Last night's Federal Budget announcements confirmed the Government's assumption that Australia's international border may only begin to gradually re-open from mid 2022.

Here's some of the main announcements for migrants from the 2021 Federal Budget:

  • Australia's International Border Assumed To Re-open From Mid-2022
  • Another Year of Negative Net Overseas Migration (NOM)
  • Permanent Migration Program Intake To Remain The Same As Last Year
  • Four Year Wait For Migrants To Access Government Benefits

International Border To Gradually Re-Open From Mid 2022

The Federal Budget revealed several key assumptions:

  • The international border is expected to gradually re-open from mid-2022
  • A full vaccine rollout to be 'in place' by the end of 2021
  • A quarantine program to remain in place, limiting overseas arrivals
  • A gradual return of international students through small phased programs from late 2021 and increasing from 2022

These assumptions are conservative and are based on several factors that are highly uncertain - such as the status of global COVID-19 outbreaks, new strains emerging, the efficacy of the vaccine and uptake of the rollout as well as quarantine solutions.

Australia is committed to re-opening the international border when it is 'safe to do so' based on health advice.

Net Overseas Migration (NOM) figures below seem to indicate it may take a few years for widespread travel to return to pre-pandemic levels, even after the border re-opens.

Another Year Of Negative Net Overseas Migration (NOM)

This is the second year Australia has had a negative Net Overseas Migration (NOM) forecast since World War Two. A negative NOM indicates there are more migrants departing Australia than arriving.


Australia's NOM was forecast to fall from around 194,000 persons in 2019-20 to negative figures in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Interestingly, NOM figures were not provided for 2022-23 and 2023-24, however a positive NOM of 235,000 people is expected in 2024-25.

These figures indicate it will take some time for the NOM to return to pre-pandemic levels and migration is likely to be slow and gradual over coming years.

Australia's Planned Migration Program To Remain The Same As 2020-21

In 2021-22, the Government will maintain the 2020-21 Migration Program planning level of 160,000 Permanent Visa placements, with almost an even split between Skilled and Family Visas.

Australia's Migration Program planning levels reflect a ceiling rather than a target and it will be interesting to see if the Government will grant visas at this rate with the border closed.

There will be a continued focus on visa processing for applicants in Australia who apply Onshore.

Family Stream

Skilled Stream


Four Year Wait For Migrants To Access Government Benefits

The Government announced a four year waiting period will apply before migrants can access welfare benefits.

Currently, Permanent Residents can receive Family Tax Benefit B immediately, Carers Allowance and Family Tax Benefit A after one year and Paid Parental Leave and Carers payments after two years.

These payment types will be subject to the four-year wait from 2022. Migrants who have already received Permanent Residence before changes take place from 2022 will be exempt.

Interstaff | Migration in the COVID-19 Era

It is important to know that while the international border may be closed until mid 2022, Travel Exemptions for limited circumstances are available and Travel Bubbles are being planned.

  • It is still possible to apply for a visa. Visas are still being granted but onshore applications are being prioritised. Applicants that are offshore may be able to enter Australia if they meet a Travel Exemption (for example, for Critical Work or Compassionate reasons) or if they can travel via a Travel Bubble.
  • People wishing to migrate may wish to use this time to prepare so they will be in a better position when the international border re-opens. For example, some Family Visas can take several years for the Government to process. In addition, Independent Skilled Visas require a level of preparation that may take many months.
  • People who are eligible for Permanent Residence should consider applying.

We will be sharing more insights on the Federal Budget announcements in coming days, including the impact for businesses employing skilled visa holders.

We hope this is helpful. You may also be interested in our other articles:

The Australia-New Zealand Travel Bubble
The 408 Pandemic Visa | What you need to know
Applying for a Partner Visa in the COVID-19 Era

Written by Sheila Woods, a Registered Migration Agent - MARN: 0533879.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.