Visa Changes


In her address to the National Press Club in April this year, the Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil described Australia’s current visa system as “a mess of three digit visa codes . . . so complicated that if I drew you a diagram, it would look like a tangled bowl of spaghetti.” We feel your pain, Clare. So, we’ve set out to create a neat and tidy overview.

Let’s take a look at the latest visa changes. And more specifically, the changes that are due to come into force from 1 July 2023.

New Zealand Citizens Living in Australia

From 1 July, there will be a direct pathway to Australian citizenship for New Zealand citizens living in Australia. Until now, NZ citizens in Australia had to apply first for a permanent visa, and then for citizenship. That’s no longer the case.

Those eligible to apply directly for Australian citizenship are:

  • NZ citizens who have been living in Australia for four years or more
  • NZ citizens currently holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV), who arrived after 26 February 2001

Those granted an SCV prior to 1 July 2022 will have their period of permanent residency for citizenship purposes backdated to 1 July 2022. NZ citizens granted an SCV on or after 1 July 2022 will also be considered a permanent resident for citizenship purposes from the date of grant of their visa.

More on the pathway to Australian citizenship for NZ citizens.

Working Holiday Maker Visa Program

During the pandemic, Working Holiday Makers were permitted to work for more than six months for the same employer. This change will end on 1 July 2023; however, any work carried out for an employer prior to 1 July this year will not count towards the six-month limit.

From 1 July 2023, the age limit for UK citizens applying for the Australian Working Holiday visa program will rise from 30 to 35. UK citizens join a group of other countries who are also eligible to apply up to the age of 35, including Canada, France, Italy, Denmark and Ireland.

From 1 July 2024, eligible UK citizens on a working holiday visa will be able to stay in Australia for a total of 3 years, i.e. be granted three working holiday visas, without having to undertake specified work to extend their right to stay.

More on changes to the Working Holiday Maker program for UK citizens.

Student Visa Holders

From 1 July 2023, students visa work restrictions will be re-introduced. Student visa holders will be able to work a maximum of 48 hours per fortnight. However, international students working in the aged care sector will be exempt from this cap until 31 December 2023.

More on student visa work restrictions.

Additionally, from 1 July some students on temporary graduate visas (subclass 485) will be permitted to stay in Australia for a longer period, as follows:

  • Four years for a bachelor’s degree graduate (instead of two years)
  • Five years for a master’s degree graduate (instead of three years)
  • Six years for a doctoral graduate (instead of four years)

More on student graduate visa extensions.

Pandemic Event Visas (subclass 408)

Recent graduates who currently hold a Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 785) may, under certain conditions, be eligible to apply for a Pandemic Event visa that is valid for two years if:

  • Their Temporary Graduate visa (TGV) expires before 1 July 2023
  • They are not eligible to apply for a TGV extension on 1 July 2023
  • They currently hold an unfinalised Pandemic event visa application and held a TGV at the time they made the application

More on Pandemic event visas for Temporary Graduate visa holders.

Holders of other substantive visas with work rights that expire in less than 90 days or that expired 28 days ago or less may be able to apply for a Pandemic event visa.

Current holders of Pandemic event visas cannot extend their current visa; however, they may be eligible to apply for a new 12-month Pandemic event visa if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Applicants need to have evidence of employment or an offer of employment in order to apply.

At the time of writing (June 2023), holders of Pandemic event visas are able to change employment, work for more than one employer or be self-employed.

More on Pandemic event visas.

Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold

From 1 July 2023, the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold or TSMIT will increase from $53,900 to $70,000. The previous amount was frozen 10 years ago and is now below the earnings of 90% of Australia’s full-time workers. The increase to the TSMIT will, according to Clare O’Neil, ensure that it is a “skilled worker program” rather than “a guest worker program”.

For more on the increase to the TSMIT:

Additionally, by the end of 2023, the government has confirmed that the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream of the Employer Nomination scheme (subclass 186) will be open to all Temporary Skill Shortage visa holders whose employers wish to sponsor them. The TRT provides skilled temporary visa holders with the possibility to live, work and study in Australia indefinitely.

Applicants need to continue to work in the field nominated for their Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa; however there are a couple of changes:

  • Occupations will no longer be limited to those on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List
  • Applicants will need to have worked for two years with the sponsoring employer (instead of three years)
  • Limits will also be removed on the number of Short-term stream TSS visa applications that applicants can make in Australia.

More on changes to the Temporary Residence Transition stream.

Pacific Engagement Visa

The Pacific Engagement Visa or PEV is a new visa for Pacific Islanders and citizens of Timor-Leste. It will provide 3,000 migrants with the possibility to migrate to Australia each year, with places allocated via a ballot.

Key takeaways:

  • Applications can be lodged with the Department of Home Affairs from July 2023
  • People applying for the scheme will need to have a job offer before they arrive in Australia
  • They will be able to include a partner and legally dependent children in their visa application
  • Applicants are free to choose where they live, what work or study they undertake
  • Those whose applications are successful will be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship

More on the Pacific Engagement Visa.

Operation untangle is now complete. For more information, we invite you to click on the links provided at the end of each section.

At Optimal Recruitment, we welcome applications from eligible visa holders and applicants. Contact the team today on or 02 8416 4181.