The Federal Budget for 2020-21 was announced yesterday with some changes to the migration program planning levels and certain policies.
The Government is well aware of the positive impact migration has on the Australian economy and has sought to address the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the Australian economy with making some changes to the Australian Migration Program and Planning Levels.
Below is a summary of the main factors that have been addressed in relation to Australian migration and the 2020 budget:
2020-2021 Migration Program Levels
The current cap of 160,000 will stay in place however will have a heavier focus on family stream options with an increase from 47,732 places to now 77,300. This will be applicable for the 2020-21 migration program only and can be expected to return to the lower cap next migration program.
Onshore visa applications and partner visa applicants which are based around applicants living in regional areas of Australia will be prioritised by the department for the 2020-21 migration program.
Business, Investment, and Innovation Program
The number of places in this program this year will increase to 13,500 and will focus more on high value investors, business owners and entrepreneurs to improve the economic outcomes of this program. These changes are aimed at improving the quality of the investments and applicants.
The visa application charges for the Business, Investment, and Innovation program visas will increased by an additional 11.3% from 1 July 2021.
Global Talent Independent Program – GTI
Places available in the Global Talent Independent Program will increase to 15,000 from only 5,000 in the last year of the program.
Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce – GTI/GTES Visas
The Government is establishing a new taskforce designed to attract international businesses and exceptional talent to Australia to aid the COVID-19 recovery and boost local jobs. This is in addition to the initiative announced in July to attract export-orientated Hong Kong-based businesses to Australia.
Permanent Migration – Focus on New Zealanders
Both the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) New Zealand stream visa and Special Category (subclass 444) visa holders who have a taxable income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migrant Income threshold for at least three out of the last five income years including the most recent year will be eligible for a pathway to permanent residency.
Family Stream Program and Visas
Mandatory provisions for Partner visas will be implemented including requiring character checks (police clearances) and sharing of personal information with the applicant, and enforceable sponsorship obligations.
Out of the 77,300 places available to family stream visa applicants, 72,300 of those will be allocated to Partner Visas.
A significant change noted is the introduction of English language requirements for applicants and sponsors of partner visas. Ethos Migration Lawyers will provide further information on this new change as it becomes available.
State & Territory Nominated Visas – SC190 & SC491
No specific information has been provided in relation to the state nominated visas (Skilled Regional subclass 491 and Skilled Nominated subclass 190) however we expect information will be provided by the relevant state and territories after the allocations have been provided to them.
Federal Law Circuit Court
In response to the growing number of migration cases before the Federal Circuit Court, additional funding of $35.7 million will be given over a four year period to mitigate costs of additional resources and judges.
Visa Refunds and Waivers
Prospective Marriage (subclass 300) visa holders – These visa holders who were unable to enter Australia due to the travel restrictions will be able to access a VAC refund for the fees paid.
The department will not extend the entry date for these visa holders and are moving to cancel any Prospective Marriage visas of those still offshore.
Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme – These visa holders who were unable to enter Australia due to the travel restrictions will be able to access a VAC refund for the fees paid.
Temporary Skilled Workers and Visitor Visa holders – These visa holders will be eligible to have the VAC for a further visa application waived, which will allow them to return to Australia once the COVID-19 travel restrictions have eased.
Working Holiday Maker visa holders – These visa holders will be eligible to have the VAC for a further visa application waived, which will allow them to return to Australia once the COVID-19 travel restrictions have eased.
Ethos Migration Lawyers Advice
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact to almost every nation across the globe. This has affected the Australian migration program and international student sector which is Australia’s third largest export!
Our view is that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic the Department will take an agile approach to encouraging but at the same time scrutinising visa applications and related matters given the significant unemployment rate in Australia.
We believe a strong focus will be put on Labour Market Testing requirements for employer sponsored visas, to ensure that Australian’s are always considered before having a position filled by an overseas worker.
Ethos Migration Lawyers will continue to provide further information as it becomes available.