The current Covid-19 pandemic has set the economies of countries on a reverse track, globally. Accordingly, the international border restrictions of Australia due to the pandemic will severely limit its migration programme. It is a notable point that the nation’s migration programme has continuously been one of its significant economic drivers.
The Federal Budget of Australia: 2020 – 2021
The Federal Budget for 2020 – 2021 sets the scene for a slow climb back to surplus and out of the first recession in almost 30 years. It also confirms the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in many years to come. The budget has revealed 5 key assumptions about the future of migration to Australia;
Assumption 1:- A COVID-19 vaccination programme will be fully in place by the latter part of 2021
In a situation of no vaccine, the government has stated that it would be difficult to determine when Australia’s international border will re-open. This indicates that Travel Exemptions will prevail for some time.
Assumption 2:- State border restrictions will be lifted by the end of 2020, with the exemption of WA.
The state borders of WA are scheduled to be opened from April 1, 2021.
Assumption 3:- A gradual return of international students and permanent migrants will be seen through the latter part of 2021.
This will be implemented with small, phased pilot programmes from the latter part of 2020 for the international students to gradually return to Australia.
Assumption 4:- Inbound and outbound international travel will be low through the latter part of 2021.
International tourism is expected to pick up gradually after this period.
Assumption 5:- The Net Overseas Migration (NOM) will see a fall by the end of 2020-2021 and climb up again in 2023-2024.
Net Overseas Migration (NOM) is the net gain or loss of population through migrant arrivals and departures to and from Australia. This figure is expected to fall from around 154,000 people in 2019-2020 to around -72,000 people by the end of 2020-2021. However, this figure is expected to gradually increase to around 201,000 people in 2023-2024.
A Highly Targeted Migration Programme
The future of Australia’s migration programme will focus on a highly targeted group that can drive the economic growth or is in the best interests of the nation. This highly targeted group will primarily be comprised of people who contribute to the following;
1. Boost Business Investment
- This component will be comprised of the following groups of people;
- Employer-sponsored visas in the Skilled Stream will remain a focus.
- Global Talent Independent Programme placements would have tripled to 15,000 placements.
- Business Innovation and Investment Programme placements would have increased to 13,500 people.
- As a new initiative, a Global Business and Talent Attraction taskforce will be established to attract international businesses. This will also target at bringing exceptional talent to Australia.
2. Support the Provision of Essential Services
Visa applicants with an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) will receive priority processing.
3. Facilitate Partner and Family Reunion
This component will be comprised of the following groups of people;
- Onshore visa applicants
- Partner visa applicants who have a sponsor residing in a designated regional area.
- Placements for Partner Visas have increased to 72,300 for 2020-2021 only. This makes up the majority of 77,300 placements in the Family Stream.
- New Zealanders seeking Permanent Residence.
- Those who are eligible for Subclass 189 Permanent Visa – NZ will be extended to Subclass 444 Visa holders. However, they will be expected to meet the new taxable income requirements
Permanent Migration Programme
The programme year 2020-2021 saw the figure remained at 160,000 people for the permanent migration programme during the planning levels. In the previous years, permanent migration intake levels served as a cap according to levels of demand. However, due to international border restrictions and a highly targeted migrant population in focus, this figure might not be reached.
Changes outlined in the Federal Budget 2020 – 2021
Changes for Partner Visa applicants and sponsors
The Federal Budget also announced several changes to Partner
Visa requirements. They are as follows;
1. English language requirements
As a fundamental change, Partner Visa applicants and sponsors will be expected to meet newly introduced English language requirements. The English language requirement may come into effect in the latter part of 2021. However, presently it is unclear as to how this requirement will be assessed.
2. Character checks
Character check of the visa applicants would be mandatory.
3. Partner Visa sponsor’s personal information
Sharing of Partner Visa sponsor’s personal information would become mandatory.
Visa Refunds and Waivers
The present international travel restrictions have posed serious challenges to the processing of visas. As such, allocations are made for refunds and waivers to visa holders who are not able to meet the entry-date visa conditions.
A waiver for the Government’s Visa Application Charge (VAC) will be made available to the following criteria;
1. Temporary Skilled workers and Visitor Visa holders for a subsequent visa application to return to Australia once travel restrictions are lifted.
2. Working Holiday Makers.
A refund of Government’s Visa Application Charge (VAC) will be made available to the following criteria;
1. As the government is not extending the entry date for Prospective Marriage Visa holders, they will be able to seek a refund.
2. Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme Visa holders.
3. Working Holiday Makers.
1. Responsibilities pertaining to the Migrant Adult Education and settlement services will be assigned to the Department of Home Affairs portfolio.
2. Additional resources and judges to expedite the resolution of migration matters will be allocated to the Federal Circuit Court.
Implications for Businesses
The COVID-19 era has not been easy on businesses worldwide. Presently, it has become more complicated and restrictive to engage overseas workers in businesses. Therefore, it is advisable for businesses to consider all the options available to them in the migration programme, as follows;
▪ Understanding when a Travel Exemption may be possible for Critical Work and the types of evidence required.
▪ Exploring possibilities to engage visa holders who are already in Australia and therefore, would not require a Travel Exemption. This can be achieved through the following;
⮚ Reviewing further Temporary Work Visa or Permanent Residence options for current overseas employees.
⮚ Considering the COVID-19 Pandemic Event 408 Visa as an option in appropriate circumstances.
⮚ Exploring the options for employing suitably skilled international workers who are already in Australia.
Implications for Visa Applicants
It is still possible for visa applicants to apply for visas at present, irrespective of their current location (onshore or overseas). However, onshore applicants will be given priority in processing the visa applications. On the other hand, visa applicants based overseas are required to consider their Travel Exemption options.
Preparing for Migrating or Travelling to Australia
Until the international border re-opens, visa applicants are advised to utilize the time to get ready with some of their requirements. Such preparation can give them a distinct advantage in moving to a better position for obtaining the visa. The following matters are to be considered in the preparation stage; Call Migration Agent Perth Migration Agent Joondalup for more information.
⮚ Skilled Visa applicants should bear in mind that requirements such as Skills Assessments can take 3 – 4 months.
⮚ Furthermore, there may also be English tests and Police Clearances to be obtained, which can consume much time. Similarly, Partner and Family Visa applicants should seek to understand their visa requirements, which may require time to gather.