Australian Immigration Outlook 2021

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January 19, 2021


2020 has been an extremely unique year for everyone across the globe due to the impact of Covid-19, including lockdowns, migration changes, travel bans and border closures introduced by the Australian government to help limit the spread of the virus. With 2020 done and dusted, it is time to look at what 2021 has yet to bring. As a leading migration agent in Sydney, we have created a summary of immigration changes that are expected to occur this year.


Migration Program Levels

No changes to the quote are taking place as advised earlier in our migration 2020-2021 update. However, the distribution is different, seeing the family stream increasing to 77,300 places (up from 47,732 in the previous year). Priority will also be given to Employer-Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation, and Investment Program visas to aid with the economic recovery post Covid-19. Applications in regional areas for onshore applicants and partner visa applicants will also be prioritised.


Business, Investment, and Innovation Program

With a focus on the economic recovery post Covid-19, the 2020-21 migration program has dedicated a special consideration to places for the business, investment and innovation program which has increased to 13,500. Starting July 1st 2021, the government will be streamlining and improving the operation of the Business Innovation and Investment Program with visa application charges increasing by 11.3%.

The Business Innovation visa requirements have been adjusted to try and attract skilful migrants with proven business skills. Visa holders are now required to hold business and personal assets of $1.25 million (up from $800,000) and have an annual turnover of $750,000 (up from $500,000) to prove their business acumen.


Global Talent Independent Program

A Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce will be established to attract international businesses and outstanding talents to Australia to assist with the post Covid-19 economy recovery. This is an expansion of the existing Global Talent Initiative and Business Innovation and Investment Program, with an expectation of the program to triple its allocations to 15,000.


Subclass 485

The Department of Home Affairs has announced a new initiative for an additional Temporary Graduate visa with an extra one or two year of post-study work rights for international students. Eligible candidates are graduates from the regional campus of a registered university or institution with higher education or postgraduate qualification and maintain an ongoing residency in a regional area while holding their first Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa. The second Temporary Graduate visa will require ongoing residence in a regional area. Visa application fee is $650 for the primary applicant, $325 for spouse or partner and $165 for children under 18. Applications can be made from the 21, January 2021 and onwards.


Definition Locations Regional incentives
Major Cities Sydney, Melbourne


Cities and major regional centres Perth, Adelaide

Gold Coast

Sunshine Coast, Canberra Newcastle/Lake Macquarie

Wollongong/Illawarra Geelong


Access to the dedicated 25,000 regional places.

Priority processing on regional visas.

Access to the Regional Occupations List – more jobs compared to non-regional lists.

International students studying at regional universities will be eligible to access an additional 1 year in Australia on a post-study work visa.

Regional centres and other regional areas All other locations Access to the dedicated 25,000 regional places.

Priority processing on regional visas.

Access to the Regional Occupations List – more jobs compared to non-regional lists.

International students studying at regional universities will be eligible to access an additional 2 years in Australia on a post-study work visa.

Priority in negotiating region-specific Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMAs).


Family Stream Program and Visas

The government has allocated 77,300 places for family visas, with new changes introduced to partner visas.


Partner Visas

According to the migration changes announced in the federal budget, there will be new changes to partner visa applications. One of the most significant changes to the partner visa is the English requirement for applicants and sponsors. The goal of the test is to promote social cohesion and economic participation.

These changes are likely to come into effect from July 1st, 2021.



General Skilled Migration

The overall points to receive an invitation to migrate to Australia has significantly dropped in the last few months. The results for the 21, October 2020 invitation round are as follows:

Subclass 189 – The lowest score to receive an invitation was 65 points, which is a record low for the year where it used to range between 90-110, however, you would need to have an occupation on the PMSOL.

Subclass 491 – 65 points (including the additional 15 points awarded to this visa subclass) remain the lowest score to receive an invitation for a subclass 491 visa. This drop is in line with the government’s approach to attract more skilful migrants to aid with the economic recovery in 2021 onwards for selected sectors.

The next invitation round will run in January 2021 and our team of migration agents are expecting this trend to continue through to 2021, with people in the targeted sectors receiving priority over other sectors.


Employer-Sponsored Visas Concessions

Due to the pandemic, many workers’ hours for 457/482 visa holders have been reduced or been asked to go on unpaid leave, which impacts their eligibility for a subclass 186 TRT visa. The government has introduced laws to counteract the issue, allowing subclass 457/482 visa holders to apply for the subclass 186 TRT even if they have not been working full-time during the concession period, which started on 1, February 2020.


Higher Income Threshold and Age Exemptions

If the age exemption applies to you on the basis that you are earning the Fair Work High Income Threshold (currently $153,600) to meet the 186 visa requirements, you will continue to be eligible for the age exemption even if your earnings have dropped due to the pandemic. This applies for all applications made since 1, February 2020.


Skilled Migration Occupation Lists Review

The changes to MLTSSL/STSOL occupations are delayed until further notice, with plans to change in March 2021 but this may be delayed further to the new financial year 2021-2022.


Offshore Student Visas

Due to border closures, the number of offshore student visa applications have significantly dropped, which is expected as overseas students are not yet allowed to come to Australia.

To minimise the negative impact of COVID-19 on the education sector, the government has put in place new measures to support the education industry. These include:

  • Waiving student visa fees to allow students to lodge a further student visa application to complete their studies.
  • Students who undertook studies online due to COVID-19 will still be able to apply for a Subclass 485.


Australian Borders Opening

While not yet decided, the budget forecast prepared by the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann assumes that travel restrictions will be lifted between March 2021 and July 2021, with a focus to bring back international students who are stranded overseas.


If you need to discuss your current situation with our visa specialists, book a consultation now with one of our migration agents in Sydney.

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