate event told SBS Punjabi that she was meant to return to Tasmania days before the Australian borders were slammed shut in March last year.
The 34-year-old, who has since been stranded miles away from her life and work, said: "today's news has been like a rainbow after the storm."
"We have spent the past two years in anxiety and at the mercy of the government as people like me strived to retain their rental homes and protect their investments back in Australia," she said.
Ms Taylor, whose 489 visa expired two months ago, said the extensions have renewed her hope that her future in Australia would be promising.
Welcoming the news of visa extensions for skilled regional (provisional visa) holders, Melbourne-based migration agent Navjot Kailay said this is a very significant development for skilled migrants who were adversely impacted by COVID.
"Visa holders have been lobbying for extensions ever since the borders closed last year. As a result, they were not able to utilise their existing visas to be eligible for employment or towards getting a permanent residency. So, this has come as a huge relief for 489, 491 and 494 visa holders," he said.
Mr Kailay added that the government must also safeguard the interests of applicants for Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) and Skilled Independent (subclass 189) categories.
"Visa categories that have been missing from today's announcement are 190 and 189 visa applicants who have been waiting for their visas for so long. They are, in fact, the elite category of skilled migrants whose grants must be prioritised at the earliest," he added.
Other significant visa changes:
The government will also extend Visa Application Charge (VAC) waivers for new Visitor visa applicants overseas by a further six months, where their visa expired or will expire, between 1 January 2022 and 30 June 2022.
In addition, the government has also announced a raft of visa changes to support hundreds of Temporary Graduate visa holders (subclass 485) stranded overseas, including a provision of replacement visas for those whose visas have expired and a year-long extension on the length of their stay.
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