Early next year, probably around the 1st of March, there will be a major remake of the Current Graduate Skilled 485 visa. The new visa will be called the Temporary Graduate 485 visa. Although the number is still the same and the name very similar it will become a two year visa, an addition of six months on the current 18 month 485.
Many people came to see us this year with the impression the 485 visa requirements as they are today will disappear. Not so. The new 485 will have one component which will remain in its current form but it will have an additional easier pathway making the application a simpler process.
When the new visa starts the two pathways will be called the "Graduate Work Stream" and the "Post Study Work Stream". The 485 visa is still designed only for international students who have completed their "Australian Study Requirement" within the previous 6 months before the visa is lodged. This visa is not designed for anyone except those who have been on the appropriate student visa and studied in Australia. Dividing the visa into the two distinct pathways is where things get interesting and a little complicated for there will be two distinct sets of regulations for each pathway.
Pathway 1. The Graduate Work Stream
This is the easy one to remember for it is seems to be exactly as it is today to meet the 485 requirements. To meet the basic requirements it seems you will need to;
Meet the Australian study requirement (see above) within the 6 months before applying;
Demonstrate the minimum Competent English requirement at time of lodgement;
Nominate an occupation from the appropriate skilled occupation list;
The occupation you nominate must be closely related to the study used to meet the "Australian Study Requirement"
Have at least applied for a skill assessment for the occupation you have nominated (you do not need the result);
You must have booked for a medial examination;
Applied for the Australian Federal Police check;
In relation to the skilled occupation list to choose an occupation from, please refer to the additional article below.
Pathway 2. The Post Study Work Stream
Compared to the expected requirements above, using this stream will be much easier to apply for the 485 visa. In summary it seems you will need;
At least Competent English at the time you apply;
Have applied for your first student visa on or after the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) began on the 5th November 2011;
Met the 2 year "Australian Study Requirement" by studying courses at least Level 7 by definition of the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF). These are Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate Degrees only (some packaged courses may be acceptable- see below);
Booked or apply for the medical test;
Applied for the AFP certificate.
Need to nominate an occupation?
No. This new stream does not require any occupation to be nominated and this means no skill assessment is necessary and therefore there is no longer an issue regarding the "closely related" requirement.
So what about Diploma's, Graduate Diploma's and Graduate Certificates?
These lower than AQF level 7 courses will only accepted if they are part of a packaged program that have led to the degree qualification. DIAC has given the example of Graduate Diploma's or Graduate Certificates being acceptable only if they are packaged in a way which lead to the Master's degree qualification. DIAC has not mentioned about Diploma's which are part of a Bachelor Degree programs (such as a Diploma of Business leading to a Bachelor of Commerce) but we would assume the same logic should apply. One would assume that it may be necessary to demonstrate the student visa was a 573 visa covering the Diploma and Degree as an entire package.
The study of a degree level qualification does not have to be at an Australian University, it can be from any institution authorized to grant the award under the AQF system such as TAFE or a private vocational college such as Holmes Institute.
First Student Visa?
The issue of the "first student visa" will be a disappointment for many students about to or have just finished their degrees. Making a cut-off date of the 5th November 2011 will exclude nearly all of the students who are completing their degree level courses at the end of this year and probably well into next year. Most of these students would have obtained their first student visa prior to the 5th November 2011. This means they will not be eligible for the "Post Study Work Stream" and be forced to use the "Graduate Work Stream" and have to choose the appropriate occupation, closely related to their study and apply for a skill assessment for that occupation.
DIAC is well aware of this issue and judging by the FAQ's they provide (see the fact sheets below), it is clear that do not care about those who will be disadvantaged by this proposed rule. This leads us to discuss the crucial issue of the end of the "Transitional Arrangement" due to expire at the end of this month.
The End of the Transitional Arrangements
For those international students who have been studying in Australia for a while now, most will be aware of the "Transitional Arrangements" set up by DIAC on the 8th February 2010. These arrangements were introduced as a concession to the dramatic changes to the Skilled Occupation List that occurred on this day. At the time these alterations excluded many occupations such as Cook, Welfare Worker, Hairdresser and most of the common business occupations such as Marketing Specialist and Management Consultant etc, etc.
The "Transitional Arrangements" was a concession which allowed those who held a student visa on the 8th February 2010 to use the occupation list that existed prior to this date when they applied for their graduate 485 visa. As announced back in 2010, this concession will be closed at the end of 2012. There were other arrangements made for those who had applied for the 485 visa or who held a 485 visa on the 8th February 2010 but we are not discussing those former students now.
Since the proposed Graduate Work Stream of the new 485 visa requires your first student visa to be granted on or after the 5th November 2011, most who complete their degrees soon will not have the advantage of applying for the new 485 visa without needing to nominate an occupation.
Keep in mind that it is not expected the CSOL will change this month so for the 485 visa from the 1st January 2013, the CSOL Schedule 1 does not include most of the business and trade occupations.
It is vital that those who wish to use the advantage of the current transitional arrangements and use a business occupation such as Marketing Specialist (etc) from Schedule 2 of the current CSOL, you must apply for the 485 visa before midnight on the 31st December.
Do you need to have the Completion Letter and AT in your hand to apply for the 485 visa?
The simple answer is, no you don't.
The law does require you to prove that have completed your studies (that is you have completed all the necessary academic requirements for the award to be granted) and you need to nominate a completion date on the application form. Proving this completion date can be demonstrated by the release of your results for your final subjects. This would mean there is nothing more academically required of you for the award to be conferred. It does not matter if the education institution takes a month to issue your formal completion letter, you are entitled to use the results release date as your completion date.
This could be crucial for those who would like to apply for the 485 visa using an occupation under the Transitional Arrangements before the 1st January 2013. For most students who complete their qualifications at the end of this final semester in 2012, they will receive their results before the 31st December but many will not receive their formal completion letters or Academic transcripts until early next year. It is common at this time of year that results may only be released in the form of a unofficial academic transcript. This is enough to prove and use as your completion date to lodge before the 31st of December if you really need to.
Remember the current 485 visa does not require a skill assessment result, only that you prove that you have applied for such an assessment. A receipt of payment or even a copy of the application form can be used to meet this requirement. The AFP certificate is not difficult to apply for nor is the booking of a medical rest over the phone.
Do not be duped by DIAC by talking to them over the phone asking for visa advice. Their official line is that you need to have the completion letter before you can apply for the 485 visa. This is simply not true. You do need to have received your results but not necessarily via the standard formal Academic transcript, the unofficial one will do. As long as it has a date on it that is before the 31st December 2012, then you can lodge using a transitional arrangement skilled occupation.
You can read the DIAC fact sheets regarding the new 485 visa below;
Fact Sheet 1
Fact Sheet 2
Fact Sheet 3