Upcoming Immigration Changes 2022

2021 has been an unprecedented year due to the impact of COVID-19. Many changes occurred in Australian Immigration, from lockdowns to border closures and the travel ban. Here is a summary of the immigration changes expected in 2022.

Australian borders opening for workers, students and graduates from 15 Dec 2021

Australia is reopening its border to vaccinated travellers. This is part of our step-by-step and safe reopening to the world. From 15 December 2021, fully vaccinated visa holders from the following cohorts will be able to travel to Australia without an exemption:

This was to begin from 1 December 2021, however the reopening was paused due to the emergence of the ‘Omicron’ COVID-19 variant.

As part of Australia’s reopening to fully vaccinated travellers, international safe travel zones have been introduced for New Zealand and Singapore. International safe travel zones with Japan and Korea will begin from 15 December 2021.

State and territory governments are leading the return of international students to their jurisdictions. They are best placed to understand their health and quarantine capacities. This is consistent with protocols and preconditions set by Commonwealth Government.

The Australian Government has endorsed International Student Arrival Plans approved by the relevant state or territory government.

Planning for the 2022-23 Migration Program

Planning is now underway for the 2022-23 permanent Migration Program. DHA undertake comprehensive consultation to inform the size and composition of the program each year. This includes advice from States and Territories, Government agencies, industry, academia and the public.

DHA have invited submissions on how the size and composition of the 2022-23 Migration Program can best support Australia’s recovery from COVID-19, and long-term economic, social cohesion, and demographic needs.

485 visa COVID-19 replacement stream

Important: This stream will be available for new applications from mid-2022. Further details will become available over the coming months. Please continue to check back for updates.

To be eligible, applicants must:

  • currently hold, or have held a Temporary Graduate visa that expired on or after 1 February 2020; and
  • have been outside Australia at any time between 1 February 2020 and 1 December 2021.

In normal circumstances, applicants can only be granted one Temporary Graduate visa, and a further visa is only available on the basis of regional work and study.

PR for STSOL visa holders in health and hospitality

The Australian Government is making it easier for highly skilled migrants to remain in Australia and to continue working in critical sectors as Australia’s economic recovery continues.

​Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke said these measures recognise the contribution of skilled migrants who remained here during the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage them to stay in Australia.

The main winners from the temporary concession, which affects primary holders of the temporary skill shortage 482 visa and holders of the now-discontinued 457 visa, will be workers employed in the health and hospitality industries, who make up one-fifth of the potential pool of new permanent residents.

These visa changes will improve access to permanent residence for:

See the latest 485 visa changes and updates:

State requirements for 190 and 491 visa in 2022

  • State requirements for 190 visa
  • State requirements for 491 visa

491 visa – Small Business Owners Pathway in 2022

State requirements for 188 Business visas in 2022

New Visa Pathways To Permanent Residency In Australia For Hong Kong Nationals

From 5 March 2022, two new visa pathways become available to individuals who hold a Hong Kong SAR or BNO passport: subclass 189 – Hong Kong Skilled Independent Stream and subclass 191 – Hong Kong Regional Stream. This is great news for holders of either passport who are, or plan to, study or work in Australia on temporary visas.

Partner visa changes:

COVID- 19 Concessions

Global Talent Independent program and citizenship

Increased flexibility for citizenship applicants – Distinguished Talent pathway only

On 14 September 2021, The Hon Alex Hawke MP announced increased flexibility for citizenship applicants. The updated instrument extends Australian citizenship (special residence requirement) to Distinguished Talent and Global Talent visa holders. It applies if we have processed the visa under the Distinguished Talent pathway.

These provisions do not apply to visa holders who were invited to apply under the Global Talent pathway (Global Talent Visa Program).

A Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce was established. The purpose of the task force is to attract international businesses and outstanding talents to Australia to help with the post-COVID-19 economy recovery. It builds on the existing Global Talent Initiative and Business Innovation and Investment Program.

The GTI program has been allocated 15,000 places.


Changes to ‘Section 48 Bar’

The Australian Government has amended the Migration Act 1958. This amendment allows applicants subject to a ‘section 48 bar‘ to lodge a visa application from within Australia, for certain skilled visa subclasses.

