End to COVID-19 Concessions

The COVID-19 concession period has concluded November 25, 2023. Since early 2020, the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic led to international travel restrictions and challenging economic and employment conditions. In response, the previous government introduced temporary measures during an initial concession period, offering relief to applicants of specific visa subclasses affected by travel constraints and facing difficulties meeting visa requirements, particularly in terms of applicant location at the time of application.

With the removal of all COVID-19 international travel restrictions, travelers to Australia are no longer required to provide information about their vaccination status or seek travel exemptions. The cessation of the concession period is aimed at contributing to a well-managed migration system, ensuring that unintended cohorts do not access concessions.

Affected visa programs utilizing the initial concession period include Employer Sponsored visas such as Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS), Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS), and Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream. Effective November 25, 2023, new nominations for these visa streams will necessitate Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) holders to have worked with their sponsoring employer or in specific occupations for medical practitioners and certain executives for at least 2 out of the previous 3 years.

Various COVID-19 concessions related to work experience, age exemption, and legacy 457 workers will become obsolete. For example, reduced work periods due to COVID-19 will no longer count toward meeting work experience requirements for new ENS/RSMS TRT stream nominations. Additionally, the age exemption for high-income earning applicants and legacy 457 workers during the pandemic will cease to apply for new ENS/RSMS visa applications, with certain exceptions for ENS visa applications lodged before July 1, 2024.

Skilled Regional Visa subclass 887 will see the end of temporary concessions, affecting eligible applicants’ ability to lodge from inside or outside Australia during the concession period and access shorter employment and regional residence requirements. The concession period’s conclusion also signifies the end of other concessions for the subclass 887 visa.

For family visas, the COVID-19 concessions lifted restrictions on the ‘location at the time of visa grant’ requirement for certain Family program visa applicants. Those who applied before November 26, 2023, and were in Australia during the concession period may still be eligible for visa grants in Australia after the concession period, provided they meet all other visa criteria. However, the concessions will not apply to applicants who were not in Australia during the COVID-19 concession period.

COVID-19 concessions for the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) under provisional subclass 188 and permanent subclass 888 visas will remain applicable for eligible applicants for three months after the end of the concession period, with a deadline for applications set at February 26, 2024.

The Safe Haven Enterprise visa pathway program will experience minimal impact with the conclusion of the COVID-19 concession, as the Australian Government has established a permanent visa pathway option through the Resolution of Status (subclass 851) (RoS) visa.

Starting November 25, 2023, all applications for any stream of the Temporary Graduate visa (TGV) program must be lodged in Australia, while subsequent entrant applications can still be lodged in or outside of Australia, with the condition that the applicant is not in immigration clearance.

Written by Ross Ahmadzai

6 Dec, 2023

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