2021 April – Skilled Visa update news

Here is the update news for skilled visa. 

The update includes: 

·         Global Talent (subclass 858) visa program

·         The Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce

·         Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP)

·         General Skilled Migration visa processing

·         Skilled Regional (subclass 887) visa program

·         Information on Initial/First Entry to Australia for skilled visa holders

·         Employer Sponsor Visa Program

·         Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement

·         Biosecurity

·         Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program

·         Working Holiday Maker

·         Family Visa Processing

Global Talent (subclass 858) visa program

Global Talent Independent student eligibility changes

New student eligibility requirements for the Global Talent Independent program were introduced in the Procedural Instruction update of 20 January 2021:

  • Bachelor with Honours, Masters by Coursework and Masters by Research graduates are no longer be eligible solely based on having achieved a qualification in a priority sector.
  • PhD graduates who completed their studies within the past three years will still be eligible; however, candidates who achieved their qualification overseas from a non-Australian education provider must demonstrate that their PhD meets Australian standards.
  • PhD students nearing completion of their degree must demonstrate that they have a prior record of exceptional and outstanding professional achievement, and that their PhD will meet Australian standards.

The changes will help ensure that Australia attracts the highest calibre of Global Talent, to support the creation of new industries and jobs that will ensure Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

Visa name change and transitional arrangements

On 27 February 2021, the Distinguished Talent (subclass 858) visa was renamed to the Global Talent (subclass 858) visa.

From this date, a Distinguished Talent (subclass 124) or Global Talent (subclass 858) visa can be granted to eligible applicants who are in or outside Australia., This is provided they are not in immigration clearance when the decision is made.

New Global Talent priority sectors

On 17 December 2020, s499 Ministerial Direction no.89 came into effect and includes a new list of Global Talent priority sectors:

  • Resources
  • Agri-food and AgTech
  • Energy
  • Health industries
  • Defence, advanced manufacturing and space
  • Circular economy
  • Digitech
  • Infrastructure and tourism
  • Financial services and FinTech
  • Education

Pathways in the Global Talent (subclass 858) visa

There are two pathways in the Global Talent (subclass 858) visa:

  • Global Talent Visa pathway 
  • Distinguished Talent pathway

Eligible candidates will be invited to apply for a Global Talent (subclass 858) visa, and are strongly encouraged to lodge the visa application at their earliest opportunity. Applicants must give their invitation details when they apply for priority processing through the Global Talent pathway.

Applicants ineligible for a Global Talent visa invitation are recommended to consider other visa options.

The Distinguished Talent pathway is subject to overwhelming demand and is only for the most exceptional and outstanding individuals. The average processing time for the Distinguished Talent program is 18-20 months.

The Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce

Last year, amid the global uncertainty fuelled by COVID-19, the Government launched a powerful blueprint for economic growth, with the JobMaker Plan a key tool to help turbocharge the Australian economy. As part of this effort to generate thousands of quality jobs for Australians, the Prime Minister set up the Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce. He has described their mission as “Australia’s brain gain”. 

The Taskforce is a government initiative to bring the best and brightest businesses and talent to Australia. It targets high yield companies that can bring new technologies, cutting edge research and development, and IP and capital to our shores.

The Taskforce is targeting exceptionally talented individuals and experts at the top of their field who can drive innovation. It is engaging the most successful companies with high growth potential and highly skilled professionals in future-focused industries to come to Australia and develop their ideas here. 

The Taskforce is facilitating the relocation of senior executives, company staff and their families with flexible visa arrangements to fast track their transition into Australia. It will connect them with industry and supportive business ecosystems to help them hit the ground running.

As of 27 February 2021, changes were made to improve Australia’s competitiveness as a relocation destination and make it easier and faster for exceptional talent and high value businesses to relocate and contribute to Australia’s post-COVID economic recovery.

The changes relating to the Global Talent visa (formerly known as the Distinguished Talent visa) include: an ability for the Taskforce to directly nominate suitable exceptionally talented candidates who will make a significant contribution to the Australian economy.

Additional changes introduced include a temporary work visa option to facilitate the rapid temporary deployment (up to 18 months) of critically skilled staff to Australia to establish a ‘beach-head’ for their business relocation. This visa option will be available through the Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408), Australian Government Endorsed Events stream, and Post COVID-19 Economic Recovery event. Up to ten visas will be available to the relocating business under this stream.

Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP)

To support the efficient processing of applications please ensure that:

  • all documentation necessary to meet application requirements is provided when the application is lodged
  • supporting evidence provided is specific to the applicant’s claims (documentation that is not relevant will increase processing times).
  • documentation is cross referenced to the relevant visa requirement
  • documentation is certified as a true copy unless you are submitting documents electronically
  • accredited translations are provided for any documents not in English
  • documentation is provided in only one response, if possible.

In processing BIIP applications, immigration may not request information before making a decision on the application:

  • where the provided documentation evidences that a mandatory criterion is not met; or
  • where no supporting documentation has been provided for an application.

General Skilled Migration visa processing

Update for General Skilled Migration visa applications

The following GSM visa subclasses are subject to both migration program planning levels and priority processing arrangements:

  • Subclass 189 (Skilled – Independent) (Points-tested Stream)
  • Subclass 190 (Skilled – Nominated)
  • Subclass 489 (Skilled – Regional (Provisional)
  • Subclass 491 (Skilled Work Regional (Provisional).

This prioritisation will affect processing times for individual applications. Australian immigration are processing applications according to Direction No. 87 – Order of consideration – certain skilled migration visas (the Direction). Under the Direction, applicants who nominate an occupation in a Critical Sector have the highest priority for visa application processing. Applicants who nominate an occupation outside of a Critical Sector may experience greater processing timeframes.

Processing times

Published processing times include all applications in a subclass and are indicative only. The processing priorities will affect actual processing times experienced by an individual application, other factors may also apply. 

Under current processing arrangements, applicants with a higher priority application under Direction 87 are likely to have an application finalised quicker than the published Global visa processing times. An application that has a lower priority under the Direction will experience longer processing times.

Where an applicant’s nominated occupation is not identified as being in a Critical Sector, further processing of their application is subject to the number of applications received by us that have higher priority under the Direction.

Skilled Regional (subclass 887) visa program

COVID concessions became available to help Skilled Regional (subclass 887) visa applicants who have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions and the closure of Australia’s border. Eligible applicants may be able to claim concessions to help them meet their employment or residence requirements.

Information on Initial/First Entry to Australia for Skilled visa holders

Where a person holds a skilled visa and condition 8504 has been imposed, their visa grant letter will advise the date they should first arrive in Australia (initial entry date). Holders of skilled visas should try to enter Australia before their initial entry date.

However,  because of COVID-19 related impacts on travel, some visa holders have been unable to enter Australia by their initial entry date. In this case, holders of valid skilled visas can still enter Australia after their initial entry date. Visa holders should try to arrive as close to their initial entry date as they can, subject to travel and border conditions.

Employer Sponsored Visa Program

Assessing Authority updates

In March 2020, updates to skills assessing authorities were deferred because of the COVID-19 impacts on the Australian labour market and the subsequent occupation list review postponement. 

From 24 March 2021, the assessing authority for the occupation Childcare Centre Manager (ANZSCO 134111) for Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) has been changed from Trades Recognition Australia TRA) to the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). For applications already in progress, there will be transitional arrangements. Skills assessments issued prior to these dates by the former specified assessing authorities, will be accepted for a period up to 3 years from their date of issue or the date of expiry, whichever occurs sooner.

Employer Sponsored Visa Processing Times

All visa applications are allocated on a priority basis. In some cases it may lead to some applications being processed more quickly than others, even though they may share similar characteristics, such as occupation and employer. Note that under the Ministerial Directions, applications lodged in Australia take precedence over applications lodged outside Australia, unless the application falls in the PMSOL or Critical Sectors.

Employer Sponsored Program Management (ESPM) Mailbox Queries

ESPM receive many queries about the following, which we are unable to individually respond to:

  • confirmation of understanding or interpretation of policy/legislation; or
  • seeking pre-assessment of whether a particular scenario will meet the prescribed criteria for a particular visa.

ESPM will respond to external queries of a complex nature where the answer is not available in Legend or on our website.

