COVID-19 Concessions for Skilled Regional 887 visa

The new COVID-19 Concessions for Subclass 887 are to ensure applicants are not disadvantaged by circumstances beyond their control, including border closures, restrictions imposed on businesses and the general economic downturn related to COVID-19.

The new concessions are in relation to application requirements, and visa criteria requiring specified periods of residence and full-time work in regional Australia. The Subclass 887 visa is a permanent visa and the amendments assist holders of qualifying provisional visas or related bridging visas, who are on a pathway to the permanent visa.

The Subclass 887 (Skilled – Regional) visa is a permanent visa. These amendments allow flexibility in meeting visa eligibility requirements for prospective Subclass 887 visa applicants and their families who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The amendments include changes to:

  • allow provisional visa holders and former provisional visa holders (whose visas expired during a concession period) to apply for a Subclass 887 visa while outside Australia during a concession period;
  • allow Subclass 887 visas to be granted to applicants who are outside Australia;
  • provide provisional visa holders and former provisional visa holders (whose visas expired during a concession period) with a concession toward the requirement to live for two years in a specified regional area. The applicant is taken to have lived in a specified regional area for six months (or a longer period specified in a legislative instrument) if the applicant was outside Australia during a concession period and made the application during the concession period; and
  • reduce the requirement for full-time work in a specified regional area from 12 months to nine months (or a shorter period specified in a legislative instrument) 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.

In line with the policy intent of the Subclass 887 visa being for individuals who have lived and worked in regional Australia, reasonable limits have been placed on concessions in order to strike a balance between providing flexibility and maintaining program integrity.

The reference above to provisional visas is a reference to the Subclass 489 (Skilled-Regional (Provisional)) visa and to four skilled visas which previously provided a pathway to the Subclass 887 visa but are now closed to new applications (the Subclass 475 (Skilled – Regional Sponsored) visa, the Subclass 487 (Skilled – Regional Sponsored) visa, the Subclass 495 (Skilled – Independent Regional (Provisional)) visa and the Subclass 496 (Skilled – Designated Area Sponsored) visa). There are very few remaining holders of the closed visas.

The amended Subclass 887 eligibility requirements are advantageous for prospective Subclass 887 visa applicants as they provide flexibility to visa holders and those applicants adversely affected by COVID-19 associated travel restrictions and rising rates of unemployment and underemployment.  Additionally, the amendments are advantageous for regional businesses allowing them to address labour skill shortages in regional Australia.

The purpose of these amendments is to ensure that skilled visa holders who held a provisional visa and were on a pathway to permanent residence prior to the commencement of the COVID-19 pandemic retain their eligibility for a Subclass 887 visa despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Eligibility for the employment and residence concessions for subclass 887 visa applicants
 
Location Employment  concession (3 months) Residence concession (6 months)
Onshore lodgement Yes No
Offshore lodgement Yes Yes

All subclass 887 visa applicants will be required to provide evidence that, prior to the lodgement of their application, they satisfied the remaining employment (evidence of at least nine months full-time work in a specified regional area) and residence requirements (evidence of at least 18 months residence in a specified regional area).

The purpose of the concessions is to assist applicants who are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and who apply for a visa from the commencement of the COVID-19 Concessions Regulations on 19 September 2020. The concessions reflect what has occurred during the pandemic, because the concession period is defined to commence on 1 February 2020, and the benefit of the concessions is available to all eligible applicants who apply from 19 September 2020.

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