Federal budget 2021 provides an insight into the government’s mind and has some significant figures on immigration and migration programs communities and Australians interested in immigration impacts on Australia’s economy and social fabric.
With the current mayhem causing second wave of COVID in India and India Travel Ban in the backdrop, it is hardly surprising that the international borders are not assumed to re-open before Mid-2022. The government has factored in many variables in making assumptions for this budget and people should know in pandemic times, things can change very rapidly.
To keep moving forward and not be plagued by more lockdowns, among the government’s many key assumptions is a gradual return of international students, a significant sector delivering workforce in many sections of the economy. International students will be allowed to return through small phased programs from late 2021 and with their arrival numbers increasing in 2022.
That in itself will depend on Australia’s full vaccine rollout to be ‘in place’ by the end of 2021 and reliable quarantine program to remain in place, providing capacity without any further outbreaks to allow overseas arrivals. These measures are critical because one of the two source countries India is facing a huge second wave of COVID with no end in sight and poses new challenges with new and more contagious variants of the virus.
The international border closure also means the Net Overseas Migration (NOM) remains negative for now, only 2nd time since early 20th century, with potential to repeat itself for a couple times still. A negative NOM indicates more people are departing Australia than new arrivals.
The government has been at pains to say it is committed to re-opening the international border when it is ‘safe to do so’ based on health advice.
Australia’s Migration Program – No changes to figures of 2020-21
Tthe Government will maintain the 2020-21 Migration Program planning level of 160,000 Permanent Visa placements, with almost an even split between Skilled and Family Visas. The figures to be maintained in 2021-22 are 79,600 skilled and 77,300 family migrant places on offer to anyone planning to call Australia home. With a sharp, more focus on onshore applications from eligible candidates, the government deems these are right numbers for now in the current clime.
“Family and Skilled stream places will be maintained at their 2020-21 planning levels, with a continued focus on onshore visa applicants, including reducing the onshore Partner visa pipeline,” says the government.
Given the state of international travel, it is hardly rocket science that the government is more focused on visa processing for applicants in Australia who apply Onshore.
Onshore preferred candidates will be:
In the Family Stream – Partner Visa applicants.
In the Skilled Stream – Priority will be given to:
- Employer-sponsored visas – particularly Onshore
- The Business Innovation and Investor program
- Global Talent Visa program
4 Year wait to access government benefits
In a move which has been described by many as “mean” and “stingy”, new migrants will have to wait for four years before they can access welfare benefits.
Currently, Permanent Residents can receive Family Tax Benefit B immediately, Carers Allowance and Family Tax Benefit A after one year and Paid Parental Leave and Carers payments after two years.
These payment types will be subject to the four-year wait from 1 January 2022. Migrants who have already received Permanent Residence before changes take place from 1 January 2022 will be exempt.
The measure saves $45.7m in 2022-23 ramping up to $415.2m in 2024-25.
Just a snapshot of Visa changes announced in immigration and migration programs:
|Visa Type||Change||Sectors applicable|
|Student Visa||Can work more than 20 hours per week||Hospitality and Tourism in addition to Agriculture, Health and Aged Care|
|Temporary visa (408)||Requirement for applicants to demonstrate their attempts to leave the country in order to undertake agricultural work waived|
The period to apply for the Temporary Activity visa extended from 28 days prior to visa expiry to 90 days prior to visa expiry
|Parent Visa||The government will extend the validity period for Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visas by 18 months for individuals who are unable to use their visas due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.|
An amount of $464.7m has been outline to be spent on increasing the capacity of the onshore immigration detention network to deal with “ongoing capacity pressures … as a result of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the ability to remove unlawful non-citizens from Australia”.
The government wants to increase the immigration detention network capacity from 1,000 to 1,500 people. As part of its measures, Christmas Island also gets a look in for increased use.
The biggest winners in the announced immigration and migration programs seem to be the temporary migrants currently onshore in Australia looking for PR if they qualify as either partner applicants under the family stream or as one of the three categories listed above under the skilled migrant stream.