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Can I apply for a Graduate Subclass 485 visa from outside Australia using the COVID-19 concessions?

By September 24, 2020November 18th, 202123 Comments

australian immigration practice

The COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive for all, including migrants and visa holders. Australia’s travel restrictions and the pandemic in general meant that a significant number of individuals had their eligibility for Australian visas removed due to factors outside of their control.

On 19 September 2020, a suite of legislative amendments came into effect which, amongst other things, made certain former Students re-eligible for the Graduate Subclass 485 (Graduate) visa, and permits them to apply from outside Australia.  These changes are summarised below.

Why are these changes significant?

The Graduate visa previously required all applicants to:

  • be inside Australia at the time they lodged their visa application;
  • hold an eligible Student visa (or have held an eligible Student visa in the 6 months prior to application); and
  • have completed the Australian study requirement in the 6 months prior to applying for the Graduate 485 visa.

If you did not meet the above criteria, you unfortunately lost eligibility for the Graduate visa. The COVID pandemic meant that many former international students, who for example went overseas for holidays and/or to see family, were stuck outside Australia, and became ineligible for the Graduate visa.

Without legislative changes, these former Students would have loss their opportunity to apply for a Graduate visa.

What are the changes?

The changes amended the legislative criteria to apply for a Graduate visa for affected individuals, including:

  • adding the ability to apply for a Graduate visa while outside Australia during a “concession period”;
  • removing the requirement to hold or have held a Student visa in the 6 months prior to applying for the Graduate visa for individuals who apply from outside Australia;
  • increasing the period that an applicant is required to have completed the “Australian study requirement” prior to applying for the Graduate visa from 6 months to 12 months;
    • this only applies to individuals who satisfy the Minister that they were unable to apply for a Graduate visa within 6 months because they outside Australia for all or part of the period between 1 February 2020 to 19 September 2020 (both days inclusive).

These changes will ensure that certain former Students who lost their eligibility to apply for Graduate 485 visas regained eligibility. These changes apply irrespective of stream (i.e. they apply to applicants under both the Post-Study Work stream and the Graduate Work stream).

What is the “concession period”?

The initial concession period begins from 1 February 2020 and ends on a date determined by the Minister in a legislative instrument.  There is currently no such instrument.

Can I travel to Australia / how long will my visa be granted for?

Presently, even if the Graduate visa is granted to you, you will still need to apply for a travel exemption to be able to travel to Australia. You can read about these exemptions here.

Interestingly the explanatory memorandum that accompanied these legislative changes indicated that these concessions were made “in anticipation of the easing of travel restrictions”. There is no indication as to what these may be, and/or whether it will be specific to Graduate visa holders.

Ordinarily, Graduate visas are granted for 18 months for individuals under the “Graduate Work” stream, and 2 to 4 years for individuals under the “Post-Study Work” stream (depending on your qualification) from the date of grant.

However, the explanatory memorandum further indicated that such Graduate visas will be granted to allow a period of stay in Australia which commences on the date of first entry to ensure that there is no disadvantage to Graduate visa holders if the travel restrictions remain in place for a further period.

When do these changes take effect?

The changes took effect from 19 September 2020, and the relevant immigration forms have been updated to reflect this.

Can we help?

Our professional fees for a consultation to discuss your eligibility, or assistance with an application are set out below:


$ 350

Plus GST
  • Review of Circumstances
  • Discussion on Prospects
  • Consideration of other visa options
Book Now


$ 1,500

Plus GST
  • Review of Documents
  • Preparation of Complete Application
  • Submission of Application
Contact Us


This is a welcome reprieve for many former international students who feared losing eligibility for visa pathways.

Please feel free to contact us by email at [email protected] or phone +61 3 9016 0484 if you have further comments or queries.

This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult an immigration professional for up to date information.
Jordan Tew

Author Jordan Tew

Jordan is one of less than 50 lawyers who are Accredited Specialists in Immigration Law by the Law Institute of Victoria, and less than 100 nationally. Accredited Specialists undergo a vigorous assessment process, and make up about 1% of all registered migration agents.

More posts by Jordan Tew

Join the discussion 23 Comments

  • Saritha says:

    Hi Jordan,

    My student visa end date is July 2021. However I completed my PhD recently. Just wondering if I could stay in the current student visa till July 2021, even though I have completed my studies?


  • Jack says:

    If students leave Australia now after finishing a PhD and their study was not impacted by COVID, can they apply for a 485 visa from overseas? I mean if they go offshore, they won’t be able to come back, so can they still apply from overseas?

    • admin says:

      Hi Jack,
      Correct, generally speaking, Schedule 1 for that visa has been amended to allow you to apply for the visa offshore as long as you are within the concession period (which is still current). Just make sure you meet other requirements (e.g. Aus study requirements, held a valid Student visa in the relevant period).
      Feel free to get in touch with us at [email protected] to discuss your specific eligibility.
      Kind regards,
      Hannan Tew

  • shohel says:

    hello Jordan
    I have completed my 2 years master degree last December (Dec, 2020). My student visa expired on 15th March this year. Currently, I’m not holding any visa. I left Australia on 8th march 2020 and for border closure, could not return to Australia anymore. Should I be eligible for this concession or can I apply for 485 visa?

