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For most of us, the key question what is in news for migrants on Australian 2020 Budget announcement.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has declared that the planning figure for the Migration Program will remain unchanged, as the country strives to recover from the economic blow delivered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Morrison Government has announced it will maintain the planned ceiling for the 2020-21 Migration Program at 160,000 places.
In a noticeable departure from the traditional migration composition, the government has placed greater emphasis on family stream visas, raising the planning level from 47,732 to 77,300 places on a ‘one-off basis’ for this program year.
“While overall the government has placed greater emphasis on the family stream, most of these are people already in Australia,” the Acting Minister for Immigration Alan Tudge said in a joint media release with Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton.
Onshore applicants and partner visa applicants will be given priority
Government triples allocation for Global Talent Independent Program- fastest way to get permanent residency in Australia
Family stream: Overall the government will sharpen the focus on the family stream, predominately made up of partner visa category, which has been allocated a total of 72,300 places.
According to the Department of Home Affairs, global waiting times for offshore partner visa to be processed has risen to almost two years.
Budget papers also reveal that an English language requirement will also be introduced for partner visas and their permanent resident sponsors.
This could be an indication of the government’s intention to clear the massive partner visa application backlog that currently sits at 100,000, it could also mean a significant cut for places in the parent category.
In terms of partner visa, Australia’s partner visa processing times blow out due to COVID-19. Budget papers also reveal that an English language requirement will also be introduced for partner visas and their permanent resident sponsors.
These changes will help support English language acquisition and enhance social cohesion and economic participation outcomes
The government also will be prioritising onshore visa applicants and partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area. While the focus on onshore applications was expected, the fact that partner visa applicants with sponsors in regional areas will get priority is quite a pleasant surprise.
Priority will be given to Employer Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas within the skilled stream.
Skilled stream: The budget papers reveal that the government will give priority to Employer-Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas within the Skilled Stream.
'This is the fastest way to get permanent residency in Australia'
As per the planning levels, the government has tripled the allocation of the Global Talent Independent (GTI) program to 15,000 places, a massive increase from the previous program year’s planning level where the government had set an objective to grant 5,000 visas.
The nominations for GTI applicants in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector has a quite a significant increase for the fledgling program that is currently in its second year. The GTI program seems to be growing, and ACS is increasingly seeing evidence of a significant pool of candidates. It nevertheless remains to be seen whether such growth can be realised,
In addition, the government has also raised the allocation for the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) to 13,500 places.
The Budget papers said "From 1 July 2021, the Government will streamline and improve the operation of the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP). The Government will introduce changes to improve the quality of investments and applicants".
The immigration number fall for 2020-21: The 2020 budget estimates reveal that Australia will suffer its first negative net overseas migration since the Second World War in a major blow to the country's economy already bruised by the pandemic.
Net migration numbers are expected to fall from 154,000 in the 2019-20 financial year to a net loss of 72,000 in 2020-21 and 21,600 in 2021-22.
International students in Australia.
The Government will also offer Visa Application Charge (VAC) refunds, waivers or visa extensions to visa holders who have been unable to travel to Australia due to COVID-19.
This includes waiving the VAC for Working Holiday Makers and Visitors to boost tourism once the borders re-open.
The ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and hard border closures will significantly influence the size and composition of the Migration Program 2020-21, which will be unveiled through the Budget process on October 6.
As the Morrison Government lays down the groundwork for the Migration Program for the remainder of the year, immigration experts and migration agents envisage sobering news on that front, since Australia's migration intake will largely be determined by the challenges posed by the pandemic, and a strong focus on economic recovery.
- Australian Government to announce Migration Program planning levels on October 6
- Skilled Migration, especially critical sector occupations to get priority under state nomination programs
- Onshore visa applicants, including international students, likely to have edge over offshore applicants
The Treasury assumes that Australia's international borders will gradually reopen in the first six months of next year, with international travellers required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
While the overall effect of the border reopening would mean people will eventually return and trigger renewed activity in the country's economy, but it isn't expected to be anywhere near the pre-pandemic levels.
This means that those industries that rely on migrants to fill local skills gaps will continue to suffer.
