Some important changes to the application process for GSM visas have been announced!

Onshore candidates for GSM 190 Skilled Nominated (Permanent) and 491(Skilled Work Regional (Provisional)  visas, and onshore candidates for employer sponsored 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visas will now be able to apply for these visas onshore, despite previously being restricted by Section 48 of the Migration Act.

Section 48 of the Migration Act applies to people who:

  • are onshore in Australia
  • hold a Bridging visa
  • have had a visa refused since last entering Australia.

Those people may only apply in Australia for a limited range of visas including Protection visa, Medical Treatment visa, Partner visa and others.

There are many people onshore in Australia in this situation. Students, graduates, tourists, may have applied for a further visa for Australia, which was refused. They may have taken that decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or Court and are awaiting the outcome, whilst holding a Bridging visa.

In the interim, because of section 48, they cannot apply for any of the regional skilled visas whilst in Australia.

Rather, if they hold a Bridging visa A, they would need to first obtain a Bridging Visa B for travel, depart Australia, lodge a visa offshore and then try to get back into Australia. To date, the getting back into Australia has been problematic given the closure of our borders. Incoming travel exemptions are available only in limited situations. Such visa candidates, have therefore been ‘stuck’ in Australia.

For those holding Bridging visas C, D or E, any departure from Australia in order to lodge a visa application would mean that they would need to wait offshore until there was a decision. For these people, however,  departing Australia on one of those bridging visas may initiate a three-year ban on returning to Australia on any temporary visas. These visa candidates have also been ‘stuck’ in Australia.

From 13 November 2021, however, that list will be extended to include the 190, 491 and 494 visas.

What this means for you

If you have the attributes of a section 48 barred candidate then, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

From 13 November, if eligible, you may apply onshore for the 190, 491 or 494 visas.

190 and 491 candidates are sponsored by State or Territory Governments (or, for 491, a regional based family member) to live and work in regional areas of Australia. Up until now, states and territories have not been permitted to offer state nomination to section 48 barred candidates given the insecurity of the departure / return scenario discussed above.

With the section 48 bar being removed, we can expect states and territories to open up nominations to onshore skilled candidates.

The lifting of the lodgement restriction will also benefit regional employers who are crying out for skilled workers. Uncertainty of tenure has led many employers to not consider the cohort of onshore skilled workers who hold Bridging visas. Not knowing when the candidate may have to depart Australia, planning for long term resources has been difficult. Now, however, employers can access the thousands of onshore skilled workers who are available to work in regional areas on the 494 visa.

The 494 visa provides the applicant with a five year visa with a pathway to permanent residence after the visa holder has worked and lived in the regional area / occupation for at least three years.

To be eligible for the 494 visa, candidates must be nominated by an employer in a genuine position that aligns with an occupation on the Regional Occupations List, MLTSSL or STSOL, and must already have three years’ experience in the occupation along with a  positive skills assessment. Whilst the threshholds are quite high, there are many candidates who meet these criteria already here in Australia.

To date, these candidates have been a ‘lost resource’ in that they have been unable to progress with the lodgement of their application as they had previously been unable to guarantee their offshore travel and return.

Time is of the essence!

The Government has stated the purpose of this amendment to:  ‘facilitate applications in Australia by applicants who are prevented from leaving due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions but meet all other requirements for making an application for the visa.’

It has been a long time coming and who knows how long the window will be open.

Applicants must still meet all criteria for the appropriate visa but should now be getting ready to either seek state sponsorship or lodge a visa application onshore after 13 November 2021.

Contact Aspire Australia today to take advantage of these changes.