Withdrawing a Visa Application

If an applicant’s circumstances have changed, and they want to withdraw their Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) (subclass 482) or Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) (SESR) (subclass 494) visa application, they should use the ‘Withdrawal of a visa application’ function via ImmiAccount. Where this option is not available, the applicant can complete Withdrawal of a visa application (338KB PDF) form 1446 (338KB PDF) as soon as possible and send it to .

Labour Market Testing (LMT) Requirements

To progress applications efficiently, please ensure that complete and up-to-date Labour Market Testing (LMT) evidence is submitted at the time of nomination application for the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) (subclass 482) and Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) (SESR) (subclass 494) visa programs. Incomplete and out-of-date evidence is likely to lead to delays in processing or even application refusal and there is no provision for refund in this instance.

Sponsorship Applications

When completing a TSS sponsorship application or a TSS nomination application, the sponsors are asked to identify the Related Sponsorship by providing the relevant identification number (ABN or TRN). Please ensure that the relevant sponsorship identification number is entered correctly in this section. If this is not entered correctly, the application will be linked to the wrong entity.

Skilling Australian Fund (SAF) Levy Refund Requests

Regulation 2.73AA of the Migration Regulations 1994 provides circumstances under which a refund of the SAF levy is available, including those outlined below:

  • The sponsorship and visa applications are approved, but the overseas skilled worker (visa holder) does not arrive/commence employment with the employer.
  • The employer’s sponsorship and nomination application for the overseas skilled worker is approved, but the associated visa application is refused on health or character grounds.
  • A TSS visa holder leaves the sponsoring employer within the first 12 months of employment where the visa period was for more than 12 months. Refunds will only be available in this scenario for unused full years of the SAF levy. Note this does not apply to ENS or RSMS holders who leave their employer within the first 12 months of employment.
  • The nomination fee is refunded (for example where a concurrent sponsor application is refused)..

 The Refund Request form 1424 (461KB PDF) requires the client to provide a clear and well-supported reason for requesting a refund. To avoid delays in the processing of refund requests, when completing question 24 on form 1424, please include the specific provision under regulation 2.73AA and an explanation of how the request meets that particular provision.  

Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List

On 2 September 2020, the government introduced a Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) of 17 occupations to prioritise processing of visa applications that fill critical skills needs in order to support Australia’s economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19. On 27 November 2020, the occupation of Social Worker was added to PMSOL, bringing the total number of occupations to 18.

The PMSOL comprises occupations primarily in the health care, construction and IT sectors based on expert advice from the National Skills Commission and consultation with relevant Commonwealth agencies, which is frequently reviewed.

Existing skilled migration occupation lists remain active, but the processing of these applications will be of a lesser priority and may experience longer processing times.

Visas for General Practitioners (GPs)

The Visas for GPs is an initiative between the Department of Health and Home Affairs, which commenced on 11 March 2019. The purpose of the Visas for GPs measure is to manage the growth of overseas trained doctors entering primary care in well-serviced major capital cities and metropolitan areas. 

To reduce the administrative burden on hospitals under the Visas for GPs program, Health Workforce Exemption Certificates (HWECs) have been introduced. This means that hospitals submit a HWEC instead of a Health Workforce Certificate (HWC) as part of the visa nomination application. This exemption applies only to temporary and provisional visa applicants (subclasses 482 and 494). Permanent visa applicants (subclasses 186 and 187) still require an individual HWC.

Visa Application Charge Waiver for TSS/457 holder affected by travel restrictions

From 27 February 2021, certain skilled workers may be eligible for a Visa Application Charge (VAC) free TSS (subclass 482) visa application. Former holders of TSS (subclass 482) or Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visas who were unable to enter Australia because border restrictions will be eligible for a VAC free TSS (subclass 482) visa application. This includes:

  • those unable to enter Australia because of COVID-19 travel restrictions before their visa ceased
  • those who travelled to Australia and departed but were unable to return to Australia because COVID-19 travel restrictions before their visa ceased.

If applicants are outside Australia and held an eligible visa on or after 1 February 2020, which has since ceased, they will be eligible for a waiver of the VAC for a subsequent Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa application. Applicants are required to have a valid nomination.

These changes will assist the economic recovery post COVID-19 by ensuring Australia remains an attractive destination for temporary visa holders who fill critical skills shortages where a suitably qualified Australian is not available.

