Migration to Australia has reduced significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic due to widespread travel bans and border closures, but it is expected to bounce back in 2022. As Australia seeks to increase migration as part of its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, here is some of the major immigration changes that have been announced.
That’s according information released earlier this month, shows while net migration was forecast to be reduced 41,000 people in 2021-22, it is expected to increase to 180,000 people in 2022-23, that almost double the previous estimate. Australia’s migration program is set annually and runs from 1 July to 30 June each financial year. The 2024-25 forecast remains at 235,000
More opportunities for temporary visa holders
While many temporary visa holders left Australia during the pandemic due to a lack of work and welfare support, it is expected that the focus will be on offering permanent residency pathways to those who remained, with some of those pathways already announced.
The 2021-22 planning level was maintained at 160,000 places and carried over the composition from the previous year, meaning there were
– 79,600 places for the Skill stream,
– 77,300 for Family, 100 for Special Eligibility and 3,000 for children.
According to some experts, it seems that the Department of Home Affairs want to fill that 160,000 with quite a few people who are here on those temporary visas. They’re trying to draw those permanent migrants from people who are in Australia”.
“That’s the big change; they are loosening up and offering a lot of different pathways, and a lot of extensions, for people who are already here to achieve their migration dream.”
“The government has already introduced a number of visa changes throughout the pandemic and will continue to review visa settings to support Australia’s economic recovery,” a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said.
Which visa holders can enter Australia, now?
Australia’s borders reopened to eligible international students and certain skilled visa holders on 15 December 2021 – that is six months earlier than 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.
Permanent residency for skilled migrants in health and hospitality
Australian government announced significant visa changes to retain highly qualified migrants in critical sectors for Australian Economic recovery as part of its economic recovery in November 2021. Under these updates, certain skilled migrants who have chosen to stay and work in Australia during the pandemic will be eligible for permanent residency.
The changes may benefit existing Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa holders in the short-term stream, who were previously restricted to a two-year stay without such a pathway. Visa holders of the now-discontinued Temporary Work Skilled (subclass 457), who no longer meet the age requirement, may also benefit.
These are special situation that recognising highly skilled migrants who chose to stay in Australia throughout the pandemic, while continuing to address Australia’s acute shortages. This allows skilled migrants to stay in Australia, with a pathway to Australian citizenship.
The Migration Minister, Mr Hawke said there were about 20,000 visa holders who may benefit from the changes, with the largest cohorts employed in the health and hospitality industries. These changes could make a huge difference for those people who have been living and working in the major cities in certain hospitality jobs and struggled to progress to permanent residency. The department spokesperson said the changes announced on 25 November 2021 will be implemented progressively from December 2021 through to 1 July 2022.
Permanent residency for skilled migrants in the regions
In addition to that the temporary migrants who were stranded offshore due to the pandemic have been the hardest hit, thought who are in Australia could be in a “good position”. Among the new permanent residency pathways the skilled regional subclass 191 visa for people who have lived, worked and studied in a designated regional area on a previous, eligible visa. This will be a pathway that if you have to be on a 494 visa for three years and then apply for the 191,”the visa does not start until 16 November 2022, according to the department.
‘Section 48 bar’ lifted for skilled migration visas
The Skilled migrants that currently are in Australia, will be also temporarily being given the opportunity to apply onshore for three skilled migration visa subclasses following a change to section 48 of the Migration Act.
Section 48 bar applies to applicants who have had a visa refused or cancelled since their last entry into Australia.
The minister Mr Hawke agreed to temporarily include the following visa subclasses in the list of exempted visas: 491, 494 and 190. “You have enormous subsets of people in Australia who are on bridging visas waiting for a migration hearing, which can take five years”. “Those people are now being invited to make applications in Australia for permanent residence and provisional visas that will allow them to eventually apply for permanent residency.
This will be a big opening and it’s going to a big pool of people who previously weren’t able to apply. Although the law is in place now but it’s going to be affecting things in 2022. The additional subclasses will be removed from the list of exempt visas once the COVID situation ends.
New visa settings for temporary graduate visa holders
Temporary graduate visa holders stranded offshore and unable to travel to Australia due to the pandemic will be also able to apply for a replacement visa – but there is a wait.
The government said in November the concession would allow current or former temporary graduate (subclass 485) visa holders whose visas expired on or after 1 February 2020 to re-apply for a new visa of the same duration from 1 July 2022.
The 485 visas are offered to recently graduated international students with skills in specific occupations aimed at allowing them to continue to work in Australia.
There will be other changes to temporary graduate visa settings, including an increase to the stay period on the 485 visa for Masters by Coursework graduates from two to three years, and from 18 to 24 months for the Graduate Work stream. The concessions already announced for temporary graduate visa holders are complex but worth exploring.
The department said these changes will be implemented from 1 December 2021 to 1 July 2022, with further details expected on the department’s website. Applications for the replacement visa can be made from 1 July 2022.