Graduate Temporary 485 Visas - 10 Common Pitfalls to Avoid

webster By Mark Webster
Wednesday, 04 October 2017

The Graduate Temporary Subclass 485 visa is a great option for international students who have completed studies in Australia.

The 485 gives you full work rights in Australia for between 18 months and 4 years, depending on the course you complete. Many students use the 485 as a stepping stone onto a permanent residence visa.

However, the 485 is more complex than it initially appears - this article goes through 10 common pitfalls experienced by students in applying for 485 visas.

1. Time is of the Essence

To apply for a Graduate Temporary Subclass 485 visa, you must lodge your application within 6 months of course completion. The "completion date" is the date you are notified of your final results. Many students get confused thinking the date of graduation is the critical date. This is not the case, and graduation may be many months after the date of completion.

Most students will need to apply between the date of completion and the expiry of their student visa. Depending on when you complete, you might only have a couple of weeks to lodge your application. It's critical that you lodge a complete application, otherwise your application could be refused.

2. University Documents

To lodge your application, you will need a letter of completion which gives exact dates of your study and confirms which qualification you completed. You will need to specifically request this document as most universities and colleges don't issue this automatically.

We would also recommend lodging with an official final transcript - again, you may need to specifically request this.

Another very important thing to check is how many weeks your course is registered for on CRICOS (the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students). You will need to have completed a course which is registered for at least 92 weeks on CRICOS to qualify for a 485.

3. Time Spent in Australia

You will need to have been physically present in Australia for at least 16 months between when you commence your course and the completion date.

This could be an issue if you have completed your course early (eg due to exemptions or doing Summer semesters), or if you have spent a lot of time overseas during your studies.

We would recommend carefully checking how many days you were in Australia before lodging an application.

4. English Testing

Unless you have a passport from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada or New Zealand, you will need to complete an English test prior to lodging your 485 application.

It is very important not to leave this to the last minute, as there can be long waits for a testing date. Many students also find they don't get the score they expect the first time they sit the test, so it's a good idea to give yourself time to sit the test again if necessary before expiry of your student visa.

If you don't provide a passing score in a test which you have sat for prior to lodging your 485 application, your application will be refused even if you later pass the English test. Even the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) will not be able to change this outcome, as English is a time of application requirement.

5. AFP Clearances

Another easy to miss time of application requirement is that you will need to provide evidence that you have applied for an Australian Federal Police check prior to lodging. Whilst the requirement seems simple, it is easy to have an application refused on this requirement:
  • Even if you have actually applied for an AFP before lodging, your application will be refused if you don't provide at least a receipt for AFP lodgement. This is because the legislation requires the 485 application to be "accompanied by" evidence you've applied for AFP clearances.
  • Many students apply for the wrong type of police clearance - for example a state police check.
  • The requirement for providing evidence of AFP applies to everyone included in the 485 application who is aged 16 or over - not just the main applicant.
  • You must have applied for an AFP in the 12 months before lodging your 485 application - providing an AFP clearance older than this will result in refusal

6. Health Insurance

You will need to show that you have made adequate arrangements in Australia for health insurance to meet the 485 criteria. This requires you to show evidence at different stages of the application cycle as follows:
  • At lodgement: evidence of health cover is required - this could be Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)
  • During processing: you will need to show you have maintained health cover during processing. This could be either OSHC or Overseas Visitor Health Cover (OVHC) once your student visa expires
  • On Grant: you'll need to have OVHC - OSHC will not suffice
  • Whilst on your 485 visa: your 485 will be subject to a condition which requires you to maintain your health cover - this could either be OVHC or Medicare if you apply for PR. Failure to do so could result in cancellation of your 485 visa

7. Choose the Correct Pathway

There are two different application pathways or "streams" - the Graduate Work Stream (GWS) and the Post Study Work Stream (PSWV).

Generally the PSWV is more favourable because of the following considerations:

  • Validity: the PSWV is valid for 2-4 years, depending on the qualification you completed. The GWS is only valid for 18 months
  • Skills Assessment: skills assessment is required for GWS but not for PSWV
  • Occupations List: you will need an occupation on the Independent and Family Sponsored Occupations List (IFSOL) for the GWS, whereas there is no restriction on occupations for the PSWV.

