2020 Wrapped: Summary of Australian Visa Changes
Australian visa changes were introduced throughout 2020 as Australia has confirmed its first COVID-19 case of a Chinese-nation boarded from Guangzhou to Melbourne in January 2020.
Since then, the Prime Minister of Australia recommended that Australians not travel to China, and advised them to leave China as soon as possible if they were in China at the time.
With all the visa changes, some of them will be applicable in 2021.
What are the Australian Visa changes, and how do these changes affect Australian visa holders?
Here is the key points of Australian visa regulation changes in 2020 for you:
- Regulation Changes for Work and Holiday (462) Visa and Working Holiday (417) Visa;
- Regulation Changes for Australian International Student;
- Visa Changes on Work Arrangements for Temporary Visa Holders;
- Regulation Changes for Australian Partner and Family Visa Application;
- COVID-19 Concessions for Employer-Sponsored TR and 887 Visa Holders;
- Regulation Changes for Business Innovation and Investment Program;
- Regulation Changes for Student Visa;
- Concessions for Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) Post-Study Stream Visa Regulation;
- Australian Travel Restriction Will Continue Until March 2021;
Corona Virus Outbreak Affected Chinese Travellers
At the beginning of 2020, the Australian Government denied entry to any travellers left or transited at mainland China.
The situation affected the China-nation travellers who held an Australian temporary visa as the COVID-19 outbreak deterred them from returning to China.
So, it was difficult for them to either leave or stay in Australia. Many flights were cancelled that were scheduled to fly to China.
To stay legally in Australia, they had applied for a visa extension as the situation was beyond their control.
Due to COVID-19 Pandemic, the Australian Government announced some changes for Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa and Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa following the Morrison Government’s announcement on 5 March 2020.
The changes have allowed Working Holiday Maker to work with the same employer for twelve months, which previously only allowed them to work for six months.
The Government also changed the definition of ‘specified work’ for visa 462 to ensure construction work in a disaster declared area is included. Additionally, the paid and volunteer disaster recovery worker would be counted as ‘specified work’ towards eligibility for a second or third year of visa 417 and visa 462.
On 14 November 2020, the Australian Government added the critical COVID-19 work in the healthcare and medical sectors to define ‘specified work’. It aimed to facilitate the Working Holiday Makers who shifted to COVID-19 Pandemic event visa (subclass 408) to fulfil the eligibility for their second or third year WHM visa.
The changes brought a significant impact for WHM visa holders as they have more flexibility to stay legally in Australia while contributing to Australia’s economic recovery.
2. Regulation Changes for Australian International Student
DESE, along with TEQSA and ASQA, announced some education regulation changes, specifically for the Australian International Student. There were three changes made which impacted the International students.
Firstly, educators were allowed to provide flexible learning arrangements, including online learning arrangement regardless of their location.
The learning arrangements must meet the Australian Standards of Education. Secondly, students were allowed to ask for additional sessions if they have missed the classes with a compelling reason.
Lastly, for the students who wanted to apply for a Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa, were required to stay in Australia for not less than 16 months.
Under the new arrangements, International students would have a chance to continue their study from their home country. They also could ask for additional classes if they could not attend the course due to a compelling situation.
3. Visa Changes on Work Arrangements for Temporary Visa Holders
The changes included in several industries, such as:
a. Regulation Changes in Agriculture Industry
The worker under Seasonal Worker Program, Pacific Labour Scheme, and Working Holiday can extend their stay in Australia by:
- Applying for visa 408 (Temporary Activity), for Seasonal Worker Program and Working Holiday workers;
- Applying for visa 403 (Temporary Work International Relation), for Pacific Labour Scheme workers.
Temporary workers under these programs would also be able to work for more than one employer with approval. For critical sector workers under the Working Holiday program would be exempted from the six months working limitation.
b. Regulation Changes in Supermarket Industry
On 4 April 2020, the Australian Government announced to cease the temporary relaxation of the 40-hour work limit for the student visa holders.
Then, starting from 1 May 2020, the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force would exercise normal discretion concerning student visa holders who had exceeded the work limitations of their visa.
In addition, student visa holders who worked in a supermarket following the temporary measure between 7 March 2020 and 30 April 2020 would not be impacted by the situation or be prosecuted by the Department and the Australian Border Force.
c. Regulation Changes in Aged Care Industry
Under the new changes, International students who worked in the aged care industry were allowed to work more than 40 hours a fortnight. All aged care Approved Providers, or Commonwealth-funded aged care service providers have been given access to the temporary relaxation of working hours for the student visa holders. These were temporary measures and will still be reviewed by the Government regularly.
d. Regulation Changes in Medical Nursing Industry
The changes allowed International students who enrolled in the nursing program to work in the medical nursing industry to help and support the fight against COVID-19 directed by health officials.
e. Regulation Changes in Ship Industry
On 20 May 2020, the Minister of Health Department extended the restrictions under the Biosecurity Determination 2020 for cruise ships in Australia. It included an extension to 17 September 2020 for cruise ships to enter Australian territory and Australian ports and continuing application of the restriction to cruise ships capable of carrying 100 or more passengers.
f. Regulation Changes in Airline Industry
Starting from 20 March 2020, airline staff should ensure that only exempt travellers board a flight to Australia. The airline crew were exempted from home quarantine requirements from 24 June 2020 with the condition that they have only been within Australia and New Zealand for the past 14 days.