From 13 November 2021, onshore applicants affected by the section 48 bar can apply for the following three skilled visas:

The legislative change will mean section 48 will no longer apply to these onshore skilled migrants applying for State or Territory nomination.

This change does not remove the need to meet the Schedule 1 criteria, specifically, that an applicant in Australia must hold a:

General Skilled Visas

SkillSelect 29 October 2021 invitation round

The last SkillSelect invitation round for Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) and Skilled Work Regional (provisional) visa (subclass 491) (Family Sponsored) took place on 29 October 2021.

DHA issue SkillSelect invitations via an automated process. This process uses a ranking system of highest points score followed by earliest ‘date of effect’. This round was a targeted invitation round across various engineering and medical occupations. DHA did not include all occupations in the engineering and medical four digit unit codes in this round.

Invitation rounds will continue to occur on a quarterly basis.

Invitation process and cut offs

The highest ranked clients by points score are invited to apply for the relevant visa. For clients who have equal points scores, the time at which they reached their points score for that subclass (referred to as the date of effect) determines their order of invitation. Expressions of Interest with earlier dates of effect are invited before later dates.

Visa subclass Minimum points score Latest date of effect month
Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) 90 11/2020
Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491) – Family Sponsored) 80 04/2020

Skilled Migration Occupation Lists Review

The changes to MLTSSL/STSOL occupations are delayed until further notice. DHA have confirmed these changes will not take place until improvement in the COVID effected employment market. This is currently planned for March 2022 and maybe delayed further beyond the 2021-2022 financial year.


Possible changes to the Australian Migration program- Employer Sponsored, GTI, Skilled and Business visas

Two new DAMAs

Two new DAMAs have been announced this week, the South West WA DAMA and the Goulburn Valley DAMA in Victoria.

South West WA DAMA

This DAMA will assist in filling the large number of vacancies in Dardanup and South West Western Australia.

The Shire of Dardanup will administer the process for accessing the South West DAMA which will be open to businesses operating in any of the 12 local governments areas covered by the agreement – City of Busselton, City of Bunbury, Shire of Capel, Shire of Collie, Shire of Augusta/Margaret River, Shire of Boyup Brook, Shire of Bridgetown/Greenbushes, Shire of Dardanup, Shire of Donnybrook/Balingup, Shire of Harvey, Shire of Manjimup and the Shire of Nannup.

Local businesses can apply individually to access the DAMA from 2022.

Goulburn Valley Victoria DAMA

The Goulburn Valley region, bordered on the south by the Great Dividing Range and to the north by the Murray River, is a significant agricultural region but also includes important retail, manufacturing and tourism industries.

The Greater Shepparton City Council will administer the process for accessing the Goulburn Valley DAMA which will be open to businesses operating in any of the Greater Shepparton, Moira and Campaspe local government areas.

Local businesses can apply individually to access the DAMA from 2022.

Agriculture Visa – New Subclass 403 Stream

On 30 September 2021, the Government introduced the Migration Amendment (Australian Agriculture Workers) Regulations 2021. This supports labour shortages in Australia’s primary industries, including:

  • horticulture
  • meat processing
  • dairy
  • wool
  • grains
  • fisheries (including aquaculture), and
  • forestry.

The Australian Agriculture visa is a new sponsored temporary visa stream within the Subclass 403 Temporary Work (International Relations) visa. The visa program is still being developed. Operation of the visa will be subject to agreement on the program design with industry. We also need to complete bilateral negotiations with partner countries. This work is being led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Phase 1- From December 2021 to April 2022

  • Only open to Approved Employers who already form part of the Pacific Australian Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme
  • Small cohort of agricultural workers dependent on:
    • Border restrictions
    • Country readiness
    • Availability of quarantine

Phase 2- From April 2022

  • Increase in the number of agricultural workers participating in the new subclass 403 visa stream
  • Expanded number of bi-lateral labour agreements with countries to increase the number of those participating

The new Agriculture Visa will be made available to citizens from 10 countries in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region.

Countries in ASEAN include:

  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • The Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme

On 23 November 2021, the Australian Government announced the next stage of reforms to the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.

From 4 April 2022, the two existing PALM initiatives,the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme, will be consolidated under a single PALM scheme. It will simplify administration and provide greater flexibility for employers and Pacific workers. It also gives more flexibility for workers to move between employers.

You can find more information about these reforms and other PALM scheme details on the PALM website.

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