However, you may not be eligible for the PSWV if:

  • First Student Visa: if you've held a student visa which you applied for prior to 5 November 2011, you will not be eligible for a PSWV. This covers dependent students and studies of any type including school or English courses. The critical date is the date you applied, not the date of grant.
  • Qualification Type: You have not completed qualifications at the Bachelor, Masters or PhD level in Australia, you won't be eligible for a PSWV. Even students completing a Certificate III or Diploma in Australia might be eligible for a GWS visa, providing they pass skills assessment in an IFSOL occupation.

8. Eligible Qualifications

To qualify for a 485, you must complete a course or courses taking at least 2 academic years of study in Australia. A couple of important points on this requirement:
  • You can count one or more courses completed in Australia, even if you had a break between qualifications
  • The types of courses which are eligible differ depending on whether you are applying for the GWS versus the PSWV
  • Graduate Diplomas are not eligible qualifications for the PSWV. A recent policy change suggests that they are not acceptable for GWS either, but this appears to contradict the Migration Regulations
  • If you have completed a package course which has resulted in you completing an eligible qualification, it may be possible to count time spent completing qualifications which are not in themselves eligible qualifications
  • For the GWS, all qualifications you are counting towards the 2 year requirement need to be "closely related" to your nominated occupation

9. Skills Assessments

For the GWS, you must obtain a positive skills assessment in your nominated occupation for grant of the visa. Some points on this requirement:
  • You don't need the assessment to be completed to lodge the 485 application. You must, however, provide at least a receipt confirming lodgement of your skills assessment when you lodge your 485
  • You must nominate an occupation on the Independent and Family Sponsored Occupations List (IFSOL).
  • It's not possible to change occupation during processing. If your skills assessment fails, you cannot change occupation so it is critical to choose the correct occupation
  • If your skills assessment is refused, it is possible to appeal the decision and even re-lodge the skills assessment, providing this is in the same occupation.
  • The skills assessment must be positive at the date of decision. This would normally be the date of decision for your initial visa application by the Department of Immigration. However, if your application is refused, you can usually appeal to the AAT which may give you more time to provide a positive skills assessment

10. Section 48 Bars

If your 485 application is refused, you may not be able to apply from within Australia for a further visa. This is because of the operation of Section 48 of the Migration Act.

Section 48 applies if you are currently in Australia on a bridging visa, and have had a visa refusal since last entering Australia. In this case, you are excluded from making a valid application for most types of visas whilst you are in Australia.

You only have 6 months from the date of completion to lodge your 485 visa, so you may only have one chance to get it right.

Making a simple mistake with your 485 lodgement can mean you lose the opportunity to obtain a 485 visa, and this in turn your eligibility for permanent residence in the future.

Make the most of your 485

You can only hold a 485 once in your lifetime as a primary visa holder - so it is important to make the most of your 485 visa once it is granted.

Many students use their time on the 485 visa as a chance to improve their eligibility for further stay - examples include:

  • English Testing: taking preparation courses and tutoring to improve their scores in the English test and maximising their points for General Skilled Migration
  • Professional Year: accounting, IT and engineering students often complete a Professional Year in Australia. This leads to extra points for skilled migration and makes it easier to pass the skills assessment. Because the Professional Year also includes an internship, it makes it easier to get a professional job in Australia
  • Work in Australia: if you work in Australia in your occupation for at least 12 months, this can result in 5 additional points for General Skilled Migration. However, it can also lead to employer sponsored visa opportunities (such as 457, ENS and RSMS), and make it easier to get nominated by a State or Territory Government for a Skilled Nominated subclass 190 or Skilled Regional Provisional Subclass 489 visa
  • Explore Regional Australia: many states and territories require you to live, work or study in a regional area before they will nominate you for a 489 or 190 visa. If you receive a job offer in a regional area, this may also open up permanent residence via the RSMS visa

Conclusion

The 485 is a great way to extend your stay in Australia, but can also be a great opportunity to improve your eligibility for permanent residence.

Too often, students who lodge their own 485 visa miss a critical requirement and so lose their opportunity to access the 485 program. There is little room for error, and once the mistake is made, often it is not possible to remedy it even if you are willing to appeal to the AAT.

If you would like advice on the requirements and your eligibility for a 485 visa, please book a consultation with one of our advisors.

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