Australian immigration
Student visa holders could get into trouble for bringing non-biosecure items into Australia, including fresh fruits and vegetables. Source: Rahmad Suryadi/AFP

It’s been a tumultuous year for international students in Australia, but the return of the Charles Darwin University cohort may signal positive improvements ahead. Throughout 2020, we kept you updated on the ever-changing situation and highlighted the plights of desperate students stuck abroad. While you may not be able to pick fruits to extend your Australian immigration, there are some changes to look forward to in 2021.

New post-study visa extension in regional Australia

The government announced changes to the Temporary Graduate Visa (Subclass 485) effective September 2020 to aid visa holders stranded outside Australia. Students were allowed to receive this visa from outside Australia. They were also granted a concession to apply for this graduate visa within 12 months of completing their course. 

Then in October came the welcome news that students in regional Australia may extend their 485 visa by one or two years, depending on where they attended university. This is on top of the two years currently afforded by the Temporary Graduate Visa. So if you studied at a university outside of Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane, you could plan to extend your stay and further your career there in 2021.

Skilled visa nomination programmes to reopen for Australian immigration

Australian states and territories have received their final allocations for the interim skilled visa nomination programme for 2020-21, and international graduates hoping for permanent residence now anticipate the full programme to be reinstated in the new year. For example, Victoria is reopening its skilled programme on Jan. 5, 2021 with the regular 3,543 allocations. At the same time, migration agent Ranbir Singh told the publication, “The state has made it clear that invitations will only be issued to applicants working in highly-skilled occupations in health, medical research, life sciences, agri-food or digital sectors.” 

Tasmania will follow in kind shortly after Victoria’s reopening. New South Wales has more allocations but will only begin assessing applications in February 2021, while Queensland’s programme remains suspended until further notice.

Stricter rules on “high-risk biosecurity goods”

Australian immigration has always been particular about what you bring across the border, but the rules are about to get more stringent. Starting Jan. 1, 2020 you could have your temporary visa revoked if you try to smuggle a prohibited item in. This is an update from the previous legislation, which only covered those on a visitor visa. The penalty is hefty: you could be fined 2,664 Australian dollars (compared to the previous AUD $444) and subject to criminal prosecution, which carries a heavier punishment. 

Banned items include certain foods, plants, and meats which pose a threat to the country’s agriculture. Don’t worry though Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has said only those who breach this law seriously and deliberately will be stripped off their visa. So if you do happen to have any high-risk goods, be sure to tell the crew or declare them on your incoming passenger card.