The Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) has implemented a number of concessions or relaxations for visa holders and visa applicants due to the adverse impact of the pandemic on the Australian economy. This blog explores some of the main COVID-related concessions that are still available for certain visa applicants and visa holders.

The COVID-19 concession period commenced on 1 February 2020 and has not yet been repealed. Throughout that time, a number of regulatory changes and policy relaxations have occurred. This is a very fluid environment and is subject to change without notice. Some of the more impactful concessions available are summarized below.

Subclass 408 (COVID-19 pandemic event)

Condition 8107, which is a work limitation condition, is being applied less restrictively to allow visa holders to work for more than one employer and to change employers without the need to advise DoHA of those changes. Holders of this visa can work in any sector or industry.

Health examinations for temporary visa applicants

DoHA has relaxed health examination requirements for a number of temporary visa applicants who are in Australia. Some of the more popular visas include subclass 407 / 417 & 462 / 461 / 482 / 485 / 500 / 590 / 600 and 870.

This will be reviewed in early 2023.

If you already have a health examination appointment and the concession applies to you, you will receive a notification from BUPA cancelling the examination. Some applicants will still be required to undertake health examinations (eg, those working in hospitals, aged care, child care, pregnant applicants and the like).

Priority processing for skilled visa applicants (various subclasses)

Healthcare and teaching occupations are top priority at the moment. Other priority categories are people nominated to work in a "designated regional area" of Australia and those nominated by Accredited Sponsors.

Priority will be given to applicants in various categories who are offshore when they apply and to passport holders from Hong Kong, PRC and the UK.

Student visa holders - work limitation concessions

Both current and new students arriving onshore can temporarily work in excess of the usual 40 hours per fortnight limit. They can also commence working prior to their course start date. This temporary concession will be in place until 30 June 2023.

Offshore applications can be granted to onshore applicants

Partner (married or de facto), Prospective Marriage and Child visa applicants can now be granted their visa even while they are in Australia.

Previously, when a visa was ready to be granted (if applied when offshore and later came to Australia on another subclass of visa), an individual would be required to depart Australia to facilitate the grant of the new visa. Not now.

Partner and Prospective Marriage visa applicants have a concession at the moment whilst Child visa applicants are subject to a regulatory change, which means this will remain the case moving forward.

Concessions for employer-sponsored permanent residence visa applicants

There are a number of other changes that have been introduced to help offset the impacts of the pandemic.

One of the biggest of these changes has been the introduction of a pathway to permanent residence for a number of employer-sponsored visa holders who have remained in Australia for at least 12 months between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021.

This concession is currently only available until 30 June 2024.

For more detailed information on this concession, read our blog "Temporary concessions to permanent residence pathway for certain employer sponsored visa holders".

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.