On 21 February 2023, the Minister for Home Affairs (Hon Clare O’Neil) announced that the Australian government would address skill shortages by extending post-study work rights for international students that have graduated from an Australian education institution.
Practically, this is to be effected via amendments to the Graduate Subclass 485 visa, which is the visa available to certain international students who have completed their course of study in Australia. Most notable of which was the duration of time this visa is now valid for.
These changes are due to take place from 1 July 2023.
These announcements are addressed in further detail below, noting that formal legislation has yet to be released and so are based on announcements and information known so far.
How does this affect current Students?
Presently, international students who complete a Bachelor Degree or higher in Australia are eligible for a Graduate 485 visa upon completion valid for:
- 2 years – for those who complete Bachelor Degrees;
- 3 years – for those who complete Master Degrees; or
- 4 years – for those who complete Doctoral (PhD) Degrees.
From 1 July 2023, graduates who complete select “eligible qualifications” for indicative occupations will be eligible for an additional two years, being:
- 4 years – for Bachelor Degrees;
- 5 years – for Master Degrees; or
- 6 years – for Doctoral Degrees.
The majority of these eligible qualifications relate to those with qualifications in health, teaching, technology, engineering, and agricultural fields. Those completing qualifications not listed would only be eligible for the original duration (as set out above).
What about current Graduate 485 visa holders?
The announcement appears to indicate that eligible graduates who:
- Hold a Graduate 485 visa on 1 July 2023; or
- Apply for a Graduate 485 visa after 1 July 2023
will be considered for the two year extension.
This appears to be an equitable solution to ensure that students who had finished their studies beforehand were not disadvantaged by these announcements.
What were the other announcements?
There were two other notable announcements, being that:
- International students will have their visa conditions eased slightly to allow them to work up to 48 hours per fortnight (and increase from 40 hours per fortnight) – to take effect from 1 July 2023; and
- Graduate 485 visa holders in Australia whose visa expired (or will expire) between 1 September 2022 and 1 July 2023, or Gradauate 485 visa holders who were in Australia throughout the pandemic and are not eligible for the Graduate 485 visa under the “Replacement” stream may be eligible for a Subclass 408 visa under the “COVID-19 Pandemic Event” with a 2 year stay period.
International students make a massive contribution to Australia, both in terms of diversity and their contribution to the economy (via school fees, expenses in Australia, and labour). Having then been educated in an Australian system and assimilating into Australian life, there must be a meaningful way to allow such students to remain in Australia.
These announcements are an equitable way of ensuring that Australian graduates have an opportunity to work in Australia and gain quality work experience, and also produce realistic pathways to progress to longer (or permanent) stays in Australia.
These changes have been announced, but some will require legislative amendment. At this time, we’re still awaiting these formal legislative changes to be able to advise accurately as to how they impact current international students or existing Graduate 485 visa holders.
Hannan Tew Lawyers have assisted numerous international students with Graduate 485 visas, and other employer sponsored or independent options to remain in Australia. Please feel free to contact us by email at [email protected] or phone +61 3 9016 0484 if you would like assistance.