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Visa concessions for temporary graduates stuck offshore coming soon, says Australia's immigration minister

Temporary graduate visa holders holding placards during a protest in Chandigarh, India on 22 March 2021. Source: Supplied by Luvpreet Singh

Bringing respite to thousands of temporary graduate visa holders stranded offshore, immigration minister Alex Hawke has assured that the Australian government is considering visa flexibilities for existing 485 visa holders in the “very near future”.

As the clock runs down on their visas, temporary graduate visa holders (TGV) languishing overseas due to the border closure have long sought a pathway to return to Australia when the travel ban is lifted.


Highlights:


Paramjot Singh, who travelled to India during the early days of the pandemic, will see his two-year visa run out in December.

Like thousands of other existing 485 visa holders, the 26-year-old is now pleading with the government to either extend his visa or freeze it for the duration he has spent overseas.

"If they can make policy changes for other temporary visa holders and even new TGV holders, why can't they extend the same courtesy to existing visa holders who have graduated from Australian universities, and are also employed in various sectors?" he asked.

485 visa holder
Temporary graduate visa holder Paramjot Singh hopes to retun to Australia.
Supplied by Paramjot Singh

Mr Singh, who completed a postgraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Perth's Edith Cowan University, said he was hoping to repay his education loan by securing a job in his professional field, but the pandemic has left his family with a debt worth millions in Indian rupees.

"I have no source of repaying that loan. Even if I secure a job in India, it will take me years to repay the loan and become financially stable. Only a miracle can now save me from this cycle of anxiety and stress," he said.

Announcements for temporary graduate visa holders coming soon: Alex Hawke

The visa subclass 485 is for international students who have completed two years of study in Australia. Depending on the situation, it can last between 18 months and four years and allows successful applicants to live, work and study in Australia temporarily.

Currently, those stuck offshore on 485 visas cannot extend, freeze or reapply for the visa.

While the government has allowed international students to apply for TGVs while they are offshore to reduce the impact of COVID, but that doesn't help the thousands of people who already have a TGV but are stuck overseas while the time left on their visas tick away. 

Alex Hawke
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke.
AAP

Assuring that a reprieve is on the cards, immigration minister Alex Hawke on 30 September signalled that the government would be announcing some visa concessions for existing 485 visa holders stuck offshore "in the coming weeks".

Responding to a query raised by SBS Punjabi during a virtual press conference on Thursday, Minister Hawke said the government is "very conscious" of this issue.

We'll make some announcements in the very near future: Immigration Minister

"As I've said in the beginning of the pandemic, every visa announcement we've made has sought to give people leniency, to give them flexibility and to give them opportunities to take advantage of what has happened to them.

"So, sometimes for a person offshore, they may want a refund. For some people offshore, they might want an extension of their visa. Some people might change their plans. We're working on how to make sure we accommodate everything that's happened to people through no fault of their own," Minister Hawke told SBS Punjabi.

The minister said that he was working closely with the education minister on developing these plans.

"The temporary graduate visa holders do a lot of good in Australia and we're very conscious of that. We just have to be careful about the quarantine arrangements," Mr Hawke said.

PM
Prime Minister Scott Morrison during an online press briefing with the Indian media.
SBS

Adding to the narrative, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the resumption of skilled migration is an important part of Australia's economic plan.

"This is a big and important part of our plan. And so that's why I want to assure you that we have a very high motivation to see this result. There are lots of issues, COVID is incredibly complex in terms of making your way through, but we are very clear about what our goal is," he said during the press conference.

According to the Department of Home Affairs figures, there are nearly 14,000 TGV holders who are currently outside Australia.

On 23 September, the Greens announced that they will introduce new legislation to extend and reinstate visas for temporary visa holders, including TGVs.

Senator Nick McKim, the party's immigration spokesperson, told SBS News that the legislation would automatically credit a temporary visa holder's visa with the amount of time people have spent overseas until they receive an inward exemption or the borders reopen.

"There are significant numbers of people who through no fault of their own are stuck in limbo and we don't want to see those people make a different choice, and end up deciding to go to Canada, or the UK, or the US or somebody else. We'd like them to come to Australia," he said.

Deliberating on the legislation's viability, former deputy secretary of the immigration department Abul Rizvi said only an explicit change to the migration regulations would allow the government to offer concessions to existing TGV holders.

"The government would need to introduce regulations to allow certain affected 485 visa holders to make an application for a further 485 visa for a specified length. Legally visas cannot be 'extended', and a new visa must be granted," he explained.

 

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

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