As of 1 July 2022, Australia offers new opportunities to highly skilled migrants. For a change, in the aftermath of the pandemic, there are now positive consequences too for temporary (work) visa holders.
Visa rules revised following COVID
In Australia, the financial year starts July 1st. With the onset of a new financial year, Australia’s migration and visa programs are also reviewed. The new changes in visa policy are mainly motivated by Australian labour shortages. Labour force shortages are being felt across the wider spectre of the Australian economy, but people with a higher level of education are in particular demand. It looks like temporary work visa holders in the end are rewarded for their patience. Indeed, during the COVID pandemic, many migrants working in Australia did so lacking social protections on their temporary visas. The Australian Department of Home Affairs are now officially giving recognition to these migrants for their efforts.
Changes to long-stay visa policy
The visa policy changes are good news for existing holders of the Temporary skill shortage (TSS) subclass 482 visa. During a two-year period, they can apply for a new transitional visa, the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) visa. The TRT visa is a new, much more accessible route to a permanent residence permit for Australia and even offers its holders the possibility of eventual naturalisation to become an Australian citizen. This is possible as long as they are designated by their employer and had already been in Australia for at least one year over the 1 February 2020 - 14 December 2021 period. This also applies to visa holders in subclass 457 working in a profession included on the Australian Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL).
In addition, for visa holders in subclass 457 the age restriction for over-45s will be removed for now. For this group, the age restriction in practice often meant secured permanent residence in Australia remained unattainable even after years of working.
Perspective for the highly skilled who remained
The changes in Australia’s visa policy approach have freed up more than 30,000 slots for highly skilled workers who want to stay in Australia. The Australian Labor Party is therefore taking an active stance to enable new ways for migrant workers to obtain permanent residency. This is not merely a response to a tight labour market, but also a way to combat migrant workers’ social insecurity. For as long as the demand for temporary workers continues to grow, migrants will remain dependent on temporary contracts for temporary residence status, as well as for often limited access to social services. This is in part because the large visa application backlog caused by the effects of COVID-19 has not yet been resolved by the Australian immigration service. Resolving this backlog is therefore a priority.
Working Holiday visa
Visiting Australia on a Working Holiday visa was out of the question for a protracted period of time. Australia kept its borders closed for a long time during the corona pandemic, whereas many of the country’s industries normally depend on, among others, Working Holiday visa holders. In the meantime, however, Brazil and Mongolia have actually been granted access to the program, the age limit for working holiday-makers is being raised to 36 years for some countries, and more slots are opened for the quite similar Work and Holiday visa program.
UK and Irish nationals can also use the Working Holiday visa program to visit Australia for a substantial period of time. UK citizens can do so from age 18 to 31 and Irish citizens in fact between their 18th and 36th birthdays. In theory, this visa can be applied for a maximum of three times. The first of these visas is, as the name suggests, mainly intended for a (long) holiday during which work is also possible. A second Working Holiday visa can be applied for, but only after a minimum of 3 months of work in certain designated industries. Usually in exercising tough professions.
Several 3-month stays: the eVisitor visa
For trips of up to 3 months, it is better to apply for the cheaper eVisitor visa when holidaying, whilst doing (some) voluntary work, and for (most) short training courses. This visa also allows you to work in Australia for a non-Australian employer. Working for an Australian employer and supplying products or services is not allowed, but business trips to sell any such products are. With an eVisitor visa, you can travel to Australia without any restrictions over a one-year time span, as long as your stay does not exceed three months.