Lockdown measures have created a rough time for many around the world. Australian students stuck abroad are no exception, though the government has offered fast solutions to the problem.
As of now, graduate visa holders (temporary) stuck abroad are eligible to receive a replacement visa, even under COVID-19 restrictions.
The Australian government has announced those changes in late November, allowing former and current graduate visa holders (under subclass 485) new visa applications. However, this will only apply to visas explored after February 1st, 2020.
Subclass 485 Visa Details
Subclass 485 visas are issued to international students who recently graduated. Students must demonstrate skills in certain occupations that allow them to return and continue working in Australia.
Due to pandemic lockdowns, there were concerns that many temporary visa holders were at risk of losing their work rights, especially after being locked out due to international border shutdowns.
As of now, it’s estimated that 30,000 individuals have expired 485 visas, or are close to their visa expiration dates.
Beyond allowing visa renewals, the Australian government plans to increase residency per visa to three years (originally being at two). The visa modifications will also account for time spent by students studying offshore, which will factor into their qualification for temporary visa renewals.
The modifications also apply to skilled individuals beyond students. As of 1st December, the Australian government is allowing fully vaccinated international students, skilled immigrants, and humanitarian migrants access to Australia.
According to Minister Alex Hawke, the new modifications provide “much-needed reprieve” with Australian borders nearing a re-open date.
Minster Hawke has also outlined that the modifications aren’t just a relief attempt for international students. He has remarked it as a necessity for Australian economic recovery, allowing the country to retrieve and maintain its skilled labor base.
Visa Holders Reacting Positively to the Updates
The visa settings changes come after calls from 485 holders voicing their concerns over expiration, especially after facing 2+ years of lockdowns out of Australia.
Senator Nick McKim, a prime campaigner for visa extensions has welcomed the changes as a relief to thousands of Australians overseas. He outlined in a recent statement that the changes will allow visa holders to restart planning their future again, especially after two years hold on to their studies and careers.
However, this doesn’t seem to be the end for visa extensions. The Australian government is extending its visas provisional visa holders (skilled regional), those including subclasses (489 – 491 – 494), whom are also locked out due to pandemic travel restrictions.
Immigration Minister Hawke remarked that this allows “additional time to meet regional work requirements for permanent residence.”
Additional Relief to the Education Sector
The Australian government has announced additional financial support for the educational sector (international), as preparation for the return of 485 visa holders next year.
The new funds provide fee relief of up to $28 million to the international education sector. Around $9 million will be given as grants to institutions that offer intensive English language courses for students overseas.
Also, there will be an extension on loan exemptions up to December 2022, which according to the government, will financially assist up to 30,000 undergraduates.
Alan Tudge, Minister of Education and Youth, has also mentioned that the support will accelerate recovery from COVID-19 conditions for 2022’s academic year, helping ensure a “rapid return of international students”.