Moving to Australia after COVI

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Moving to Australia after COVID-19

(Partner Content) Borders may still be closed but they won’t be forever. Getting ahead of the game will help speed up your process when lockdown does come to an end.

Moving to Australia after COVI

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In Australia, we’re preparing for the entire 2020 to be a lockdown year. The Australian government has not given any definitive answers on when the borders are going to open again, but they have suggested that we’re in this for the long haul and that we should prepare for lockdown measures to exist for at least six months. We don’t see that we’re going to return to normal border openings within 2020. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t start preparing now so that you’re ahead when the borders do reopen. 

Get your application in the queue as soon as possible

The borders may be closed, but you can still submit visa applications. This means the queue is forever growing longer, so the sooner you get in the queue, the sooner you will be processed when normal processing resumes.

Migration to Australia requires a lot of preparation before a visa application can be submitted and there’s no reason not to start the prep work right away. Some things you can do immediately are English language tests, skills assessments and preparing and submitting an initial application. 

However, it’s important to be aware that different aspects of the application have different validity periods. An English language test is generally valid for three years, so that’s something you can do now, but a police check is only valid for 12 months and must be valid at the time that you enter Australia. 

As migration agents, we have a feeling for the timelines for clients who are in the queue and, given our knowledge of the process, we can advise people when they should be doing each particular part of the application. 

How the Australian immigration landscape will look after COVID-19

The pandemic is having a huge impact on employment and I think the government will change our immigration system to benefit the needs of Australia. So we’ll probably see changes in the skilled occupation lists and there may be further prioritising of certain occupations, such as healthcare. They also might remove some occupations which are not considered to be in high demand anymore. 

We’ll probably see a greater emphasis put on employer sponsored visas where they’ve identified critical shortages, and we may see a reduction in certain subclasses of visas like the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189).

This is one of the most desirable visas as it gives the holder the freedom and flexibility to live and work anywhere in Australia. People qualify for this visa based on their occupation. Already, pre-COVID, we’ve seen a big reduction in the quotas available for the 189 visa, and the government has reduced the amount of invitations that they’ve issued in line with their current strategy, which is to address specific skill shortages as opposed to the 189 being something of a scattergun approach. The government hasn’t removed this particular subclass, but they have vastly reduced the amount of quotas available and redirected them to other areas of the migration programme.

Visa applications lodged for subclass 189 between 1 July 2017 and 31 January 2020*

Client locationFinancial year
In Australia9,88115,5811,819
Outside Australia13,61215,268788

Source: Department of Home Affairs, Australia, 2020 (DD-1244.01)

*Includes primary and secondary applicants.

The Australian government may redirect the quotas that they have available to different subclasses better suited to address specific skill shortages in regional and state areas. They will probably allow those regional and state areas to build their own lists, which they currently do, but they may even target skills more directly and in more heavily-defined geographical areas.

Visa options South Africans should look at in a post-COVID world

Employer-sponsored visas

It’s likely that in order to settle permanently in Australia, people are going to have to rely on employer-sponsored visas. You’ll have to find an employer in Australia who is in need of your skills. More likely than not, those skills will be in demand in regional areas where Australian citizens don’t want to live and work (the majority of the Australian population is grouped within Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane). South Africans will need to be flexible in their approach and are going to have to be willing to live and work in a remote or regional area where employers are struggling to fill particular skills. 

Business visas

Business visas, such as the Business Innovation visa (subclass 188a), will be a particular category of visa that the government may want to embrace because this type of migration brings net financial benefits to the country. It also brings business skills – people who have established business, who can relay those businesses and those skills to Australia, which might improve our ability to produce products or services that can be exported overseas, which in turn would help our GDP and our economy. 

Working in or owning a business which can be replicated here in Australia is something that’s still going to be attractive to the Australian government going forward. 

Some examples of businesses that could expand to Australia: 

  • Software – If you are the proprietor of a piece of software that you currently deploy to businesses in South Africa, which can be replicated in Australia, that’s a product which can transfer easily across the ocean. 
  • Businesses that are aligned to the medium-to-long-term skilled occupation lists – so, for example, engineering and manufacturing. 
  • Digital agencies – generally speaking, any business which has a resource of labour in South Africa, which they can utilise to set up a business in Australia. If you can come to Australia and service new clients using your South African workforce, it gives you a competitive advantage to set up and grow a business in Australia. Digital marketing is an example that we’ve seen in the past which has worked quite well.

The best place to start is to find a client to service in Australia. If you have a contract of service, that’s the key indicator for the Australian government to demonstrate that you have a genuine need to be in Australia.

Student visas

The international student market in Australia is considered to be an export industry and is valued at around AUD $35 billion a year. According to ABC news, in a typical year, tertiary institutions bring in about AUD $8.84 billion in fees from overseas students, which amounts to 26% of their total revenue. Obviously, that will not be the case this year thanks to the global pandemic. It therefore stands to reason that the government will likely push the student visa going forward. 

As things stand, the Australian government has already provided incentives for international students to encourage them to stay in Australia after they complete their studies. If you come to Australia and study a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, once you’ve completed that qualification you are then eligible for a post-study work visa, which is granted to you for a period of two years. This visa gives you full, unrestricted, work rights here in Australia. 

Often what we see is the student then perhaps obtains a job or a graduate programme. They work for a particular employer for two years. They engrain themselves within the organisation and towards the end of that two-year period, the organisation often wants to retain the skills that they’ve developed, and they can do that through a number of different employer-sponsored options. This often results in a temporary work visa, which leads on to permanent work visas, which leads to residency and then ultimately Australian citizenship

It’s far easier to find an employer who might consider sponsoring you once you’re here in Australia and it’s also worth noting that some of the state governments offer additional incentives, which allow you to qualify for permanent visas under the Skilled Nominated Visa (subclass 190) if you’re a graduate. 

The only drawback is that international students do pay quite large fees in order to study in Australia. It’s just a matter of weighing up the pros and cons of coming to Australia as a student and paying those larger fees, looking at the long game and then thinking about what your options are thereafter. 
If you’re interested in starting the Australian migration process or finding out more information, you can get in touch with Sam at or on +61 (0) 38651 4500.