While there were no headline grabbing announcements in the 2021-22 Federal Budget regarding Australian Immigration, there were however, several items of note worth highlighting. Here's our summary of what you need to know.
New Australians to wait four years to access government welfare
The government has announced it will apply a four-year waiting period across most welfare payments before new Australian residents can access them.
The cost-cutting measure, aiming to save the government $671m over five years, will apply to all those granted residency from 1 January 2022. It's estimated more than13,000 migrants and 45,000 families will be impacted, with carers and parents being hit the hardest.
The government says it will redirect the savings to other “policy priorities.”
Migration numbers & visa classes
The Government will maintain the 2021-22 Migration Program planning level at 160,000.
However, with the international borders expected to be closed until at least mid-next year, it's now expected that Net Overseas Migration (NOM) is expected to fall from around 154,000 persons in 2019-20 to be around -72,000 persons by the end of 2020-21, before gradually increasing to around 201,000 persons in 2023-24.
The number of Family and Skilled Visa places will be maintained at their 2020-21 levels, with a continued focus on onshore visa applicants and reducing the onshore Partner visa pipeline.
Skilled visas will make up around 50% of the migration intake with the program giving priority to highly skilled migrants in the Employer Sponsored, Business Innovation and Investor Program and Global Talent visa steams.
Family visas will be set at 77,300 places for 2021-22.
Based on the balance of allocation of places to the BIIP, Global Talent and Family visas, it appears there will be an overall decrease in other skilled migration visa places.
The cap on Humanitarian Program places will be maintained at 13,750 places in 2021-22.
There's some good news for international students who are here can work more.
International students can soon work more than 40 hours in the hospitality and tourism sectors.
A similar change was made for anyone working in agriculture, health or aged care.
On the flip side, while there are plans being considered in Victoria and NSW to bring international students back to Australia outside of hotel quarantine, the budget only goes as far to say that “small, phased programs” for international students will start late this year.
Refugees & women's safety
The number of refugee places will remain at the reduced cap of 13,750 a year after lowering it by 5,000 in last year's budget.
Ona more positive note, the government is extending funding for support services that help women on temporary visas who may be experiencing domestic and family violence.
Funding is being provided to improve migrant and refugee women's safety and increase capacity for early intervention, grassroots and social and economic inclusion support.
A pilot program will provide support to temporary visa holders experiencing family violence to explore visa options that are not reliant on their partner.
More support for stranded overseas Australians
Close to $120 million over four years is to be spent enhancing Australia's “consular capability” and capacity to give “additional support” to vulnerable Australians stuck overseas.
30,000 Australians overseas have registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as wanting to return home.
This includes around 9,000 Australians wishing to return home from coronavirus-ravaged India, 900 of which are classified as vulnerable.
Funding to clear the migrant and refugee appeals backlog
The government has pledged $54.8 million over four years to help clear the backlog in migration and refugee cases at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
On 30 April this year, the AAT still had 57,847 migration and refugee cases on hand. In the 10 months to 30 April 2021, the median time it was taking for cases to be finalized by the tribunal was 22 months.
In other news
Sponsored Temporary Parent visas
The validity period for Sponsored Temporary Parent visas will be extended by 18 months for individuals who are unable to use their visas due to COVID-19 travel restrictions
Global talent visas
Over the next four years $550 million will be committed to attract talent and business from overseas. The ATO will provide fast track tax advice to foreign investors and individual tax residency rules will be simplified.
Temporary visa holders
The Government has removed the requirement for applicants for the Subclass 408 Temporary Activity visa to demonstrate their attempts to depart Australia if they intend to undertake agricultural work.
The period in which a temporary visa holder can apply for the Temporary Activity visa has also been extended from 28 days prior to visa expiry to 90 days prior to visa expiry.
Pacific labour mobility
Visa extension arrangements, announced in April 2021, allowing Pacific workers already in Australia under the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme to continue working in regional Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic will stay in place until April 2022.
Immigration Detention – Christmas Island
The Government will provide $464.7 million over two years from 2020-21 to increase the capacity of the onshore Immigration Detention Network and to extend use of the North West Point Immigration Detention Centre on Christmas Island. This measure addresses ongoing capacity pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic on Australia's ability to remove unlawful non-citizens from this country.
Adult Migrant English Program
As previously announced the Government will introduce a new delivery model for the Adult Migrant English Program from 1 July 2023 to improve English language, employment and social cohesion outcomes for migrants by linking provider payments to student outcomes. The cap of 510 hours will be removed, and migrants will be able to study until they have reached the level of ‘vocational' English.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.