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What are my options when my covid visa expires?

Australian Migration Lawyer
March 21, 2024
minute read

What is the Covid visa?

The subclass 408 Covid visa was a temporary visa stream intended to support the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic. This visa effectively allows anyone who was employed in Australia to remain in Australia and work for their employer for a further 12 months.

In 2023, the Australian Government announced that this visa pathway was to be closed to all new applicants from 1 February 2024. Covid visa holders were able to lodge an application for a final six month visa between 2 September 2023 and 1 February 2024, which means that the last covid visa holders will be expiring around August 2024.

This visa was a convenient solution to allow foreign workers to remain onshore, as there was minimal eligibility criteria and no visa application fee. Now that many covid visa holders are coming up to the expiry of their visa, we have received many requests asking us which visas they may be eligible to apply for to continue working and living in Australia.

There are a number of options available to covid visa holders to extend their stay, which will vary depending on their occupation, skill level, work experience and status in Australia. To assist Covid visa holders who are trying to figure out their next steps, we have outlined some of their options below.

Work and skilled visas

There are a number of different work and skilled visa options available to skilled workers who are intending to continue living and working in Australia. Some of the most common options, as well as the key eligibility criteria, are listed below.

Temporary skill shortage 482 visa

The subclass 482 visa is an employer sponsored visa, which means you will need to find an employer who is willing to nominate you for a role in their business. This visa generally requires a minimum of two years relevant work experience, as well as any prerequisite qualifications for the nominated occupation. Your occupation must be listed on the relevant Skilled Occupation List, and must align with the role you will perform in your sponsor’s business.

Once granted, this visa will allow you to live and work in Australia for up to four years, and provides a PR pathway after two years.

Employer nomination scheme 186 visa

The subclass 186 visa is generally aimed toward 482 visa holders looking to apply for PR after two years, however it is possible for an applicant to apply for PR directly through the 186 Direct Entry stream. This is another employer sponsored visa, so you must have an eligible business to nominate you for the role.

The primary applicant must have at least three years of relevant work experience in an occupation listed on the medium and long term occupation list, and must have a positive skills assessment from the relevant assessing authority. Once granted, this is a permanent visa that allows the visa holder to live and work in Australia indefinitely.

Skilled work regional (Provisional) 491 visa

The 491 visa is a state nominated or family sponsored points-based visa. You will need to achieve a minimum of 65 points in SkillSelect to lodge an expression of interest for the visa, which will allow you to be invited to apply. You will need to have a positive skills assessment prior to lodging your expression of interest.

Subclass 491 visas are generally either nominated by a State or Territory Government Agency, or by an eligible family member living in regional Australia. This is a regional work visa, meaning that you must live and work in a regional area for the duration of the visa, and is granted for up to five years, providing a PR pathway through the 191 visa after three years of full-time work.

Skilled employer sponsored regional (Provisional) 494 visa

The 494 is another regional visa, however this visa is employer sponsored similar to the subclass 482. All primary visa applicants will require a minimum of three years experience in the relevant occupation, as well as a positive skills assessment, and must live and work in a designated regional area for the duration of the five year visa. Similar to the 491, this visa provides a PR pathway after three years through the 191 visa.

Skilled independent (189) and skilled nominated (190) visas

These two points-based visa subclasses are very similar, however the 190 requires a nomination from a State or Territory Government Agency, while the 189 does not.

These permanent visas can be accessed by highly skilled workers, with invitations given to applicants who have lodged an Expression of Interest in SkillSelect. Applicants with higher points scores or occupations that are in higher demand are more likely to receive an invitation to apply, and there is no guarantee that you will be invited. If you believe that your application would be competitive, these visa subclasses can be a good option to gain permanent residence quickly and with minimal visa conditions.


Ultimately, the most appropriate work visa for you will depend on your circumstances. If you have an employer who is willing to sponsor you in an eligible occupation, the employer sponsored visas might suit you well.

Alternatively, if you are unable to find an employer, but have an occupation that’s in high demand throughout Australia, you may receive an invitation to apply for a points-based visa quickly, which would give you a direct pathway to permanent residency.

It is best to seek legal advice to determine which pathways will best suit your circumstances and goals, so please feel free to reach out to us for further information.

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There are other options outside of work and skilled visa are also potential solutions once your Covid 408 visa expires.

Subclass 500 student visa

If you are intending to study a course in Australia, 408 covid visa holders can apply for a student visa. In order to apply, you must meet the relevant criteria, which includes providing evidence that you are genuinely intending to study, and can financially support yourself while in Australia.

It is worth noting that student visa holders are subject to work limitations, with the purpose of this visa being to study. It is therefore not suited to applicants who are looking to continue working in Australia, and should only be considered where you have the genuine intention to study a course that’s at least somewhat consistent with your previous work and study experience.

Subclass 820 partner isva 

If you are in a marital or de facto relationship with an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or eligible NZ citizen, you may be able to apply for a subclass 820 visa in order to remain in Australia. You must meet the relationship requirements to be granted the visa, which must be supported by a variety of documents and evidence to prove the genuine relationship.

You can continue to work and live in Australia while holding this visa, and have the option of applying for PR after a period of two years through the 801 visa.


Applying for permanent residence after a Covid visa

While the covid visa does not provide any direct pathways to permanent residence, an application for any of the above visas will lead to PR options.

Many of the skilled visas, including the 482 visa and 494 visa, have a pathway to PR after two or three years respectively. Alternatively, points tested visas like the 189 visa and 190 visa will immediately grant permanent residence once approved. 

As such, if your goal is to become an Australian permanent resident, there are a number of pathways that may be available to you, which will depend on your occupation and work experience. Our lawyers can assist you by reviewing your circumstances and outlining the benefits of the available options to determine the best choice for you.

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