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Australian visas: What’s changing from July 1 and impact on international students and skilled migrants

After a tumultuous year of immigration policy changes enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic, international students, skilled migrants, partners and aged parents seeking to visit or to permanently migrate are heading into the next financial year facing an uncertain future “like never before.”

General Skilled migration:

All jurisdictions usually adjust their occupation lists to accommodate the next year’s allocations of places for visas.

But this year, migration agents warn changes would be more “significant yet short term” to accommodate Australia’s response to the ongoing health crisis, which has blocked many existing visa holders from entering the country.

Here’s what you need to know, state and territory wide:


The state government will start accepting new applications for the Skilled Nominated (Permanent) visa (subclass 190) and the Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491) in the financial year 2020-2021, subject to an announcement.

Like the rest of Australia, Victoria is also facing multiple challenges owing to the COVID-19-induced health and financial crisis.

New South Wales:

In a significant development for visa hopefuls, NSW opened its Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491) – applications for which closed on June 26, 2020.

The state relaxed the 12-month living and removed the working requirement paving another pathway for skilled migrants planning to work and live in the state.

South Australia:

The state has said it will reopen its nomination application system for 190/491 in early August, subject to an announcement.

Western Australia:

The WA government made changes to their occupation list on 16 June 2020, removing Registered Nurse (Mental Health) (254422) and adding Nuclear Medicine Technologist (251213) and Physicist (234914) – with the specialisation of Medical Physicist.


Business and Skilled Migration Queensland (BSMQ) has also closed its state nomination program. The state is now awaiting advice from the Department of Home Affairs with regards to its nomination allocation for the financial year 2020-21.

Northern Territory:

The NT program remains closed to offshore applicants at this stage. New eligibility requirements for all nominations will apply as of 1 July 2020.

Australian Capital Territory:

In Australian Capital Territory, only 81 invitations were issued for subclass 190 in the latest round on June 3, as compared 485 in the previous round. Whereas, no invitations were issued for subclass 491 owing to “sufficient applications in the queue,” as per information available on the state website.

The next invitation round is due on or before 15 July, subject to an announcement.


Tasmania has allowed some flexibility for some applicants affected by COVID-19 who are trying to meet the requirements for state nomination.

As of 20 March 2020, 491 applications have been temporarily restricted until further notice to occupations listed in the ‘high demand’ section of the Tasmanian Skilled Occupation List (TSOL).

In-demand occupations:

It is suspected that occupations critical to the country’s response to the pandemic and economic recovery will remain in high demand.

Health professionals are now getting priority which was evident from an increase in visa invitations for 189, 190, 491categories.

Accounting and IT graduates in Australia could also benefit due to lesser competition owing to a significant anticipated decline in offshore applications in FY 20-21. Also, state nominations under 491 could be a blessing for graduates who are unable to secure an invite under the highly competitive subclass 189 or 190 streams.

Onshore vs offshore:

Migration agent Jujhar Bajwa said this year is expected to yield better outcomes for onshore international students and skilled migrants, particularly those who are living in the regional areas across the country.

“2019 saw an increased push towards regional areas and this financial year is going to be no exception. But FY 20-21 is expected to be far more beneficial for visa hopefuls currently in Australia as opposed to those who remain stranded outside the country due to border closures,” he said.

Mr Bajwa said the federal government’s focus is towards protecting the interests of Australians and temporary migrants who remain in the country.

“It is a great time for temporary visa holders who are currently in Australia and have their skillset ready to lodge their visa applications in designated regional areas where their occupations are in high demand,” he said.

Impact on international students:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the federal government is working with the states and territories on plans to allow some international students to return on a pilot basis.

In a powerful ultimatum to all jurisdictions, the prime minister reiterated that the states and territories eager to allow international students back into the country will first have to fulfil the prerequisites laid down by the national cabinet.

“There is a range of prerequisites the states are well aware of and they need top applied,” said Mr Morrison.

Processing times:

International lockdowns to contain the COVID-19 outbreak have triggered visa processing issues across the globe, leading to ‘significant’ processing delays due unavailability of key assessment services and the consequent inability of applicants to meet visa criteria.

In response to SBS Punjabi’s query, a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs earlier said: “Visas continue to be processed during the coronavirus pandemic, though some applications may take longer as international shutdowns have made it difficult to source supplementary information like health and character checks.”

Ranbir Singh said, “this may well continue into the next financial year.”

“Offshore applicants – be it for partners, students, parents, skilled migrants, or visitors – they will continue to feel the pinch until all source countries find a way to contain the pandemic,” he said.

“For instance, the processing time for a contributory parent visa application has already ballooned to over four years.”

Source: SBS

If you are unclear about what sort of visa you could apply for or you need a visa for a loved one or family member to come to Australia, contact one of our excellent migration agents today and arrange a consultation.