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Major Partner Visa Changes, Family-Employer-Business Visas Prioritised Within 160,000 Places

The 2020-21 Federal Budget contains the following announcements and information related to the Department of Home Affairs and the migration program.

The Budget papers predict net overseas migration will be -71,200 less than the 154,000 persons in 2019-20, but is expected to gradually increase to around 201,000 in 2023-24.

Migration Program levels

The current Migration Program Planning level will remain at 160,000 for the 2020-21 program year, however, the distribution of places will change with an increase from 47,732 to 77,300 for Family stream places for this program year only.

Employer Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas will be prioritised within the Skilled Stream.

Onshore visa applicants and Partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area, will be prioritised for the 2020-21 Migration Program.

Visa refunds and waivers

Prospective marriage visa (PMV) holders will be able to access a VAC refund (this is in line with information that the Department is not extending the entry date for PMV holders and moving to cancel the visas of those offshore)

Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme visa holders will be able to access a VAC refund.

Temporary skilled workers and visitor visa holders will be eligible to have the VAC for a subsequent visa application waived, to allow them to return to Australia once travel restrictions are lifted.

Working holiday makers will be eligible to have the VAC for a subsequent visa application waived, to allow them to return to Australia once travel restrictions are lifted or otherwise be able to access a VAC refund.

VAC refunds and waivers will be available to current visa holders who are unable to travel until the border reopens.

Permanent migration

New Zealand Pathway to permanent residency – the income eligibility requirement for the New Zealand stream of the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa. Eligibility for the Pathway will be extended to Special Category (subclass 444) visa holders who have a taxable income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migrant Income Threshold (currently $53,900) for at least three of the last five income years, including the most recent year.

Business, Investment and Innovation Program

The Government will introduce changes to improve the quality of investments and applicants.

The program will focus on higher value investors, business owners and entrepreneurs and improve the economic outcomes of the BIIP.

Visa application charges for BIIP visas will also be increased by an additional 11.3% (above regular CPI indexation) on 1 July 2021.

Places in this program will be increased to 13,500.

Global Talent Independent program

Places in the GTI program will be tripled to 15,000.

Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce

A new whole-of-government Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce will be established to attract international businesses and exceptional talent to Australia, to support the post- COVID recovery and boost local jobs.

This initiative builds on the existing Global Talent Initiative and Business Innovation and Investment Program and the new initiative announced by the Prime Minister on 9 July 2020 to attract export-orientated Hong Kong-based businesses to Australia.

Family stream program and visas

Partner visas – the mandatory family sponsorship provisions for Partner visas will be implemented, requiring character checks and sharing of personal information with the applicant, and enforceable sponsorship obligations. 72,300 of the 77,300 places in the family stream will be allocated to partner applicants.

English language requirements will be introduced for Partner visa applicants AND the sponsor, to enhance social cohesion and economic participation outcomes.

Adult Migrant English Program

Further reforms as per the Acting Minister’s announcement of 28 August that the 510 hour cap on class hours and time limits on the free English language tuition available under the Adult Migration English Program has been removed.

Humanitarian stream

Humanitarian Program ceiling will be set at 13,750 places, with a flexible mix of places between offshore and onshore categories in response to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The Immigration Assessment Authority will receive funding of $7.6 million to enable continued review fast track reviewable decisions for those who entered Australia as an unauthorised maritime arrival on or after 13 August 2012 but before 1 January 2014.

Christmas Island reactivation – the government will provide $55.6 million dollars at North West Point on Christmas Island to accommodate unlawful non-citizens including those released from prisons, but unable to be deported due to COVID-19 international border restrictions.
Community Sponsorship Program – this program will be reformed, but no further details provided.

Youth Transition Support and Youth Hub Programs – funding will be continued for these programs.

Social Cohesion
Social cohesion funding of $62.8 million over five years from 2019-20 will be provided for initiatives including the promotion Australian values, identity and social cohesion, and counter malign information online; enhance engagement with multicultural communities; and to establish a research program to inform initiatives to strengthen social cohesion.

Federal Law Circuit Court

Funding of $35.7 million over four years from 2020-21 will be provided to the Federal Circuit Court (FCC) for additional resources and judges will be provided to expedite the resolution of migration matters.

An increase in filing fees for migration litigants will be used to partially offset the cost of this measure.

Machinery of Government

Responsibility for the migrant adult education and also settlement services will be transferred to the Home Affairs portfolio.

National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020-25

$10.6 million will be provided over five years from 2020-21 for the provision of grants to deliver community-based projects to prevent modern slavery.

The full Federal Budget papers can be accessed on the Budget.gov.au site.

The joint media release by Minister Dutton and Acting Minister Tudge is available here

Source: MIA (Migration Institute of Australia)

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