In recent days, social media has been rife with posts requesting Alex Hawke to restore the expired subclass 476 visa.
Graduate students who had applied for Australian visa subclass 476 before the COVID pandemic began and could not enter Australia for the last two years, have been appealing to the immigration minister to restore validity for their expired visas.
Australian Greens Senator for Tasmania, Nick McKim has also called for an extension of visa 476 that have expired in the last 21 months due to pandemic-enforced border closure. In a letter addressed to Alex Hawke, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Mr McKim has requested the minister to urgently look into the matter.
In his letter, the senator has thanked Mr. Hawke for allowing entry of current and former Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa holders from 18 February 2022 but pointed out another subclass that urgently needed to be considered for extension as well.
‘’There is another group of Graduate visa holders that are waiting to have their situation addressed by the Government – people on expired Skilled-Recognised Graduate (subclass 476) visas. As you are aware, this visa allows recent engineering graduates to live, work or study in Australia and processing times on this visa can take up to two years,’’ he wrote.
He also said: ‘’Many hundreds of people have written to me in desperation, due to having received their Subclass 476 visa grants just before the borders closed and their visas have now expired due to the 21-month border closure.’’
The Australian Government had announced the extension by three years Skilled Regional Provisional (subclass 489, 491 and 494) visas last month where COVID-19 international travel restrictions had impacted the visa holder. They had also announced that certain eligible Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa holders would have their visas extended or enlivened to 30 September 2022.
However, the plight of subclass 476 visa holders has compelled the Greens senator to point out and question the immigration minister: ‘’While new Subclass 476 visa holders are able to travel to Australia without requiring a travel exemption, people with expired 476 visas are not able to enter Australia and now need to start their visa applications from scratch.’’
‘’Coud you please urgently advise what your plan is for people that have expired 476 visas, and in particular whether they will be automatically offered replacement visas if their visas have expired?’’
He has brought to the attention of Mr Hawke the skill-shortage faced by Australia, saying, ‘’If you are not prepared to do this, could you please explain why – given the ongoing shortages of engineers that Australia has?’’
In recent days, Twitter has been rife with posts requesting Alex Hawke to restore the expired subclass 476 visa.
In a report last month, The Sydney Morning Herald had reported that the Minerals Council of Australia has warned that the international border closure has denied miners access to expertise, deepening the skills shortage for various engineering occupations.
The ABC News had also said in a report published late last year that disrupted training and skilled migration programs during the COVID-19 pandemic have aggravated labour shortages. At the peak of demand between now and 2025, Infrastructure Australia predicts a shortfall of 70,000 scientists and engineers, 19,000 project management professionals and 28,000 trades and labour workers.