This year has been affected by COVID which has changed the way we work and go about our daily lives. Immigration also has been affected and from the initial months when there was a knee-jerk reaction by the Department of Home affairs but putting a hold on all visa processing, recent developments have shown that the Department is finding ways to think ‘outside the square’ and be more pragmatic and flexible in their approach while dealing with the changed circumstances of visa applicants.
A big example is the following recent announcement by the Department of Home Affairs –
It is intended that changes will be implemented in early 2021 that would allow certain family visas, which have been applied for outside Australia, to be granted while the visa applicant is in Australia. This temporary concession will be for people who are in Australia and are not able to travel offshore to be granted the visa due to COVID-19 related border closures.
The concession will apply to certain applicants for the following Family visa subclasses:
Child (subclass 101) visa
Adoption (subclass 102) visa
Dependent Child (subclass 445) visa
Prospective Marriage (subclass 300) visa
Partner (subclass 309) visa
This will come as a relief especially to partners of Australian citizens and permanent residents who are onshore and cannot travel overseas for the grant of their visas.
Another recent development has been an amendment to legislation to provide concessions for specified SC 457 holders whose work hours were reduced or were required to take unpaid leave due to the COVID pandemic.
Now the period of time required to be employed in the occupation and the position for TRT stream SC 186/187 nominations and visas, will not be affected by the visa holder working reduced hours or being on unpaid leave during the concession period, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The required period of employment prior to applying for these visas will include any period of reduced work hours or unpaid leave during that period. The concession period commenced on 1 February 2020.
Further, those 457 and 482 visa holders who were previously exempt from age requirements when applying under the TRT stream for SC 186 and 187 visas on the basis of earning at the Fair Work High Income Threshold will continue to be eligible for the age exemption, despite their earnings being affected by a coronavirus employment change. A pro-rata income threshold for the period when their earnings were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic may be applied where required
Similarly, amendments have been made to the definition of specified work to be undertaken to be eligible for the grant of 2nd and 3rd Working Holiday visas for Subclass 417 holders with the reference to ‘regional work’ for these visas is replaced with ‘specified Subclass 417 work’. This will allow SC 417 holders who have undertaken critical sector work in response to the COVID pandemic to have that work counted towards eligibility for further working holiday visas.
The Offshore Distinguished Talent visa subclass 124 has also been abolished so that the application may be applied for and granted regardless of the applicant’s location- whether onshore or offshore.
The above developments show that the Department of Home Affairs is willing to be flexible and that and migration will again be in the upswing in 2021 as COVID19 subsides with vaccination.
What to do next?
There’s no doubt that immigration law is complex and in this new era, it’s constantly evolving. Outcomes can never be guaranteed but comprehensive understanding, professional preparation and stringent due diligence all contribute to optimise opportunities for positive outcomes.
For more information on this or on any relating issues, contact the immigration law experts – Sellanes Clark and Associates.
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