Hundreds of Australia’s temporary graduate visa holders (Subclass 485) stranded and disadvantaged by COVID-19 border closure have signed a petition seeking an extension of their visa duration.
In a bid to bolster its efforts to support international students stuck offshore during the pandemic, the Department of Home Affairs on Friday announced unprecedented visa concessions for those looking to apply for the temporary graduate visa.
Mark Glazbrook, an Adelaide-based migration consultant said the concessions, though significant, are not applicable to people who already hold a 485 visa.
“The concessions, unfortunately, do not impact the existing temporary graduate visa holders," he said.
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Mr Glazbrook said the amendments to the 485 eligibility criteria are only advantageous to former international students, giving them an opportunity to obtain a visa and return to Australia when travel restrictions are lifted.
"They are only advantageous for student visa holders who were eligible to apply for a 485 visa prior to COVID-19. And as a result of the concessions, will now continue to retain their eligibility for this visa despite being stranded offshore,” he clarified.
This means that hundreds of existing 485 visa holders are now left without a safety net and have no way of returning to the country, but to keep applying for inward travel exemptions from Australia’s current border ban, which are hard to come by.
Caught in this situation is Sydney-based Kiran Reddy who was without a job when he travelled to Hyderabad in southern India to visit his parents, after living in Australia for the past many years.
The 36-year-old accountant who received his post-study work visa last year can see the past seven years of his life and hard work slipping by as the validity of his two-year visa is fast running out whilst he remains stranded outside the country.
“I had completed my tenure as a claims officer with a firm in Sydney before I travelled to India in March this year for four weeks. Now I am stuck here without work and my precious period on the 485 visa is running out due to no fault of mine.
“I have spent so much money on my education, have supported the Australian economy and the job sector. Are you telling me that all of that was for nothing,” questioned the 36-year-old.
Mr Reddy’s situation is not unique. As per the latest data provided by the Department of Home Affairs, there were over 100,000 people on 485 visas as at 30 June 2020 - many of whom are stranded overseas and are either nearing their visa expiry or have already run out of their visas.
Some of them have now banded together and lodged a Parliamentary petition seeking the extension of the validity of their visas which generally last between 18 months and 4 years, which has garnered over 14,000 signatures.
One of them is Apoorva Kapoor who had a high paying job with a Melbourne-based IT firm and had just started to repay her education loan before travelling to India in March this year.
The young consultant who had applied for a permanent residency said she is feeling “anxious and extremely helpless” as she can no longer work remotely despite having a great job and skillset, as her 485 visa expired nearly four months ago.
“My whole life has come to a stop. It was so important to me that my 485 remained valid to be able to go back to Australia and keep working. This would have enabled me to still maintain a valid visa even if the 485 expired,” she said.
Ms Kapoor is now making a concerted effort with over 160 other 485 visa holders to reach out to the Senators and local MPs seeking an extension of their visas.
“485 visa allows international students who have completed their degrees to gain work experience in their area of study. But now due to the pandemic, we are being deprived of this time and opportunity.
“Many of us took hefty loans to get Australian degrees in the hope that we would be able to repay that amount after getting a post-study work visa. But now we are sitting here, many of us losing their jobs, apartments and even relationships,” she added.
Earlier in July, the Australian government had offered five-year temporary graduate visas to current and future students from Hong Kong along with permanent residency pathways.
Mr Glazbrook said the government must consider introducing similar arrangements for 485 visa holders who have been “unfairly” affected by the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent border restrictions.
“People whose visas have expired offshore are most disadvantaged so it would be best for the government to consider Hong Kong like arrangements for people on 485 from all source countries to enable them to return to Australia once borders reopen,” he said.
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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