Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, migration to Australia has fallen drastically, owing to extensive travel prohibitions and border closures, although it is predicted to rebound in 2022.
This is according to the Treasury’s mid-year economic statement, which reveals that while net overseas immigration is predicted to be approximately minus 41,000 people in 2021-22, it is expected to rise to 1,80,000 people in 2022-23.
Australia’s migration program is established each year and runs from 1 July to 30 June of each fiscal year. The projection for 2024-25 stays at 2,35,000 persons. International borders of Australia have reopened to overseas students and certain skilled visa holders on December 15, 2021, nearly six months sooner than anticipated in the federal budget.
Permanent resident cardholders of Australia and Australian nationals can also enter the country, and their immediate family members can apply for a visa.
While many temporary visa holders departed Australia during the pandemic owing to a lack of work and welfare support, Ben Watt, a migration lawyer at Visa Envoy, believes the focus will now be on granting permanent residency pathways to those who stayed, with a few of those immigration routes already announced.
“To me, [the Department of Home Affairs] seems to want to fill that 1,60,000 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,” he said.
“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 planning for 2021-22 was kept at 1,60,000 places and carried over the previous year’s composition, which meant 79,600 spots for the Skill stream, 77,300 for Family, 100 for Special Eligibility, and 3,000 for minors.
As part of its economic recovery, the government announced significant visa modifications in November to keep highly educated foreigners in crucial sectors. The migrants and skilled workers who have stayed back in the country during the pandemic will be eligible for permanent residency under the new rules.
“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.
Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa holders in the short-term stream may get benefitted from the current modifications to the stream, who were previously limited to a two-year stay in the absence of such a pathway. Holders of the now-defunct Temporary Work Skilled (subclass 457) visa who do not satisfy the age limit criteria may also get the benefit.
“This is a special concession recognizing those highly skilled migrant workers who chose to stay in Australia throughout the pandemic while continuing to address Australia’s acute shortages. This allows them to stay here, with a pathway to Australian citizenship,” Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said at the time.
The Immigration Minister stated that the revisions may benefit approximately 20,000 visa holders, with the largest cohorts working in the health and hospitality industries.
According to Mr Watt, the amendments will make a significant impact for those who have been living and working in large cities in particular hospitality jobs and have failed to gain permanent status. As per the department official, the modifications announced on November 25, 2021, would be phased in from December 2021 to July 1, 2022.
The Australian Immigration Agency’s managing director, Ruby Fowdar, said temporary migrants who were stranded offshore due to the virus outbreak were the most affected. Visa holders in Australia, on the other hand, are in a “good position“.
The skilled regional subclass 191 visa was among the new permanent residency paths she emphasized, which is available to persons who have previously lived, worked, and studied in a designated regional area on an appropriate visa.
According to the department, the visa would not be issued until November 16, 2022.
Hong Kong nationals living in Australia will also be able to apply for new specialized pathways to permanent residency beginning in March 2022. The Government of Australia announced in November the creation of two new visa categories, subclass 189 (Hong Kong Skilled Independent Stream) and subclass 191 (Hong Kong Regional Stream), as part of Australia’s commitment to improving ties with Hong Kong.
It is expected that around 8,800 current temporary skilled, graduate, and student visa holders will be eligible for two new visa streams that will open on March 5, 2022.
“These new visas will provide a pathway for temporary graduates and temporary skilled workers from Hong Kong currently in Australia on extended visas and will build on the already close family connections and economic ties with Hong Kong that have existed for many years,” Mr Hawke said.
The Australian Government will also change the New Zealand pathway in 2021 to assist qualified temporary visa holders who are New Zealand nationals in obtaining permanent residency in Australia.
Changes to the New Zealand stream of the Skilled Independent (Subclass 189) visa went into effect on July 1, 2021, reducing the number of years an eligible applicant must satisfy the required income criterion (from at least four to three of the last five income years).
In addition, the government has put in place mechanisms to assist temporary visa holders who were on a road to permanent residency before Covid-19 in maintaining their eligibility. “As of 13 November 2021, New Zealand citizens applying for the New Zealand stream of the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa will be able to claim an exemption from meeting the income requirement for the 2020-21 income year,” the department spokesperson said.
Following a revision to section 48 of the Migration Act, skilled migrants in Australia will also be able to apply onshore for three skilled migration visa categories for the time being. Applicants who have had a visa refused or canceled since their last arrival in Australia are subject to the Section 48 ban.
Following visa subclasses in the list of exempted visas: 491, 494, and 190 have been included temporarily, according to Mr Hawke. According to a department official, the adjustment is only in effect during the current Covid-19 emergency. “The additional subclasses will be removed from the list of exempt visas once this period ends,” they said.
The current or previous temporary graduate (subclass 485) visa holders whose visas lapsed on or after February 1, 2020, will be able to reapply for a new visa of the same period beginning 1 July 2022, the government had announced in November.
The 485 visas are available to freshly graduated overseas students with abilities in particular occupations who wish to continue working in Australia. Additional modifications to temporary graduate visa settings include extending the stay length on the 485 visas for Masters by Coursework graduates by two to three years and from 18 to 24 months for Graduate Work graduates.
The concessions already revealed are complicated but worth investigating “because they are attempting to do a bit of justice for these folks”, stated Mr Watt.
These modifications would be applied “gradually” from December 1, 2021, to July 1, 2022, with additional information expected on the department’s website. Beginning July 1, 2022, Applications for replacement visas will be accepted.