Transition to permanent residency concessions

From 24 November 2020, changes have been introduced to provide a range of concessions to temporary skilled visa holders who are on a pathway to permanent residence, who may have been disadvantaged by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as border closures, restrictions imposed on businesses and the general economic downturn.

The changes allow eligible visa holders who were on a pathway to permanent residence prior to the COVID-19 pandemic more flexibility in meeting work experience and age exemptions for the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream of the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) visa.

Age Exemptions

The current age exemptions for higher income earners under the TRT stream have been adjusted to allow any period of reduced earnings because, COVID-19 during the effected period to be excluded when calculating the applicant’s earnings.  This will mean the high-income threshold will be adjusted on a pro-rata basis for any year in which an applicant receives reduced earnings because COVID-19. 

Work history to qualify for permanent residence

The current qualifying work history requirements have been adjusted to allow periods where a worker has been temporarily stood down, been on unpaid leave or had their hours reduced to count towards the relevant employment history requirements, as if they were periods of full-time work. This will give a concession to people who have left Australia and returned to resume employment with their employer, and those who remained in Australia but were stood down or had their hours reduced during the COVID-19 period.

Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement

On 23 December 2019, the Government announced the introduction of the new Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement (HILA).

From 1 January 2020, businesses in Australia’s horticulture industry will be able to apply for the new Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement. The Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement increases access to skilled and semi-skilled migrant workers for the horticulture industry, where appropriately qualified Australians are unavailable.


From 1 January 2021, powers to cancel visas on biosecurity-related grounds have been expanded to student and temporary work visa holders.

Any decision to cancel a temporary visa on biosecurity grounds will only be made after taking into consideration factors such as the seriousness of the breach, the potential impact on Australian business and agriculture, and the individual circumstances of the traveller.

Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program

As of 27 February 2021, a Visa Application Charge (VAC) refund is available for Pacific Labour Scheme or Seasonal Worker Program subclass 403 visas adversely affected by COVID-19.  To be eligible for a refund, visa holders must have been unable to travel prior to the border closure on 20 March because COVID-19 travel restrictions. Refunds must be requested by 31 December 2021, and the visa must have ceased before a decision on the refund is made. The visa must not have been cancelled for reasons other than at the visa holder’s request.  Generally a refund request can only be made by the person shown as the ‘payer’ on the original VAC receipt.

Working Holiday Maker

Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa holders who are offshore and were unable to travel to Australia because border closures or left Australia and have been unable to return may be eligible for a further WHM visa with a VAC waiver if they continue to meet the age limit. WHMs who no longer meet the age limit will be eligible for a VAC refund. Applications with a VAC waiver and VAC refund requests must be lodged by 31 December 2022. The VAC refund measure is available now to offshore WHMs and the waiver with a renewal of their visa will be available later in 2021. 

Family visa processing

Health and character clearances

Australian immigration is processing more partner applications. The priority is finalisation of onshore applications, and applications which meet all requirements for grant of a visa.

Applicants with valid health and character clearances will be prioritised for assessment ahead of others and are likely to be finalised more quickly. Note that where possible under policy, health clearances will be extended a further 6 months. 

Grant of certain offshore applications to applicants onshore

From 27 February 2021, as a temporary COVID-19 concession, the Migration Regulations were changed to allow grant of certain Partner and Child visas to applicants who are located in Australia. The affected visas are:

  • Partner (subclass 309)
  • Prospective Marriage (subclass 300)
  • Child (subclass 101)
  • Adoption (subclass 102)
  • Dependent Child (subclass 445)

These applications will be finalised as quickly as possible once all requirements are met. On 24 March 2021, this concession was extended to certain Parent visa applicants:

  • Parent (subclasses 103)
  • Contributory Parent (subclass 143)
  • Contributory Parent (subclass 173)

A concession to allow visa grant to certain visa applicants who are outside Australia has also applied since March 2021 to the following visas:

  • Aged Parent (subclass 804)
  • Contributory Aged Parent (subclass 864)

During the pandemic, we are not advising any applicant to travel offshore to meet visa requirements. Visa applicants should ensure they maintain lawful status by applying for a temporary visa or a Bridging visa.

Further information about the update, please contact our migration agent. 

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