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

By September 24, 2020September 27th, 20206 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 6 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?

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