The Australian Government has introduced changes to the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa (485 visa) that aim to:

  1. assist international students who already hold a Student visa but are stranded overseas due to COVID-19 pandemic border closures;
  2. assist citizens of Hong Kong who hold a Student visa (in light of the unrest that began in Hong Kong at the end of 2019); and
  3. encourage international students to choose regional areas of Australia to study, live, work and eventually establish themselves permanently.

COVID-19 concessions to the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa

To assist Student visa holders who have been affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic and have been unable to return to Australia due to border closures, the Australian Government has made concessions available to those wishing to apply for a 485 visa.

The following table summarises the concessions:

  Location at time of lodgement of 485 visa application and grant of visa Period in which Australian study requirement must be met Student visa status at the time of lodging 485 visa application
Previous lodgement requirements In Australia Within 6 months before the 485 visa application was lodged. Applicant must have held an eligible Student visa within the last 6 months.
New lodgement process and requirements In or outside Australia Within 12 months before the 485 visa application is lodged, if the applicant was unable to apply within 6 months because they were outside Australia at some stage between 1 February and 19 September 2020.
Otherwise, within 6 months before the 485 visa application is lodged.
If applying in Australia, applicant must have held an eligible Student visa within the last 6 months.
If applying from outside Australia, applicant must have held an eligible Student visa at any previous point.

All other previous criteria, including the completion of studies to meet the Australian study requirement, and health and character criteria, continue to apply and must be met before grant of the 485 visa.

What does this mean for you?

If you are stuck outside Australia due to COVID-19 border closures you will be able to apply for the 485 visa from offshore, so long as you are or were the holder of an eligible Student visa and met the Australian study requirement within the last 12 months.

Concessions for students from Hong Kong

In light of the unrest which began in Hong Kong at the end of 2019, the Australian Government has also introduced assistance for current and former Student visa holders from Hong Kong.

Former Hong Kong students already in Australia on a 485 visa will have their visa extended for up to five years, starting from 9 July 2020 (i.e., until 8 July 2025). In addition, current Student visa holders and future students from Hong Kong who successfully apply for a 485 visa from 9 July 2020 will automatically be granted a five-year visa.

The Australian government also intends to announce temporary skilled visa pathways to permanent residency for Hong Kong students and 485 visa holders.

Promoting regional Australia as a place to study, live, and work

The Australian Government is encouraging migrants to establish themselves in the exciting and fast-growing regional areas of Australia.

Existing holders of a 485 visa in the Post-Study Work stream can now apply for a second 485 visa in the same stream (a ‘regional 485 visa’). To be eligible for the regional 485 visa, you must have already studied, lived and worked in designated regional areas of Australia for two years, and intend to continue to do so.

When applying for a regional 485 visa, you must be in Australia and already hold your first 485 visa. You do not, however, need to provide updated evidence of meeting the English language and Australian Federal Police check requirements.

What does this mean for you?

If you:

  • currently hold your first 485 visa in the Post-Study Work stream;
  • are in Australia;
  • previously studied in a designated regional area of Australia; and
  • have been living and working in designated regional areas of Australia since being granted your 485 visa

you may be eligible to apply for a second, regional 485 visa that is essentially an extension of your first subclass 485 visa.

If you studied, lived or worked for any duration in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane on your Student visa or while holding your first 485 visa, you will not be eligible for a regional 485 visa.

Regional 485 visas can be granted for one or two years’ duration, depending on where in Australia you resided when studying on your Student visa, and then while living and working on your first subclass 485 visa:

  • You can apply for a two year regional 485 visa if you studied as a Student visa holder and then lived and worked as a 485 visa holder outside of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Canberra, Newcastle/Lake Macquarie, Wollongong/Illawarra, Geelong and Hobart.
  • You can apply for a one year regional 485 visa if you studied as a Student visa holder and then lived and worked as a 485 visa holder for two continuous years only in Perth, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Canberra, Newcastle/Lake Macquarie, Wollongong/Illawarra, Geelong and Hobart, or in a number of these areas and/or other areas of regional Australia that are also outside Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Please note that this blog outlines the law as at 13 May 2021. Australian immigration law is complex and changes frequently, and the law in relation to subclass 485 Temporary Graduate visas may have changed since this blog was drafted.

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