The Migration Amendment (COVID-19 Concessions) regulations 2020 is a new piece of legislation commencing on 19 September 2020 and amending the Migration Regulations 1994.
The new legislation aims to assist prescribed temporary and provisional visa holders, who may have been disadvantaged by the consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic, including border closures, restrictions imposed on businesses, and the general economic decline.
The new legislation introduces the definition of “concession period” and provides that:
- The concession period is the period that commences on 1 February 2020 and ends on a day to be specified.
An end date has not been provided in the legislation due to the ongoing COVID-19 challenges.
The concession period applies to applicants for various visas, including:
Skilled Graduate Visa (Subclass 485)
The Skilled Graduate Visa (Subclass 485) allows recent graduates to live, study, and work in Australia temporarily. This visa is exclusively for International students who apply and satisfy the Australian Study Requirement within 6 months of successfully completing their Australian tertiary studies.
The Skilled Graduate visa could only be lodged onshore however, from 19th September 2020, new legislation will allow applicants to apply and be granted Subclass 485 visas while in or outside Australia during a concession period.
The new legislation also provides concessions in relation to ‘time of application’ requirements, including:
- Allowing offshore applications during a concession period without the usual requirement to have held a student visa within the six months immediately before making the application.
- Extend the period to meet the Australian Study Requirement from six months to 12 months for applicants prevented from returning to Australia due to COVID-19 travel restrictions during all or part of the period commencing on 1 February 2020 and ending on 19 September 2020.
- Allowing applicants that made an offshore Subclass 485 visa application during a concession period to be granted the visa in or outside of Australia and regardless of whether the concession period has ended.
Skilled Regional Visa (Subclass 887)
This is the second stage visa process for applicants who hold a Skilled Provisional* visa and are now seeking permanent residence. Skilled Provisional visa holders can apply for Subclass 887 if they have lived for at least two years in regional Australia and worked full time for a total of one year in the specified regional area.
The second stage permanent residence visa could only be lodged onshore however, from 19th September 2020, new legislation will allow visa holders or former provisional visa holders (whose visas expired during a concession period) to apply and be granted Subclass 887 visas while outside Australia during a concession period.
The new legislation also provides concessions in relation to the residence and work requirements for visa holders or former provisional visa holders (whose visas expired during a concession period). These concessions are as follow:
- A visa applicant will be taken to have lived in regional Australia for six months (or a longer period if specified by the Minister) if the applicant was outside Australia during a concession period and made the application during the said period.
- The requirement for full-time work in a specified regional area is reduced from one year to 9 months (or a shorter period if specified by the Minister) if the applicant held a provisional visa during a concession period and the application is made no later than three months after the end of the concession period.
* Skilled Provisional visa is a reference to: sc489, sc457, sc487, sc495, sc496, and relevant bridging visas (when applicable).