Australia’s permanent Migration Program for the new financial year has been designed to support the country’s immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while paving the way for future economic growth in the post-pandemic recovery phase.

Migration Program planning levels:

The Government has retained the planning ceiling for 2021-2022 at 160,000, including 79,600 places for the skill stream and 77,300 places for the family stream.

With this approach, the government aims to maximise flexibility and to leave room for changes in response to the unpredictable trajectory of COVID-19 and uncertain economic circumstances.

Priority to Employer-Sponsored, Global Talent and Business Visas:

Just as in 2020-2021, the planning levels for the Business Innovation and Investment Visa Program will remain at 13,500, the Global Talent Visa Program at 15,000 and the Employer Sponsored Visa at 22,000.

The Department of Home Affairs said the skill stream will continue to focus on these three Visa categories to help Australia’s economy rebound after COVID-19. They said there will be continued flexibility within the Skill stream to respond to uncertain health, border and economic conditions arising from COVID-19.

Changes to Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL):

As Australia’s international borders remain closed, the federal government has announced that it will fast-track Visa applications for more occupations on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) to support the country’s post-coronavirus economic recovery.

As part of this process, Employer-Sponsored Visa applications with an occupation on the PMSOL will be given processing priority, even while all other skilled occupation lists will remain active. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the government consulted with employers, business leaders and industry bodies to determine the changes.

A total of 41 priority occupations have been identified to fill skill gaps. These occupations (along with their ANZSCO code) are:

  • Chief Executive or Managing Director (111111)
  • Accountant (General) (221111)*
  • Taxation Accountant (221113)*
  • Internal Auditor (221214)*
  • Cartographer (232213)*
  • Civil Engineer (233211)*
  • Structural Engineer (233214)*
  • Electrical Engineer (233311)*
  • Mining Engineer (excluding Petroleum) (233611)*
  • Medical Laboratory Scientist (234611)*
  • Orthotist or Prosthetist (251912)*
  • Resident Medical Officer (253112)
  • Medical Practitioners nec (253999)
  • Registered Nurse (Critical Care and Emergency) (254415)
  • Registered Nurse (Medical) (254418)
  • Registered Nurse (Perioperative) (254423)
  • Multimedia Specialist (261211)*
  • Developer Programmer (261312)
  • Software and Applications Programmers nec (261399)*
  • Social Worker (272511)
  • Chef (351311)*
  • Construction Project Manager (133111)
  • Management Accountant (221112)*
  • External Auditor (221213)*
  • Surveyor (232212)*
  • Other Spatial Scientist (232214)*
  • Geotechnical Engineer (233212)*
  • Transport Engineer (233215)*
  • Mechanical Engineer (233512)
  • Petroleum Engineer (233612)*
  • Veterinarian (234711)
  • General Practitioner (253111)
  • Psychiatrist (253411)
  • Midwife (254111)
  • Registered Nurse (Aged Care) (254412)
  • Registered Nurse (Mental Health) (254422)
  • Registered Nurses nec (254499)
  • Analyst Programmer (261311)*
  • Software Engineer (261313)
  • ICT Security Specialist (262112)*
  • Maintenance Planner (312911)
* Indicates new occupations added in June 2021

The focus is on onshore applicants:

It seems onshore applicants will benefit from these announcements in the financial year 2021-2022, as the borders are likely to remain closed until at least early 2022. So overall, there is not much hope for those who are currently stranded outside Australia.

He added that the planning levels for the financial year 2021-2022 also take into consideration the government’s population planning objectives, including their aim to reduce congestion in Australia’s major cities. The Government is keen to reduce the pressure being faced in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne due to population blow-out concerns. It is anticipated that the Government will issue more skilled Visas to International students who currently live and work in regional and low-populated areas.

New rules and tougher requirements for Business Migrants:

The Australian Government had announced in December that it will be slashing Business and Investment Visa streams from the existing 9 categories to 4 – Business Innovation, Entrepreneur, Investor, and Significant Investor, to support Australia’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

As part of the changes, the requirements for a Business Innovation Visa, which allows successful applicants to operate a new or existing business in Australia will now be increased, making it more difficult for new applicants to prove their business skills.

Business Innovation Visa holders will now be required to hold personal and business assets of AUD 1.25M (up from AUD 800K), and will need to have an annual Turnover of AUD 750K (up from AUD 500K).

Family Visa concessions:

Last November, the Government announced temporary changes to the Family Visa program to support applicants who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the temporary arrangement, select family Visa applicants who have lodged their Visas offshore will not need to dash overseas to receive their Visa grants. This would enable applicants to continue their Visa pathway despite their inability to travel offshore in the wake of the current border restrictions.

Announcing the changes in November 2020, the Government said these “common sense” temporary Visa concessions would benefit about 4,000 applicants currently in Australia, predominately those who have applied for offshore partner Visas (Subclass 309/100). Importantly, this would allow a foreign national who is a partner of an Australian citizen to progress their Visa, without having to leave the country.

The temporary Family Visa concession applies to the following Family Visa subclasses:

Partner (subclass 309) Visa                                                                         Prospective Marriage (subclass 300) Visa
Child (subclass 101) Visa                                                                             Adoption (subclass 102) Visa
Dependent Child (subclass 445) Visa

These concessions which commenced in early 2021 will continue to remain in place until further notice.

New English language requirement for Partner Visas:

In a bid to maximise employment opportunities for newly arrived migrants, the government in October 2020 announced that migrants and their permanent resident sponsors applying for a partner Visa will be required to either have functional level English, or would have to demonstrate that they have made reasonable efforts to learn the language.

The Partner Visa is a two-stage process – you first get a provisional Visa for two years, after which you are eligible to get a permanent Visa grant. As per the new policy, applicants and sponsors will not be required to demonstrate their English language competency at the time of lodgement of a provisional Visa (309/820). However, they would have to demonstrate it at the time of applying for a permanent Visa (100/801). The requirement applies to both the applicant and their sponsor (if they are a permanent resident rather than an Australian citizen), and will come into effect in 2021-2022.

International students employed in select critical sectors can work for over 40 hours a fortnight:

In a bid to address labour shortages, the Government has temporarily removed the cap on working hours for International students employed in the Hospitality and Tourism sectors. Similar allowances are available to overseas students working in select critical sectors like health, aged care, disability care and agriculture.

Australian citizenship fee to increase from 1st July 2021:

The Department of Home Affairs will update citizenship application fees to reflect the cost of delivering the program more accurately. As per the change, the standard citizenship by conferral application fee will be raised from $285 to $490.

“The new fees are commensurate with the comprehensive approach to end-to-end processing of citizenship applications, and reflect inflation costs, staffing costs and the increased complexity of applications, which take longer to process. The hike, though significant, would also mean that citizenship applications will now be processed faster. The Government is calling this measure a ‘cost recovery’ process, and with this increase, we hope to see quicker processing which would be a great benefit.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal fee to increase from 1st July:

From 1st July 2021, application fees for the review of most migration decisions has also been raised.

The fee to review migration decisions in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) will increase from the current AUD 1,764 to AUD 3,000. In cases where a 50% fee reduction is granted, the reduced fee payable will be AUD 1,500. This hike is likely to dissuade Visa applicants from lodging a review with the AAT, and to serve as a major deterrent for applicants to apply for a review of their cases.