February 28, 2022

Australian Immigration News February 2022

Open borders, visa processing delays, visa extensions & support for Ukrainian nationals.

Mark Walsh

There is exciting news in Australian immigration on several fronts. Let’s look at the most significant developments in February.

1.      Australia is “open for business”

As of 21 February 2022, a more comprehensive range of fully vaccinated travellers to Australia have begun to arrive in Australia. Travel exemptions are no longer required, and all valid visas are excepted. This is exciting news for tourists, business travellers and other visitors.

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, The Hon. Alex Hawke, in a media release listed several interesting recent arrival/ visa grant statistics:

  • 13,500 international students arrived in Australia in the week before 17 February 2022
  • 1,000 backpackers (working holiday visa holders) arrived in the same period
  • 80,000 international students have arrived since late 2021.
  • 35,000 working holiday visas have been granted since November 2021.

Travellers are reminded to be aware of pre-flight COVID-19 PCR test and quarantine requirements (as applicable). More details can be found on the State and Territory Information website.


2.        Delays in Australian visa application processing

The opening of international borders on 21 February 2022 is not good news for every visa holder or applicant. As can be seen in the Minister’s recent media releases, the current processing priorities lay in visitor, student and working holiday visas, in addition to skilled visas with occupations on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation LIST (PMSOL).

These priorities leave a noticeable gap for various visa holders and applicants, most notably Permanent Visa applicants and bridging visa holders. SBS news Hindi interviewed several permanent residence applicants that are experiencing excessive processing delays to see how the situation is affecting them. Hopefully, these delays will be addressed in the coming year because these applicants should not be held in limbo.

3.      Visa extensions for specific subclass 485, 494,491 & 489 visa holders

Good news for certain subclass 485, 494, 491 & 489 visa holders. In recognition of the disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, particularly with visa holders’ ability to meet residence/work requirements to pass through to permanent residence, visa extensions will be available.

Temporary Graduate Visas – subclass 485

Summary of conditions* and benefits:

  • Extends current subclass 485 visas until 30 September 2022.
  • Visa holders (primary applicants) must have been outside Australia anytime between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021; and
  • Applicants hold, or have held, a subclass 485 visa that has ceased or would have ceased by 1 October 2022.
  • These subclass 485 holders will be eligible for a replacement subclass 485 visa up until 30 September 2022.
  • Commencement of these applications are likely to be in mid-2022.


Skilled Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 489)

Summary of conditions* and benefits:

  • Extends certain current subclass 489 visas by three years (total 7-year validity)
  • Visa holders (primary applicants) must have been outside Australia anytime between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021.

Skilled Employer-Sponsored Regional (Provisional)visa (subclass 494) & Skilled Work Regional (provisional) visa (subclass 491)

Summary of conditions* and benefits:

  • Extends certain current subclass 494 & 491 visas by three years (total 8-year validity)
  • Visa holders (primary applicants) must have been outside Australia anytime between 1 February 2020 and 14 December 2021.

*Other conditions are applicable. Seek migration advice for more eligibility details.


4.      Continuation of the subclass 408 ‘COVID visa'

 An announcement has yet to be made by the Department regarding the expiration of the Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408) (Australian Government endorsed events (COVID-19 pandemic event)), or commonly, the ‘COVID 19 visa’.

Applicants still wishing to take advantage of this scheme can still apply. Applicants currently employed in a critical sector may be eligible for a 12-month COVID-19 visa.

The COVID-19 Pandemic event visa critical sectors* are:

  • agriculture
  • food processing
  • health care
  • aged care
  • disability care
  • child care, and
  • tourism and hospitality

*List courtesy of the Department of Home Affairs website

5.      Support for Ukrainian nationals

Given the escalating situation in Ukraine, the Australian Government has announced it will prioritise the processing of visa applications from Ukrainian nationals. The Department will prioritise all visa categories, and Ukrainians currently onshore in Australia will be offered visa extensions of 6 months. No action needs to be taken by applicants or holders.

More information about the announcement can be found on the Department’s website.


Photo by Liam Pozz on Unsplash


The information provided in this article or anywhere on this website is of a general nature, it does not relate to your specific circumstance. This general information must not be used to form any assessment or opinion on individual visa eligibility. For an individual assessment contact us for a consultation session to confirm if you are eligible for any visa. 


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