On Dec. 15, 2021, Australian borders finally welcomed fully-vaccinated international students whose study abroad plans were halted for far too long. 2022 looks even brighter as Ben Watt, a migration lawyer for VisaEnvoy, projects Australia will focus on offering Australian PR pathways for international students who stayed loyal to Australia despite two years of uncertainty.
The Australian Government’s Department of Home Affairs designed the Migration Programme to achieve a range of economic and social outcomes. In 2021-22, it will have an overall planning level of 160,000 places.
“To me, [the Department of Home Affairs] seems to want to fill that 160,000 with quite a few people who are here on those temporary visas. They’re trying to draw those permanent migrants from people who are in Australia,” Watt said, as reported by SBS News.
“That’s the big change; they are loosening up and offering a lot of different pathways, and a lot of extensions, for people who are already here to achieve their migration dream.”
“The government has already introduced a number of visa changes throughout the pandemic and will continue to review visa settings to support Australia’s economic recovery,” a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said.
As of now, 79,600 places will be reserved for experts in the Skill stream — each of whom will play prominent roles in improving the productivity of the country’s economy and skill shortages in the labour market, including those in regional Australia. 77,300 places will go to those who qualify for the Family stream, which enables Australians to reunite with overseas family members vying for citizenship.
Meanwhile, 100 Special Eligibility places will cover visas for those in special circumstances. 3,000 places will be set aside for children — however, this stream is demand-driven and not subject to a ceiling.
A guaranteed first step
The path has always been smooth for international students who never dropped out of their dream Australian university, transferred to an institution in another country, or simply gave up. Way before structural changes, in Australia, their journeys could always extend beyond academia.
Upon successful completion of a programme from an Australian institution, many moved from their study visa to the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa. This visa allows them to live, further study and work in Australia temporarily after graduating. It even allows them to bring immediate family members over.
Australian PR pathways in 2022: Replacement for temporary graduate visa holders
Recent international graduates from Australia can look forward to better post-study work rights.
In November 2021, the government announced that current or former holders of the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa, who were stranded offshore due to the COVID-19 restrictions, will be able to apply for a replacement visa of the same duration from July 1, 2022.
Australia is also set to increase the length of stay on the Temporary Graduate visa from two to three years for Masters by Coursework graduates, matching the provisions for Masters by Research graduates. Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector graduates will also receive a two-year Temporary Graduate visa. Those in the Graduate Work stream will be able to remain in the country for 18 to 24 months.
“It’s a very humane concession, and it means a lot of talent that was here, we have a chance of getting them back,” says Watt.
“There’s an enormous multiplication of different changes and scenarios, and who applies for what and who can get what. But it’s very likely if there is another border closure as well, this will be the first thing to go.”