Net overseas migration:
The government expects net overseas migration to fall to just 35,000 in 2020-21 – whereas it needs to be between 160,000 and 220,000 to maintain GDP per capita growth.
Painting an even grimmer picture in his budget preview address, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg indicated that the October 6 budget will now predict a negative net overseas migration in the current and the next financial year, further crushing the economy bruised by the coronavirus shutdown.
“Australia’s future population will be smaller, and older than we previously assumed because of the sharp drop we are seeing in net overseas migration,” Mr Frydenberg said on Thursday.
In July, the Department of Home Affairs signalled that it will retain the planning ceiling at 160,000 places – the level set for the 2019-20 Migration Program, including the program’s size and composition as per which around two-thirds of the permanent migration program is set aside for skilled migrants, with the remaining third allocated to family reunion migrants.
This was, however, an interim arrangement that was made until the budget announcement in October.Budget expectations for Migration Program 2020-21.
Will the government opt for a lower ceiling?
With no signs of borders reopening anytime before January 2021, the real question is whether the government will lower the ceiling or retain it at 160,000 visas.
Former senior Immigration Department official Abul Rizvi said he will be surprised if the government decides to maintain the migration cap, but if they do, their actual target will be much lower.
“The ceiling is more about politics and less about reality, so presenting a 160,000 ceiling communicates the idea of optimism that we are going to recover quickly.
“I will be surprised if the government chooses to retain the ceiling but even if it did, I suspect its actual target will probably be significantly less. I estimate somewhere between 100,000 and 110,000 places,” he said.
General Skilled migration:
The General Skilled Migration Program (GSM) is aimed at skilled workers in select occupations willing to migrate to Australia to improve the country’s workforce, and also to meet the changing needs of businesses within the states and territories.
Every year all jurisdictions receive quotas from the government in the month of May through the budget process, based on which the states and territories nominate skilled and business migrants for Skilled Nominated Subclass 190 and the Skilled Regional Sponsored Subclass 491 visa categories.
But this year's delay in the budget announcement due to the COVID19 crisis meant states have so far only received limited interim nomination places for select occupations that are critical to the state’s recovery, including health, information and communication technology, engineering, etc.
In a statement to SBS Punjabi, a Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said the state and territory nominated visa programs will play an important part in Australia’s economic recovery and continue to be a part of the Migration Program.
The Australian Government is considering how best to shape the Migration Program into the future to drive economic growth and support job creation
Economists in the country say that the Federal Budget presents a timely opportunity for the government to reboot the economy particularly affected by a dramatic drop in net overseas migration and hard border closures.
AlphaBeta founder Andrew Charlton said one way to build momentum on Australia's response to the pandemic and work underway for economic recovery would be to focus on attracting skilled migrants when borders reopen.
"With the decline in immigration, it's going to be an acute strain on growth in important sectors of the economy and the recovery," AlphaBeta founder Andrew Charlton told the SMH.
‘Push towards regional areas’
Stepping up its commitment to regional Australia, the government had set aside 25,000 places for regional visas in the previous program, of which 23,372 visas were delivered.
The government has indicated that it will announce new measures in the Budget next week to encourage young Australians and overseas backpackers to stay in the country longer and take up farming jobs to fill rural and regional job shortages.
Adelaide-based migration agent Mark Glazbrook said there is no doubt that the government will continue to push new migrants into settling in regional areas to fan their “congestion-busting agenda.”
He says while the thought is right, their target isn’t.
“There is an urgent need to reform the regional skilled migration program as the current one does not allow the regional businesses to attract migrant workers who have the skills, experience and often lack the commitment to live and work in regional areas.
“Demand-driven migration in regional areas works so much better than the current points tested system where we are bringing people into regional areas for jobs that quite often don’t exist,” he said.
‘Onshore applicants likely to benefit’
Migration agent Harjit Singh Chahal said the trend towards granting more onshore visas will continue in the remainder of the program year to avoid putting pressure on the international arrivals cap but also due to concerns about lesser job opportunities for newly arrived migrants.
“It will be safe to assume that more visas will be granted to applicants who remain onshore as compared to those who remain stranded offshore by the border closure. This also works in the government’s favour as it allows them to clear the existing backlog, particularly in family stream visas,” said Mr Chahal.Onshore applicants likely to have an edge over offshore applicants in the COVID environment, say migration agents.Facebook
He added that this approach also aligns with the government’s priority to put ‘Australians first.’
