Budget 2021-22: Latest Updates to Australian Visa Rules

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivered the Federal Budget on Tuesday 11 May 2021. I've been pouring over the Budget Documents to identify the changes to the Australian Visa rules. This year's budget has been surprisingly light on Immigration rule changes. Perhaps it's because the Australian Government expects 2021 to be a repeat of 2020 so not many significant changes have been announced. However, it is important to be aware of the latest visa updates if you are a temporary visa holder looking to transition to permanent residency. Keep reading the learn more about:

  • Recent developments in relation to  Coronavirus (COVID-19) and visa processing 
  • Impact of Budget 2021 initiatives on Australian visa applicants and visa holders 

BUDGET 2021 Updates

Borders closed until mid 2022

One thing which is clear from the recent budget is that the Australian government assumes that borders will be closed until mid 2022. This is indeed very troubling news for all visa applicants and temporary visa holders. Until the borders open, travelling and returning from overseas will be allowed only under strict exemption conditions. Make sure that you read about the COVID related changes on the Department's website regularly as this information changes frequently.

Net Overseas Migration

International border restrictions have had a dramatic effect on Australia's net overseas migration. The budget revealed some troubling statistics about the net overseas migration. Last year, more people left Australia that those who arrived here. This was the first time in 60 years that Australian population went down. This trend is expected to continue in 2021-22 with the Government expecting the net migration to further reduce by 77,000. However, by 2024-25 the Government expects this trend to reverse and expects 235,000 net overseas migration.

YearNet Overseas Migration
2019-20 194,000
2021-22 -77,000 

Migration Program 2021-22 

The 2021-22 migration program will continue migration settings at 2020-21 levels which support economic recovery and promote population stabilisation and social cohesion. A planning ceiling of 160,000 places will be maintained. There will be a continued focus on skilled migrants who fill critical needs and those who introduce investment and  innovation into the local economy.  

Additionally, an increased partner allocation will support the reunification of Australians with their immediate family members and provide increased certainty for those waiting onshore. 

Finally, With forward estimates providing for up to 13,750 places in 2021-22 under the  humanitarian program, Australia remains one of the most generous humanitarian  resettlement countries in the world. 

Here's what to expect from the Migration Program 2021-22:

  • Migration Planning Ceiling maintained at 160,000 places. (These are ceilings and not targets)  
    • Skilled Migration: 79,600 
    • Family Reunion: 77,300 
    • Humanitarian: 13,750 
  • Continuing focus on reducing onshore pipeline 
  • Skilled Migration: 50% of program dedicated to  
    • Employer sponsored  
    • Business Innovation and Investment Program  
    • Global Talent Program 
  • International students will have ‘small phased programs’ in late 2021 which will  ‘gradually increase’ from 2022.
  • Validity of sponsored parent visas to be extended by 18 months who are unable to  use the visa due to COVID-19 travel restrictions   

Temporary Visas 

  • 408 COVID-19 Visa: Removed the requirement for applicants for the Subclass  408 Temporary Activity visa to demonstrate their attempts to depart Australia if they intend to undertake agricultural work.
  • Student visa: Student visa holders to work more than 40 hours per fortnight, as  long as they are employed in the tourism or hospitality sectors. Further information on student work rights relaxation is available here
  • Pacific labour mobility: Pacific workers already in Australia under the Seasonal  Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme had their visas extended for  12 months in April 2020 to enable continued availability of workers in regional  Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. These arrangements are confirmed  to continue until April 2022. 

Supporting migrant and refugee women 

  • Funding is being provided to improve migrant and refugee women’s safety and  increase capacity for early intervention, grass-roots and social and economic inclusion support. 
  • A pilot program to support temporary visa holders experiencing family violence  to explore visa options that are not reliant on their partner. 

Adult Migrant English Program  

  • The Government will introduce a new delivery model for the Adult Migrant English Program from 1 July 2023 to improve English language, employment  and social cohesion outcomes for migrants by linking provider payments to  student outcomes.  
  • The cap of 510 hours will be removed and migrants will be able to study until they have reached the level of ‘vocational' English.

Trades Recognition Australia  

  • TRA's activities will become demand driven and fees will be structured to ensure that they are aligned with the Australian Government  Charging Framework and Cost Recovery Guidelines 
  • Cost recovery-based fees commence 1 September 2021. THis means that skills assessment from TRA is expected to cost a lot more going forward.

Welfare payments  

  • A consistent four-year Newly Arrived Resident's Waiting Period will be applied across most welfare payments for those granted PR from 1 January 2022. For comparison, here are the current waiting periods to access welfare payments for migrants:
  • Family tax benefit B: Immediate
  • Family tax benefit A: One Year
  • Carers allowance: One Year  
  • Paid parental leave: Two years
  • Carers payment: Two years


In summary,

  • 2021 is set to be a repeat of 2020 when it comes to immigration. Borders will remain closed and travelling in and out of Australia will continue to cause a great deal of problems for immigrants as well as Australian citizens and PR holders.
  • Employer sponsored visas, Family visas and Global Talent Visas will be the focus even this year.
  • On shore applicants will have an advantage over off shore applicants for most visas.
  • Australian Immigration is expected to get back to normal by 2024-25.

So what do you think about this year's Budget updates? How will it affect you? Leave a comment below.

Atul Pandey

Atul has spent half his life migrating from one country to another. He moved from India to the US on a student visa to pursue his Master of Science from Penn State University. After spending a decade in the US, Atul migrated to Australia as a Permanent Resident. He is an entrepreneur and is the founder of Wisekangaroo.com. Atul is a Registered Migration Agent (MARN:2016128). Reach him via email: atul@wisekangaroo.com