By way of background, the 485 Temporary Graduate visa is a temporary residence visa. Those who hold 485 Temporary Graduate visas previously held 500 Student Visas and studied at various Australian educational institutions they were enrolled in. Upon obtaining their Australian formal qualifications, and depending on what occupation they nominated, a student visa holder usually applied for a 485 Temporary Graduate visa to remain in Australia further either (i) to commence work as an entry level graduate (for 18 months) or (ii) to undertake post-study work (for up to 2 years). Certain holders of 485 Temporary Graduate visas who (iii) studied, worked and lived in Designated Regional Area were also eligible to apply for a second 485 visa for a further stay of up to 2 years.
On Tuesday, 25 May 2021, senior members of the Department of Home Affairs appeared before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee and answered several questions from chair, The Hon Senator Nick McKim.
The issue at hand concerned holders of 485 Temporary Graduate Visas who continue to remain outside Australia since the government closed the international borders. The senator enquired what the government’s intention for this visa cohort was.
There was a considerable amount of 485 Temporary Graduate visa holders who were offshore when the Australian government closed the international border on 20 March 2020. One of the measures the Australian government imposed to restrict the onshore spread of the coronavirus from repatriates returning from overseas was to specify which particular temporary residence visa holders are permitted to enter Australia. These travel restrictions can be found here.
More pointedly, unless a 485 Temporary Graduate visa holder was considered to have critical skills or was in the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List, they were not provided with an exemption to the restrictions to enter Australia. This restriction limits the re-entry into Australia of most 485 Temporary Graduate visa holders who did not fall into these narrow categories.
It was mentioned that as of 31 January 2021 there were approximately 14,475 foreign nationals who were overseas and hold 485 Temporary Graduate visas. Over 9,900 applications for Exemptions to the Travel Restrictions to re-enter Australia have been refused.
Consequently, many 485 Temporary Graduate visa holders who were outside Australia when the international borders closed could not re-commence employment with their employers in Australia. Combined with the federal government’s intention to keep Australia’s international borders closed until at least 01 July 2022 (as stipulated in the 2021-2022 Federal Budget), many 485 Temporary Graduate visa holders are set to expire without any current remedial concessions provided by the relevant Australian authorities.
Senator McKim enquired whether the government was considering applying a recent precedent (provided in August 2020 to Hong Kong SAR Passport holders in Australia) and administratively provide an automatic extension of current 485 visas for those currently outside Australia. In response Deputy Secretary Immigration and Settlement Services, Mr Andrew Kefford PSM, replied:
“At this point, there hasn’t been an appetite to pursue a change in this particular class (485 visa holders) beyond the changes that have already been made.” (video at 6:50)
This means that, unless the Australian government takes urgent action to address this particular issue, thousands of 485 Temporary Graduate visas will expire with the passage of time and they will not be able to re-enter Australia. This will remove most opportunities for thousands of 485 Temporary Graduate visa holders to re-commence their careers in Australia. In some cases, many 485 Temporary Graduate visa holders may not be eligible to apply for the appropriate permanent residence visa.
There is public sentiment among foreign nationals, who are currently outside Australia at the time international borders were closed, that their considerable investment of time, funds and effort studying in Australia is disappearing because they are not able return to Australia on their 485 Temporary Graduate visas.
The Department of Home Affairs have taken more of the senator’s questions on notice. We will update you as soon as there are further developments with this issue.
About Employment Innovations
Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium sized employer needs – including workplace advice, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management and HR software. Additionally, if you require any assistance with your 485 Skilled Graduate visa, sponsoring foreign workers or any other migration matter, Employment Innovations has an experienced registered migration agent to provide support.
The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.