“There are more people who are unemployed in Australia currently than there ever were which means the government would want to put the interests of Australians before opening the doors to migrants."
Mr Chahal, however, cautioned that this does not mean doors will remain closed to those stranded offshore.
“The last thing that the Australian economy needs now is to wreak havoc on the prospects for an economic reboot by preventing migrants from coming into the country as they will fill critical skill gaps and job roles that locals do not want to take,” he said.
Visa Application Charge (VAC):
Australian visa charges increase each year on 1 July in line with the consumer price index (CPI). This increase is normally around 3 to 4 per cent.
Mr Glazbrook said the industry is not ruling out an increase in VAC despite the dire economic impact of the pandemic worldwide.
“Almost every year the VACs go up based on the increase in the cost of living. This year, however, it will be interesting to see if they increase the cap to offset the significant fall in revenue due to lower lodgements considering it is tougher now economically than it has ever been in a long time,” he said.
Disclaimer: This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.
Australia has finalised a deal for a limited travel bubble that would allow people from New Zealand to travel to New South Wales and the Northern Territory, with flights across the Tasman expected to resume in a fortnight.
- New South Wales and the Northern Territory will accept New Zealand arrivals from October 16
- The Federal Government says the move is stage 1 in a more comprehensive travel bubble
- New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern says it is still too early to let Australians into New Zealand
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern earlier Friday, agreeing that New Zealanders could visit the jurisdictions from October 16.
However, Ms Ardern is yet to agree to allow Australians into New Zealand, and has warned Kiwis eager to visit Australia they may still have to quarantine upon their return.
Announcing the news, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said stage 1 of a travel zone with New Zealand would see one-way quarantine-free travel into NSW and the NT.
"This is the first stage in what we hope to see as a trans-Tasman bubble between the two countries, not just that state and that territory," he said.
"This will allow New Zealanders and other residents in New Zealand who have not been in an area designated as a COVID-19 hotspot in New Zealand in the preceding 14 days to travel quarantine-free."
Mr McCormack said the Government was hopeful travel arrangements would be expanded, saying states and territories that agreed to the Commonwealth's hotspot definition would be able to participate.
"South Australia are very close to agreeing to these terms and agreeing to be the next jurisdiction to come on board," he said.
"They will certainly probably be the next cab off the rank."
Under the hotspot definition employed by the Government, an area in New Zealand will be allowed if it has a rolling three-day average of fewer than three cases per day.
By allowing New Zealanders coming into NSW and the NT to skip hotel quarantine, Mr McCormack said an additional 325 spaces in Australia's quarantine capacity would be freed up.
'Still too early' for quarantine-free travel to NZ: Ardern
Mr McCormack said the ball was in New Zealand's court as to whether Australians,or New Zealanders returning from their Australian visit, would be allowed in without quarantine.
"I know if Jacinda Ardern wants to have Australians going into New Zealand, that will be up to her," Mr McCormack said.
"I know Prime Ministers Morrison and Ardern have had those discussions, it's very much in Prime Minister Ardern's court at the moment."
Speaking earlier, Ms Ardern said it was still too early to allow entries into New Zealand from Australia.
"We have resisted that because we want to keep New Zealanders safe," she said.
"We will not open the borders for quarantine-free travel with Australia until it is safe to do so, because doing it too early risks losing all of the freedoms that we already have in our economy."
She also warned people eager to make the trip across the ditch they may still have to quarantine upon returning home.
"I want New Zealanders to keep in mind that even if Australia may open up borders one-way so Kiwis can go there without quarantine, it does not mean that they won't have to go into quarantine on return," she said.
"At this stage they will."
Mr McCormack said allowing New Zealanders into Australia could assist with farming and agriculture sectors, suggesting fruit pickers and shearers who come to Australia could find love on the homestead.
"Shearers may well avail themselves of this because we've got a wool clip that's needing to be shorn, we've got work to be done with agriculture if that opportunity is there too and as I said the other day, they might even come over here and find love," he said.