In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects it has had on potential visa applicants and visa holders the Australian government has introduced a legislative instrument amending certain parts of the Migration Regulations 1994 (the Migration Regulations) to provide concessions to this cohort of impacted individuals.
This has been introduced to safeguard visa holders and minimise any disadvantage caused by circumstances beyond their control which include border closures and restrictions placed upon businesses.
The new legislation provides concessions to visa requirements and conditions where the holder of that visa is prevented or disrupted from meeting them due to the impact of COVID-19.
The main amendments are as follows:
Amendment 1 – Schedule 1, Part 1 – COVID-19 Concession Period
The first amendment has added a concession period into the Migration Regulations. This concession period is to be taken into consideration when assessing visa requirements and conditions of visa holders by the Department of Home Affairs.
The concession period began on 1 February 2020 and currently does not have an end date due to the ongoing health situation and associated uncertainty.
The end date will be decided upon by the Minister at a later date.
Amendment 2 – Schedule 1, Part 2 – Subclass 887 (Skilled – Regional) visas
This second amendment includes changes to the following:
- Will allow primary and secondary provisional visa holders, as well as previous provisional visa holders whose visa expired during the above concession period, to apply for a subclass 887 visa offshore during the same outlined concession period;
- Will allow for those eligible to apply for their subclass 887 visa offshore to have concession towards the requirement to live for at least two years in a specified regional area. If the applicant is outside Australia, and made their application during the concession period, they will have taken to have lived in a specified regional area for six months;
- It has reduced the working time requirement from 12 months to 9 months if the applicant held a provisional visa during the concession period and they have submitted their application for a subclass 887 visa no later than three months after the end date of the concession period; and
- The provisional visas discussed in this part of the amendment include the subclass 489, subclass 475, subclass 487, subclass 495 and subclass 496 visas.
Amendment 3 – Schedule 1, Part 3 – Subclass 888 (Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent)) visas and the subclass 188 (Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional)) visas
The third amendment includes changes to the following:
- Allows for previous subclass 188 visa holders to apply for a subclass 888 visa if their visa ceased during the concession period and the application is made no later that three months after the end of the concession period;
- Holders of subclass 188 visa granted before 1 July 2019 will still be able to apply for the subclass 188 extension as long as the application is made no later than three months after the concession period ends;
- Will allow subclass 188 visas holder who have been affected by COVID-19 restrictions to apply for up to two visa extensions (increasing from the previous one extension);
- Will modify the investment requirements for subclass 888 visa applicants, allowing them to withdraw or cancel their investments during the concession period where the subclass 188 visa holder has met the living in Australia for two years requirement;
- Will modify the investment requirements for the Significant Investor Stream of the subclass 888 visa which will allow 188 holders to cancel or withdraw their balancing investment during a concession period if they still maintain their venture capital investment competent of their visa requirements; and
- Will ensure that visa holders who are subject to them holding an investment throughout the visa period are still able to meet their requirements after withdrawing or cancelling investments under the new arrangements.
Amendment four – Schedule 1, Part 5 – Subclass 485 (Temporary Graduate) visas
The fourth amendment includes changes to the following:
- Allow applicants to apply for a subclass 485 visa from either inside or outside Australia during the concession period as long as they have held a student visa within the previous six months;
- Will extend the period of six months to now 12 months to meet the Australian Study Requirement for those applicants who are prevented from returning to Australia due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions during the period from 1 February 2020 to 19 September 2020;
- Will allow applicants to be granted their subclass 485 visa irrespective of whether they are inside or outside Australia during the concession period; and
- Will allow applicants to be granted their subclass 485 visa irrespective of whether they are inside or outside Australia outside of the concession period as long as the application was made during the concession period.
For more information on these amendments and to view the addition two amendments, you can view the Migration Amendment (COVID-19 Concessions) Regulations 2020.
If you believe you qualify for one of these concessions and are wondering what this means for your current and future visas, please do not hesitate to reach out to our experienced team of migration lawyers for assistance.
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