Visa tips during this pandemic

The Australian migration legislation changes constantly and because of the pandemic, there were more changes introduced over the last few months.  Due to this, many visa applicants are left with so many questions and uncertainty.  This article intends to provide answers to common visa questions from people who are affected by this pandemic and to give tips on what future visa applicants should do depending on the type of visa they plan to apply for.


Student Visa

The most common question asked by future applicants is, if the Department of Home Affairs still accepts offshore student visa applications.  The answer is yes, offshore student visa applications are still being accepted and are currently being processed.  Although some have already been granted, temporary visa holders are still not allowed to enter Australia as our borders remain closed.

For those who have plans of studying in Australia and are still offshore, you can start your enrollment and student visa application preparation.  You can then lodge your student visa application depending on when you plan to start your course of study.  Student visa application processing time can take from a few days up to four months.

If your course starts and you still cannot enter Australia, you can either take your course online (if remote learning is available from your education provider) while outside of Australia and continue here when our borders are open, or you can defer your studies and choose a future class intake and start your course when you arrive in Australia.  Note that in the event if you will need to apply for another student visa in the future due to the delays caused by this pandemic, your next student visa fee is waived (see the link below for more details):


Graduate Visa

The Department of Home Affairs introduced concessions to Temporary Graduate (Subclass 485) applicants who have been affected by the pandemic.  One of the concessions is that this visa can now be applied for and be granted even if the applicant is outside of Australia.  This applies to international students who are eligible for this visa but are currently outside of Australia as they might have flown into their home country before the pandemic and are unable to return to Australia.

Another concession is that online studies outside of Australia will be counted towards the Australian Study Requirement.  This is for international students who are offshore and are unable to return due to the lockdown and have decided to continue to study online.

For international students who are stuck outside of Australia, it is best that you continue studying online as this option is working towards your future Graduate visa application.  If you can satisfy all the criteria for a Graduate visa, you can lodge your application even if you are offshore and you can include your immediate family members (if you plan to also bring your spouse/partner and/or child/ren as your dependent/s).

Partner Visas

The most common question that I get is, if prospective applicants should apply for a Partner visa while outside of Australia or if they should wait until the borders open and then apply for a Partner visa when they arrive in Australia while on a visitor visa. The answer to this question will depend on the applicants’ and their sponsors’ objectives.   The risks and benefits of applying onshore or offshore should be considered and applicants should align these with their objectives.

Partner visa applications whether lodged in Australia or offshore can take a long time to be processed (currently at 2-3 years for stage one). For those who are considering applying for a Visitor visa, our borders are still closed and therefore, you can only enter Australia if you get a travel exemption.  Some Partner visa applicants have opted to lodge offshore as they find it beneficial that their application is running while they wait for the borders to open.  Some are also planning to lodge their Partner visa right away so that they won’t be affected by the upcoming Partner visa changes to be implemented next year  (which includes the introduction of sponsorship application before the visa can be lodged and English language capability requirements for the Australian PR sponsors and the applicants).

Permanent Residency (PR) visas under the General Skilled Migration (GSM) stream

People who are intending to apply for any PR visa under the GSM stream may feel reluctant in starting their application because most states have not opened their nomination applications yet, and because our borders are still closed.  It is suggested that if you are sure that you are eligible for any of the PR visa subclasses (189, 190, 491), you can start applying for your skills assessment and arrange for your English language test if you haven’ taken this yet.

Sources from the states’ interim nomination opening show that the Australian government is prioritising people who are already in Australia and those who are in the health and medical field.  This direction may continue when the state nomination applications fully open.

With all these changes happening and with more to come, it is paramount that you understand how these changes affect you and your future visa application.  It would be best to get advice or assistance from a Registered Migration Agent or an Immigration Lawyer to help you uncover your visa options and help you plan your next steps.