4. Regulation Changes for Australian Partner and Family Visa Application
The Australian Government announced some changes for partner and family visa in 2020. However, the changes will be available in early 2021 and will be applicable temporarily following the COVID-19 outbreak.
The changes will allow the partner and family visa applicants to stay in Australia while extending their offshore visa or to wait for their visa grant. Previously, the partner and family visa applicants that applied for their visa offshore must be outside of Australia when the Department decided on the visa.
However, given the situation many offshore partner and family visa applicants are stuck in Australia due to the travel restrictions. Hence, to lift the visa applicants’ burden, the Australian Government decided to grant their offshore visa, even though they are in Australia when the visa is granted.
5. COVID-19 Concessions for Employer-Sponsored TR and 887 Visa Holders
a. COVID-19 Concessions for Employer-Sponsored TR
The concessions include:
- Reduced Working Hours
The 482 visa holders who had to cut off their working hours due to COVID-19 outbreak, will still have an opportunity to be Australian permanent resident. It is following this situation where the Australian Government decided to amend and implement Transitional operation of regulation 5.19 for certain 457 visa holders, which also affected the 482 visa holders.
- Higher Income Threshold Age Exemption
According to the LIN20/189, the visa holders would be still eligible for age exemption even though they have not met the Fair Work High Income Threshold (FWHIT) income due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Precisely, the concession would not count their impacted working weeks.The concessions are beneficial for these visa holders, especially those 482 visa holders who have fulfilled the 2 or 3 years full-time working requirements and applied for permanent residency through 186 or 187 visas because their application would not be delayed. These visa holders would still be eligible for age exemption even though they have not met the FWHIT income due to COVID-19 Pandemic.
b. COVID-19 Concessions for 887 visa holders
Before the COVID-19 Concessions, 887 visa applicants were required to live for at least two years in designated regional areas and work full-time for at least 12 months. They are also obliged to apply for an 887 visa in Australia while holding an eligible visa.
Due to COVID-19 Pandemic, many of them lost their jobs and had to go back to their home country thus being unable to meet these qualifications.
Following the situation, the Department of Home Affairs announced COVID-19 Concessions for onshore and offshore 887 visa applicants. The concessions can be seen in the table below.
|Visa Lodgment Location||Employment Concession (9 months)||Residence Concession (18 months)|
|Visa Lodgment Location||Employment Concession (9 months)||Residence Concession (18 months)|
The concessions allow the 887 visa applicants to apply for and wait for the visa grant in their home country. Meaning they do not need to wait for the uncertainty to be a permanent resident in Australia.
6. Regulation Changes for Business Innovation and Investment Program
As part of Australian visa changes in 2020, the Australian Government also announced some changes for the Business Innovation and Investment Program.
Under the new changes, the program is reduced from nine streams to four streams, namely Business Innovation, Entrepreneur, Investor, and Significant Investor.
The provisional visa in these streams will be valid for five years, as a result the holders have more time to meet the permanent residency requirement. The Australian Government would also discuss any further changes to the Complying Investment Framework within the industry. The framework itself will be disclosed in the early half of 2021.
Due to the changes, the Business Innovation and Significant Investor visa holders will still be eligible to extend their provisional visas if they could not meet the business and residency threshold within the required time.
The two-year extension will be applicable if they can show commitment to make significant investments in enforcement. Additionally, the Entrepreneur visa holders will get a simpler threshold as the current $200,000 funding threshold will be eliminated.
Starting from 1 July 2021, any applications for Premium Investor, Significant Business History, and Venture Capital Entrepreneur visa will be closed. But, the applications that have been lodged will still be processed.
7. Regulation Changes for Student Visa
In July 2020, the Australian Government made several changes for Student Visa regulation in response to COVID-19 Pandemic. The changes are:
a. Free International Student Visa Fee
The student visa holders would be eligible for the fee waiver if they wished to extend their student visa because they could not complete their study within their visa’s original validity. The changes are only applicable to those who have held a student visa on or after 1 February 2020. The students needed to complete form 1545 – COVID-19 Impacted Student to apply for the fee waiver.
b. Temporary closure for International Students arrival
International students could not enter Australia as the Australian Government closes its international border. The students had to inform the education provider regarding their situation.
c. Extended Processing Time for English Proficiency Requirements
The offshore student visa applicants who could not provide the English Proficiency certificate would get an extended processing time to provide it.
d. Online study is recognized as part of the minimum two-years of study requirement
The International students who could not enter Australia to attend offline classes would still be eligible for the Temporary Graduate Visa application whilst offshore. International students could add online courses to fulfil the two-years study requirement.
8. Concessions for Temporary Graduate (Subclass 485) Post-Study Stream Visa Regulation
The concession for Temporary Graduate Post-Study Stream Visa was a 1-2 years extension on the visa.
The extension would depend on the applicants’ current regional area. The concession would be applicable for visa holders who live in Australian regional areas.
The concession would give them extra time to find work in their chosen occupation or apply for other visa options. The one-year extension will be available in 2021 if the visa holders have spent at least two years in regional areas.
9. Australian Travel Restriction Will Continue Until March 2021
The Australian Government has implemented a travel restriction since 18 March 2020 which aimed to protect the Australians’ health. In December 2020, the Australian Government announced to continue its travel restriction until 17 March 2021, following the extension of the biosecurity emergency period.
Even though the Australian international border will not open until next March, the travellers are still able to apply for Australian visas. It will be better to prepare the visa application as soon as possible, so once the international border is opened, the travellers can enter Australia from the start.
Are you wondering about your chance to enter Australia in 2021?
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