COVID-19 Concessions for 485 (Temporary Graduate) visas

The new COVID-19 Concessions for Subclass 485 (TR) 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 changes amend the application requirements and visa criteria for the Subclass 485 (Temporary Graduate) visa, to assist international students, by allowing applications for this post-study visa to be made from outside Australia during a concession period. The amendments also allow the visa to be granted to an applicant who is outside Australia. Prior to this amendment, most applicants were required to be in Australia to apply for the visa and to be granted the visa. The amendments provide former international students with the opportunity to obtain a visa to return to Australia when travel restrictions are lifted. The visa period will run from the date of entry to Australia.

The new changes are:

  • allow applicants to apply for, and be granted, a Subclass 485 visa while outside Australia during a concession period;
  • allow applications to be made outside Australia during a concession period without the usual requirement to have held a student visa within the six month period immediately before making the application; and
  • extend the period to meet the Australian Study Requirement (i.e. the period between completing study and applying for the Subclass 485 visa), from six months to 12 months for applicants prevented from returning to Australia due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The amendments are advantageous for Subclass 485 applicants as they provide flexibility to visa holders adversely affected by the COVID-19 associated travel restrictions. Additionally, the amendments support the international competitiveness of Australia’s international education sector at this critical time.

The desired outcome of these amendments is to ensure that Student visa holders who were eligible to apply for a Subclass 485 visa prior to COVID-19 retain their eligibility for a Subclass 485 visa despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amendments cater for former international students who intended to apply for Subclass 485 visas in Australia but have not been able to do so because of travel restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A significant number of international students who completed their studies in 2019 have been unable to return to Australia because of travel restrictions. This amendment allows those applications to be made and processed, in anticipation of the easing of travel restrictions. Subclass 485 visas will be granted to allow a period of stay in Australia which commences on the date of first entry, so there will be no disadvantage caused to visa holders if the travel restrictions remain in place for a further period.

The effect of the substituted clause is that the requirement to satisfy the ASR (Australian Study requirement) , within six months immediately before making the Subclass 485 visa application, is qualified so that the requirement can be satisfied within 12 months immediately preceding the application if:

–          the applicant was outside Australia for all or part of the period commencing on 1 February 2020 and ending on 19 September 2020; and

–          the Minister is satisfied that the applicant was unable to apply within six months of satisfying the ASR because of that absence from Australia.

The amendment ensures that applicants who satisfied the ASR in late 2019 or early 2020 are able to satisfy clause 485 visa requirements if they apply from outside Australia from 19 September 2020 and they were affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions. The clause refers to being outside Australia between specified dates (1 February 2020 to 19 September 2020), rather than referring to being outside Australia during a concession period, because the ASR concession does not need to operate in the future.

From 19 September 2020, it is possible to apply for Subclass 485 visas from outside Australia during a concession period . Accordingly, the enforced delay in applying for the Subclass 485 visa, which has occurred during 2020 because of the COVID-19 travel restrictions, will not occur after 19 September 2020. International students who may be affected by ongoing or future travel restrictions will be able to apply for Subclass 485 visas from outside Australia during a concession period, and will be required to do so within six months of satisfying the ASR.

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