Australian Visa: Migration to Australia has declined drastically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to widespread travel restrictions and border closures but is expected to bounce back in 2022.
This is in line with the Treasury’s mid-year economic update released earlier this month, which showed that net foreign migration was projected to be around zero to 41,000 people in 2021-22, with the potential to climb to 180,000 people in 2022-23. is expected (about double the previous estimate).
Australia’s migration schedule is determined annually and runs from 1 July to 30 June each fiscal year. The forecast for 2024-25 remains at 235,000 people.
Which visa holders can currently enter Australia?
Australia’s borders were reopened to eligible international students and some skilled visa holders on 15 December 2021 – about six months ahead of the forecast in the federal budget.
Australian citizens and permanent residents can also enter Australia, and their immediate family members can apply for an exemption to enter.
Opportunities for temporary visa holders
The planning level for 2021-22 was maintained at 160,000 places and the composition was carried forward from the previous year, which means 79,600 places for skill stream, 77,300 for family, 100 for special ability, and children There were 3,000 places.
“It’s a big change; they’re loosening up and offering a lot of different avenues, and a lot of expansion, for those who are already here to achieve their migration dreams.”
“The government has already initiated several visa changes during the pandemic and will continue to review visa settings to support Australia’s economic recovery,” a Home Department spokesman said.
Permanent residence for skilled migrants in health and hospitality
In November, the government announced migrant visa changes to retain highly skilled migrants in key sectors as part of economic recovery. Under the changes, some migrants who have chosen to live and work in Australia during the pandemic will be eligible for permanent residency.
The changes could benefit holders of the existing temporary skill deficit (subclass 482) visa in the short-term stream, which was previously restricted to a two-year stay without such a route. Holders of the now-discontinued Temporary Work Skilled (Subclass 457) visa who no longer meet the age requirement can also benefit.
Mr. Hawke said there were about 20,000 visa holders who could benefit from the changes, with the largest group employed in the health and hospitality industries.
Permanent residency for skilled migrants in the regions
Migration agent Ruby Fowler, managing director of the Australian Immigration Agency, said temporary migrants who were stranded offshore because of the pandemic have been the hardest hit. But visa holders in Australia are in “good standing”.
Among the new permanent residence routes, they highlighted were the skilled regional subclass 191 visas for those who have lived, worked, and studied in a designated regional area on a previous, eligible visa.
“It’s one way; you have to stay on the 494 visas for three years and then apply for the 191 one,” she said.
According to the department, visas do not start until 16 November 2022.
Permanent residency for Hong Kong nationals
There is also good news for some Hong Kong citizens who are based in Australia, as they will be offered access to new special routes to permanent residency from March 2022.
The government said in November that two new visa streams – Subclass 189 (Hong Kong Skilled Independent Stream) and Subclass 191 (Hong Kong Regional Stream) – were introduced as part of Australia’s commitment to strengthen ties with Hong Kong.
“These new visas will provide a route for Hong Kong temporary graduates and temporary skilled workers who are currently on extended visas to Australia and will build on the already close family ties and economic ties with Hong Kong that will last for many years,” Hawke said. exist from.” ,
It is estimated that approximately 8,800 existing temporary skilled, graduate, and student visa holders will be eligible for the two new visa streams that will open on 5 March 2022.
Change to 189 New Zealand Stream Subclass Visa
In 2021, the Australian government also amended the New Zealand route to help eligible temporary visa holders, who are New Zealand citizens, obtain permanent residency in Australia.
“If you are a New Zealander in Australia and you earn a certain amount, there is the potential to get 189 positions, derived from a skilled expatriate overseas,” said Mr. Watts.
From 1 July 2021, changes took effect for the New Zealand stream of Skilled Independent (Subclass 189) visa, which reduced the number of years in which an eligible applicant must meet the specified income threshold (from at least four of the last Up to three) five income years).
The government has also implemented measures to help temporary visa holders who were on their way to permanent residence before COVID-19 to maintain their eligibility.
A department spokesperson said, “As of 13 November 2021, New Zealand residents involved for the New Zealand stream of skilled independent (subclass 189) visas can claim exemption from meeting the income requirement for the 2020-21 income year.” will be able to.” ,
“This will help applicants whose income for 2020-21 was adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants can claim COVID-19 income exemption from either the 2019-20 or 2020-21 income year, but not both”.
‘Section 48 bar’ lifted for skilled migration visas
Skilled migrants in Australia are also being temporarily allowed to apply onshore for three skilled stay visa subclasses following changes to Section 48 of the Migration Act.
Section 48 bar applies to applicants who have refused or revoked visas since their last entry into Australia.
On 13 November, Mr. Hawke agreed to temporarily add the following visa subclasses to the list of exempt visas: 491, 494, and 190.
“You have a lot of people in Australia who are waiting for immigration hearings on bridging visas, which can take five years,” Mr. Watt said.
“Those are now being invited to apply to Australia for permanent residency and provisional visas which will allow them to eventually apply for permanent residency.
“It’s a great start and it’s going to a bigger pool of people who weren’t able to apply before.
“It’s in force now but it’s going to affect things next year.”
A department spokesperson said the change only applies during the current COVID-19 emergency.
“After this period is over, additional sub-categories will be removed from the list of exempted visas,” he said.
New visa settings for temporary graduate visa holders
Temporary graduate visa holders stranded offshore and unable to travel to Australia because of the pandemic will also be able to apply for a replacement visa – but there is a wait.
The government said in November that the concession would allow current or former temporary graduate (subclass 485) visa holders, whose visas expired on or after 1 February 2020, to reapply for new visas of the same duration with effect from 1 July 2022. can apply.
The 485 visas are offered to recently graduated international students with skills in specific occupations, intended to allow them to continue working in Australia.
There will be other changes to the temporary graduate visa settings, including increasing the period of stay on the 485 visas by coursework graduates to two to three years for the Masters and from 18 to 24 months for the graduate workstream.
Mr. Watt said the extent of the concessions already announced is complex but worth exploring “because they are trying to do a little bit of justice for these people”.
“It’s a very human concession, and it means that there was a lot of talent here, we have a chance to get them back.”
“There’s a huge multiplicity of different changes and scenarios, and who applies for what and who can get what. But it’s very likely that even if there is another border closure, it will be the first one.”
The government said these changes would be implemented “progressively” from 1 December 2021 to 1 July 2022, with more details expected on the department’s website. The application for a replacement visa can be made from 1 July 2022.
Ms. Foder encouraged people to seek professional migration advice, with information constantly changing and more expected to change in the new year.