  • Adriana Andrasova says:

    Hi Jordan,

    I just completed my master degree in July 2021 and my student visa is expiring in September 2021. Due to illness in family, I have to return to my home country shortly.
    Am I able to apply for Post study 485 visa from my home country? If yes, would I have 6 or 12 months to apply? And do I just wait “indefinitely”, until Australia reopens its borders for me to come back here?

    Thank you so much.


    • admin says:

      Hi Adriana,
      As it stands, the concession period is still open so the Graduate visa can be applied from overseas.
      You need to apply for it within the ordinary 6 months. You can only have the 12 month extension if you were unable to apply for a Graduate visa within 6 months because you outside Australia for all or part of the period between 1 February 2020 to 19 September 2020.
      Good luck, and let us know if we can help!
      Hannan Tew

  • Abdulhadi says:

    Hi Jordan
    I am about to graduate and my visa is expiring on the 30th of July . I want to apply for postgraduate visa but I haven’t done the ILETS exam can I apply for COVID-19 visa to be lawful and meantime do my ILETS test and withdrawal from Covid 19 vis and apply for the 485 visa?

  • Aniza says:

    I got locked out of Australia during an overseas stay in March 2020 and wasn’t able to return due to border closures, thereofre had to complete my PhD in September 2020 from overseas, my student visa expired in October.
    I understand I am eligible to apply under the 12 months concession.
    My question is, do I now really need to get health insurance for Australia before the application and maintain until they eventually reopen borders, even though I literally cant go there now due to the travel restrictions?

    • admin says:

      Hi Aniza,
      Unfortunately there’s no concessions for the health insurance requirement so as it stands “when the application [is] made, it [must be] accompanied by evidence that the applicant had adequate arrangements for health insurance.”
      All the best,
      Hannan Tew

  • Oshan says:

    I am recently finish my study and already got my graduate letter from university. I am still in australia and due to my father medical condition i am going to my home country. Myflight is on sep 15 and my visa is going to expire on sep 20. Will i be able to apply 485 visa from my home country as i dont want to apply from onshore.

    • admin says:

      Hi Oshtan,
      The COVID concession period is still in force so you should be able to apply offshore (provided you meet all other criteria).
      The concession period is currently still in force.
      Feel free to get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss this in more detail at [email protected].
      Kind regards,
      Hannan Tew

  • Hendrik says:

    Hi, what if the application window ois literally missed by a day or two, will the visa application just be refused? I only just noticed that the date of my completion email is NOT the same day as my course completion date – apparently it took uni a week to process it. So now I can’t apply?

    • admin says:

      Hi Hendrik,
      That’s a shame!
      Yes, unfortunately even if you miss it by one day you miss out on the Graduate visa.
      You’ll most likely need to look at alternative visa options, but feel free to contact us at [email protected] if you’d like to discuss.
      Hannan Tew

  • Erica says:

    Dear Hannan Tew team, are you aware whether the 12 months concession period for the 485 has ceased? It only mentions 6 months now and the option to apply from overseas, but nothing about 12 months from course completion?

    • admin says:

      Hi Erica,
      The concession period that allowed late applications (i.e. in 12 months instead of 6 months) was only available to applicants who were stuck outside Australia during all or part of the period commencing on 1 February 2020 and ending on 19 September 2020. It was a very limited provision. However, the general concession still applies that individuals can apply for the Graduate visa from offshore.
      Kind regards,
      Hannan Tew

  • Erica says:

    Thanks for the response – to clarify, I was offshore and locked out of Austra for that very duration of time, so if it has been less than 12 months since graduation, can I still apply?

    • admin says:

      Hi Erica,
      If the Minister is satisfied that you were unable to apply within 6 months of the Australian study requirement because you were outside Australia during all or part of the period commencing on 1 February 2020 and ending on 19 September 2020, then you get access to the concession (you can meet the Australian study requirement within the 12 months immediately before the day the application is made).
      Good luck,
      Hannan Tew

  • Daisy says:

    Hi, is the 12 month period still applicable?
    My visa expired in March 2021

    • admin says:

      Hi Daisy,
      The 12 month extension only applies to individuals who satisfy the Minister that they were unable to apply for a Graduate visa within 6 months because they outside Australia for all or part of the period between 1 February 2020 to 19 September 2020 (both days inclusive). Feel free to contact us at [email protected] if you’d like to discuss your circumstances further.
      Kind regards,
      Hannan Tew

  • QIN Yi says:

    Hi Jordan,
    Could you please help me figure it out whether I am eligible for applyiing for the Post-study Work Stream.
    I am an international student from China. I studied my master’s degree course in UNSW, Australia.
    From July 2018 to Dec 2019, I studied for this master’s degree program in UNSW, Australia.
    In Feb 2020, Due to the covid 19, I deferred the study and returned to China.
    Feb 2021 to May 2021, I compleled my following courses for the master’s degree.
    20 May 2021, I completed the all the courses.
    25 Jun 2021, I was issued the degree.

    My student visa expired in September 2020; I did not apply for an extension of the student visa while I deferred the courses.

    I urgently need some of your tips.

    • admin says:

      Hi Qin,
      At first glance, it looks like you might be able to enliven the concession criteria (since your completion date was 20 May 2021).
      Feel free to contact us at [email protected] if you want to discuss your eligibility in more detail.
      Kind regards,
      Hannan Tew

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