Nov 10, 2020


This Bulletin gives information about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia and provides an up-date on recent changes to the migration program in the aftermath of COVID-19. It also gives a prognosis about the future of the migration program in 2021 and 2022.

We would encourage you to continue to think about starting the migration journey and to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

1. Success in dealing with COVID-19

Through a mixture of good luck and good policy, Australia has been spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of new infections in Australia is running at a rate of fewer than 30 cases a week. This stands in contrast to new infection rates of 90,000 cases a day in the USA, and similar rates afflicting Europe and Latin America.

With comprehensive contact tracing in place, testing, social distancing, and effective management of new clusters, the virus is under control. This is not to say that Australia will not experience a second or third wave of infections in the future but for now Australia is doing as well as any country in the world.

2. Closure of the international border

To control the spread of COVID-19 the Australian Government closed the border to international travellers in March 2020. The ban is still in place and prohibits international students and other temporary visa holders from entering Australia. The ban does not prevent permanent visa holders or Australian citizens returning to Australia.

The closure of the border has affected the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people who otherwise held visas that permitted travel to Australia. If you have been caught by the ban, you need to continue to wait patiently until the international border re-opens. If your visa expires before you can travel, you will need to apply for a new visa.

Reopening of the international border

The Government has indicated it will consider re-opening the border in July 2021 subject to having adequate arrangements in place to prevent the re-introduction of COVID-19 from overseas. These times frames are not certain and depend on intangible factors like the discovery of an effective vaccine and the rolling out of practical quarantine infrastructure.

3. Migration program update

On 6 October 2020, the Australian Government released information about its future management of the Australian migration program.

The Government had earlier affirmed that migration continues to make substantial contributions to Australia’s economic prosperity, national wellbeing, and social cohesion, and that in the COVID-19 recovery period, migration will be a key component of Australia’s economic recovery.

Planning levels

The good news is that Migration Program Planning levels remain the same this year as for last year at 160,000 permanent visa places. There has been no change to the overall size of the migration. This number relates to the current 2020-21 financial year finishing on 30 June 2021.

However, within this total of 160,000 places, the Government has reallocated priorities. It increased the number of family visas it will grant (mostly partner visas) from 39,799 places to 72,300 places, and will increase the numbers of employer sponsored, Global Talent, and Business Innovation and Investment Program visas.

The expansion in the number of partner visas reflects an intention to process partner visa applications more quicky during the pandemic.

The Australian Government temporarily reduced the number of places in the Skilled independent visa program from 55,512 places to 31,900 places. This represents a reduction of 42.5% to the Skilled visa program for the next 7 months of this financial year.

The reduction is temporary, and the Australian Government is expected to announce the size and make-up of the migration program for financial year 2021-22 in or about May 2021.

4. Implications

In summary, COVID-19 has affected the Australian migration program and may have affected your visa strategy.

The date for opening the border has been deferred until July 2021. The Skilled visa program is effectively closed to offshore applicants and is not likely to re-open until the second half of 2021.

The migration program remains open to people currently in Australia with other visas but on a restrictive basis.

5. Remain optimistic

The takeaway message for everyone is to remain optimistic.

Restrictions in the migration program are temporary and are directly related to the pandemic.

The Australian Government is investing billions of dollars in supporting workers and businesses during the pandemic. The hope is that with COVID-19 being under control, social and economic life will bounce back at some point in 2021.

While there are still uncertainties, particularly surrounding the timing of a vaccine and dates, the migration program is vital to economic growth in Australia. The need to assure economic growth and the demographics of an aging population suggest that as soon as COVID-19 is reasonably contained, Australia will return to a big migration program.

6. Recommendation

If you want to migrate to Australia, we recommend you have your qualifications and work experience accredited by the Australian Government now. This process can take 3 to 4 months depending on your occupation. We also suggest you continue to work to improve your English.

Accreditation of your qualifications and work experience is a key process in your migration journey. It is the foundation for all other visa steps. The accreditation has a currency of three years, and once accredited, you will have three years to apply for nomination and a visa or complete your studies. With the accreditation in place, you will be well positioned to take advantage of the re-opening of the visa program.

Things can move quickly in the Australian migration program, and opportunities can open with limited quotas. You need to be ready to apply as soon as the opportunity emerges.

To be ready you need to be accredited.


VisAustralia stands ready to assist.

We are happy to reassess your eligibility at strategic points moving forward as more information about the management of the Australian migration program is released by the Australian Government.

If you have any questions about the impact of the changes to the migration program or would like up-dated advice about your visa strategy, please do not hesitate to call our office on 02 6247 7577 or send an email to:

VisAustralia is committed to working hard to assist our clients, negotiate the application process and apply for permanent residence in Australia.