Welcome Relief for Australian Skilled Visa Holders

Some Skilled Visa holders will have their visas extended.  These include a particular group of people who have been very concerned about Australia’s travel bans.

These people hold a temporary or provisional visa with strict qualifying parameters that can’t be easily repeated.  For example, a Skilled Graduate (Subclass 485) Visa can only be lodged within 6 months of finishing your studies in Australia.  You’re hardly likely to embark on another 4 years of study if you couldn’t take advantage of your graduate visa because of the pandemic!  The Subclass 489 and 491 (Skilled Regional Provisional) visas require many hoops to be jumped through – expression of interest, skills assessment, English test, state nomination, passing the points test, and a good dose of luck!  The chance of being able to qualify for this visa twice, is low – and frankly I doubt many people would have the energy!

But, many people held a 485, 489, 491 or 494 (Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional) visa granted prior to the health emergency in February 2020, and were outside Australia while the travel bans were in place.  Entry restrictions were not relaxed for most of these people, leaving them wondering how they would meet the next lot of hoops that have to be jumped through, to qualify for permanent residency.

We were fairly confident that the Department of Home Affairs would eventually offer relaxations to these visa holders, and – after an anxious wait for many – that day has come.  And, because borders will open at midnight tonight (21st February), it will be possible for affected people stuck overseas to travel back to Australia.

Now the legislation has finally arrived, which spells out the exact relaxations offered.  And, they are surprisingly generous.  The main changes are summarised below.

Subclass 489 – Skilled Regional Sponsored Provisional – Visa Holders

If you hold a Subclass 489 Visa which was in effect between 1st February 2020 and 14th December 2021, and you were outside Australia for any time during that period, your Subclass 489 validity date will be extended to 7 years from the date of grant.  Even if your 489 visa ceased during the time period above, you will still benefit from this, because the concession is retrospective, and commences on the 31st January 2020.  Note, the concession will not apply if your 489 visa was cancelled.

This provides up to another 3 years for visa holders to meet the requirements for the Subclass 887 (permanent residency) visa.

A note of caution for people who may have already applied for the 887 visa, after completing 4 years on a Subclass 489 visa.   You’re probably holding a Bridging Visa A with no conditions.   But, if your 489 has been automatically reinstated, it’s most likely the regional conditions (8539 and 8549) have returned.  We advise checking your VEVO.  If you, or any of your family, are no longer living, studying or working solely in a regional area, you could now be non-compliant with the 489 visa.

With the Subclass 887 Visa, relaxations to the qualifying criteria were announced last year for certain people.  These included – a reduction of the work requirement from 12 months to 9 months; a concession of 6 months of residency requirement if you were offshore for any period; the ability to make application for the 887 from offshore, even if your 489 has expired, and the ability to add children born outside Australia to the 887 visa.

Subclass 491  – Skilled Work Regional Provisional – Visa Holders and Subclass 494 – Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional Provisional Visa Holders

If your Subclass 491 or 494 visa was in effect on any day between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021, and you were outside Australia for any time during that period, and the visa is in effect on the 18 February 2022, your visa validity date will be extended to 8 years from the date of grant.

This provides an additional 3 years for you to meet the requirements of the Subclass 191 permanent visa.  As this visa has only been available since late 2019, none will expire before 2024, so this means that qualifying 491 visa holders will receive an extension until at least 2027.

Subclass 485 – Skilled Graduate – Visa Holders

If you held a Subclass 485 Visa granted while you were in Australia, and you were outside Australia on any day between 1 February 2020 and the 14 December 2021 while the visa was in effect, and the expiry date of the visa is before 1 October 2022; the visa has not been cancelled, and you have not obtained another visa – your Subclass 485 visa will be extended to the 31st September 2022.

Even if your 485 visa ceased during the time period above, you will still benefit from this, because the concession is retrospective, and commences on the 31st January 2020.  But you won’t be eligible if your 485 visa was cancelled.

Further, for people who meet the criteria above, a replacement 485 visa will also be available, for the same validity period as your first 485 visa.  Applications for the new 485 visa are expected to be available mid-year.

Wow that sounds great!  How do I make it happen?

You don’t need to do anything for your visa to be extended.  Your visa, and those of your accompanying family members, will be automatically updated with the new expiry date.  This could take a few days for the Department to implement.  Check your VEVO and when it’s been updated, notice your new expiry date.

If you’re going for the replacement Subclass 485 visa, you will need to actively apply for that one, when it becomes available.

Need help or advice?  Contact us to arrange a consultation.

Leanne Stevens

CEO, Emergico // Registered Migration Agent (#1171279)