Australian Visa Changes And The Implications For Skilled Migrants And Students
So far this year we have witnessed significant immigration policy changes enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Impacted cohorts include skilled migrants, international students, partners and aged parents seeking to visit or to permanently migrate.
As we move forward in this state of uncertainty and into the new financial year, further major changes to be introduced that are likely to impact both existing and prospective visa holders include:
- Critical sector occupations will get priority under state nomination programs.
- Onshore visa applicants, including international students are likely to have an “edge” over offshore applicants.
- Offshore visa applicants are to remain “worst-affected” by processing delays bought about as a result of workplace restrictions due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.
So here is the situation:
- All jurisdictions usually adjust their occupation lists to accommodate the next year’s allocations of places for visas at the start of the financial year.
- This year changes would be more significant to accommodate Australia’s response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.
Here is a State by State snapshot:
- The state government will start accepting new applications for the Skilled Nominated (Permanent) visa (subclass 190) and the Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491) in the financial year 2020-2021, subject to an announcement.
- Like the rest of Australia, Victoria is also facing multiple challenges owing to the COVID-19 induced health and financial crisis.
- Priority will be given to occupations in sectors critical to the Coronavirus response, such as medicine, infrastructure, tradies, etc, over other occupations.
- “It seems apparent that applicants possessing critical skills will be given priority in the new financial year. Out of which those onshore are likely to receive priority processing.
New South Wales:
- In a significant development for visa hopefuls, NSW opened its Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491) – applications for which closed on June 26, 2020.
- The state relaxed the 12-month living and removed the working requirement paving another pathway for skilled migrants planning to work and live in the state.
- The state has said it will reopen its nomination application system for 190/491 in early August, subject to an announcement.
- The WA government made changes to their occupation list on 16 June 2020, removing Registered Nurse (Mental Health) (254422) and adding Nuclear Medicine Technologist (251213) and Physicist (234914) – with the specialisation of Medical Physicist.
- Business and Skilled Migration Queensland (BSMQ) has also closed its state nomination program. The state is now awaiting advice from the Department of Home Affairs with regards to its nomination allocation for the financial year 2020-21.
- The NT program remains closed to offshore applicants at this stage. New eligibility requirements for all nominations will apply as of 1 July 2020.
- International students living in the territory will have a clear edge over other applicants in the new financial year.
- Student visa holders who live in the designated areas and those who keep upscaling their skill sets which are in high demand in the territory have higher chances to be considered for the permanent residency visa nomination.
Australian Capital Territory:
- Only 81 invitations were issued for subclass 190 in the latest round on June 3, as compared 485 in the previous round. Whereas, no invitations were issued for subclass 491 owing to “sufficient applications in the queue,” as per information available on the state website.
- The next invitation round is due on or before 15 July, subject to an announcement.
- Tasmania has allowed some flexibility for some applicants affected by COVID-19 who are trying to meet the requirements for state nomination.
- As of 20 March 2020, 491 applications have been temporarily restricted until further notice to occupations listed in the ‘high demand’ section of the Tasmanian Skilled Occupation List (TSOL).
- Occupations critical to the country’s response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic and economic recovery will remain in high demand.
- Health professionals are now getting priority which was evident from an increase in visa invitations for 189, 190, 491categories.
- Accounting and IT graduates in Australia could also benefit due to lesser competition owing to a significant anticipated decline in offshore applications in FY 20-21. Also, state nominations under 491 could be a blessing for graduates who are unable to secure an invite under the highly competitive subclass 189 or 190 streams.
Onshore vs offshore:
- This year is expected to yield better outcomes for onshore international students and skilled migrants, particularly those who are living in the regional areas across the country.
- 2019 saw an increased push towards regional areas and this financial year is going to be no exception. But FY 20-21 is expected to be far more beneficial for visa hopefuls currently in Australia as opposed to those who remain stranded outside the country due to border closures.
- The federal government’s focus is towards protecting the interests of Australians and temporary migrants who remain in the country.
- “It is a great time for temporary visa holders who are currently in Australia and have their skillset ready to lodge their visa applications in designated regional areas where their occupations are in high demand.
Impact on international students:
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the federal government is working with the states and territories on plans to allow some international students to return on a pilot basis.
- In a powerful ultimatum to all jurisdictions, the prime minister reiterated that the states and territories eager to allow international students back into the country will first have to fulfil the prerequisites laid down by the national cabinet.
- International lockdowns to contain the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic have triggered visa processing issues across the globe, leading to ‘significant’ processing delays due unavailability of key assessment services and the consequent inability of applicants to meet visa criteria.
- Visas continue to be processed during the coronavirus pandemic, though some applications may take longer as international shutdowns have made it difficult to source supplementary information like health and criminal history checks.
- Offshore applicants – be it for partners, students, parents, skilled migrants, or visitors – they will continue to feel the pinch until all source countries find a way to contain the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.
Net overseas migration trends:
- With international border closures expected to be in place until next year, the federal government expects net overseas migration to fall to just 35,000 in 2020-21 – but it needs to be between 160,000 and 220,000 to maintain GDP per capita growth.
- This means the total number of migrants who will make Australia home this financial year, both temporary and permanent, will be far lower than it has been in a long time, as was reflected in the visa grants which fell dramatically in the past few months.
- Migration agents claim a post-pandemic Australia will find it difficult to recover in the absence of a large number of migrants.
- Migrants contribute to Australia’s economic growth, population, productivity and also make a significant contribution to the country’s social and cultural fabric.
Visa fees and charges:
- Australian visa charges increase each year on 1 July in line with the consumer price index (CPI). This increase is normally around 3 to 4 per cent.
- There is no clarity on whether visa cost will increase this year, given the unprecedented circumstances.
Certainty embedded into the Uncertainties:
Although we are in uncertain times and this is likely to continue into the future, there are certainties embedded into what is occurring. The longer the uncertainty continues:
- The higher the demand for a skilled workforce in Australia.
- The more likely current barriers will be removed to attract skilled migrants.
- Australia will have to fill the migration void suffered due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.
- Employers will be vying for the best candidates.
- Greater and better opportunities will become available for skilled migrants.
So where to from here:
Right now is a great time to assess your own situation and we suggest you consider a new life adventure in Australia. If you consider that is for you, or someone you know, then now is a great time for forward looking individuals to position themselves for first mover advantage for when the certainty kicks in and the opportunities abound.
In the first instance Contact us for a confidential discussion and refer family, friends and colleagues and be rewarded.