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Want to apply for Australia’s permanent residency in 2020-21? Migration program massively restructured due to COVID-19

The federal government is offering to refund or waive application charges for visa holders impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions. Source: SBS

The migration program for 2020-21 has been massively restructured where priority will be given to onshore applicants and places for skilled migrants have significantly been reduced.

The federal government has announced massive changes to the migration program planning levels for 2020-21.


  • 79,600 places allocated in the Skill stream
  • 77,300 places have been allocated to the Family stream
  • Merely 6,500 places allocated to Skilled Independent visas

While the total places available remain capped at a ceiling of 160,000 for 2020-21, the government has massively restructured the composition of the migration program due to COVID-19 pandemic driven recession and border closures.

The focus this year will be on onshore applicants, partner visas and skilled migrants who support Australia’s economic recovery.

Skilled migrants
Skilled migrants (representational image)
Getty Images

Skilled stream

The 2020-21 permanent migration program has 79,600 places allocated in the Skill stream, a huge fall from 108,682 places allocated in 2019-20.

Of 79,600 places allocated for the skilled stream in 2020-21, only 6,500 places (18,652 in 2019-20) have been allocated to Skilled Independent visas which allow migrants to settle anywhere in Australia.

This year, the priority within the Skill stream will be given to Global Talent, the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) and Employer-Sponsored visas.

‘Innovators, investors and job creators – those who are going to grow Australian businesses, create Australian jobs and supercharge our economic recovery – will be the target of our skilled visas,’ Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs said.

The Global Talent Visa has been allocated 15,000 places and the number of places available for business investors has been doubled to 13,500 places.

Employer-Sponsored visas, for those migrants coming to fill a specific skills gap where an Australian worker is not available, have been allocated 22,000 places and they will be prioritised over non-sponsored visas with a focus on occupations on the Priority Migration Skills Occupation List.

This includes occupations like a general practitioner, software engineers, chief executives, psychiatrists and nurses.

Regional and State/Territory nominated visas have both been allocated 11,200 places this year.

Skill stream



Skilled Independent




​State/Territory Nominated


Business Innovation & Investment program


Global Talent


Distinguished Talent


Skill Total


Melbourne-based registered migration agent Rohit Mohan says it is going to be a difficult year for skilled migrants who hoped to migrate to Australia from other countries.

“The government has made it clear that they will be prioritising those onshore. This will hit the skilled migrants offshore hard. It is going to be a difficult year for them,” Mr Mohan told SBS Hindi.

Mr Mohan says the program restructuring takes into account unemployment crisis that Australia is currently facing.

“Onshore applicants are likely to have a job, and border closures do not affect these applicants. The government has taken this step to address the high level of unemployment in the country. Calling skilled migrants who are either sought by employers or highly talented makes more sense than inviting migrants who might need to look for a job in an already competitive market,” he says.

“Onshore applicants will have a huge advantage though. It is a great development for them,” he adds.

Family Stream

The massive restructuring of the migration program will see more places allocated to Family stream this year.

77,300 places have been allocated to the Family stream with a majority of permanent residency places allocated to partner visas.

Partner visas have been allocated 72,300 places, an increase from 37,118 last year.

‘This will give more certainty to those wanting to settle in Australia with their partners and plan for their futures. It will address nearly all the present applicants awaiting finalisation of their visa,” Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs said.

It is expected that 75 per cent of Partner visas will go to those already in Australia, Minister Tudge said.

Child and Special Eligibility visas will make up the remaining 3,100 places.

Family Stream





Other Family


Family Total


Mr Mohan says while an increase in the number of places for partner visas is welcome news, the introduction of English language test is a concern. 

From late 2021, new partner visa applicants and permanent resident sponsors will be required to have functional-level English (an average band score of at least 4.5 in IELTS or an overall band score of at least 30 for each of the 4 test components in PTE) or to demonstrate that they have made reasonable efforts to learn English. 

Applicants will be able to demonstrate this through, for example, the completion of 500 hours of free English language classes through the AMEP.

“Most partner visas are a provisional visa of two years before they can apply for a permanent visa. The requirement will have to be met at the time of the granting of the permanent visa,” Mr Mohan explains. 

“But an English test adds another layer of challenge to acquiring a partner visa, which already has a very long processing time. Applicants will now have to sit a test to prove their English,” he says.

Listen to what Scott Morrison said about partner visa:

Partner visa applicants will now need basic English language competency, says Scott Morrison
00:00 00:00

But Mr Mohan strongly feels the new sponsorship criteria which include mandatory background checks will be welcomed by the Indian community.

“We have seen many cases of family violence within the community where sometimes partners coming from abroad have no idea about their partners’ history in the country.

“Many have a hard time after coming here. These changes aim to address that issue and I believe it will be welcomed by the community,” he says.

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Disclaimer: We’d like to point out that the information contained in this segment is general and is not specific advice. If you would like accurate information relevant to your situation, you should consult a registered migration agent/agency.