IMPACT – MEDIUM
What is the change? Australia will introduce a new visa for parents of Australians and will adopt stricter residency rules before migrants can access pensions under proposals in the Federal Budget, which was released earlier this week.
What does the change mean? The Government plans on introducing the new parent visas in November. Officials will make 15,000 visas available to parents of Australian citizens, permanent residents and eligible New Zealand citizens. The Government also outlined plans in the Budget to adopt stricter rules for migrants attempting to access Australian pensions. Effective 1 July 2018, claimants will be required to have 15 years of continuous Australian residence before accessing pensions, unless an exception applies.
Background: The Federal Budget, released Tuesday, included proposals to create a Skilling Australians Fund, increase base visa application charges for skilled visa applicants and to adjust visa application charges for a number of visa subclasses beginning 1 July 2017.
The Budget also calls for creating a new visa for parents of Australians, in line with the Assistant Immigration Minister’s announcement last week regarding the introduction of the new visa. The visas will be valid for three to five years and will be renewable from outside of Australia, allowing for a cumulative stay of up to 10 years. Visa holders will not be eligible to apply in Australia for permanent parent visas, and visa holders’ sponsors (i.e., their children) will be financially liable for public health costs their parents incur. The visa programme will be reviewed after one year.
The Budget additionally proposes adjusting pension rules to restrict access migrants have to pension benefits. Claimants will be required to have 15 years of continuous Australian residence to collect benefits unless they (1) have 10 years of continuous Australian residence, including at least five years during their working life, (2) have 10 years of continuous Australian residence without receiving an activity-tested income support payment for at least five years of that time; or (3) qualify for existing Disability Support Pension (DSP) exemptions for people with disabilities acquired while in Australia.
Lastly, the Budget calls for investing in reforms to visa processing and a slight staffing decrease within the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). The Government plans to invest $185.4 million over a four-year period to make changes to visa processing, including enhancing the visa framework to better meet economic and migration goals, improving some ICT systems and replacing other ICT systems to help the Government better verify the identity of people arriving in Australia. Some $35.4 million would be directed toward a long-term programme to enhance the visa system. The Government is also planning for a slight decrease in staffing levels in the DIBP from the current level of 14,000 employees down to 13,755.
BAL Analysis: On the whole, the changes announced in the Budget, in particular the creation of a Skilling Australians Fund and increases to base visa application charges for skilled visa applicants, reflect Australia’s move toward prioritising domestic workers over skilled foreign nationals in the national workforce. The introduction of a new visa for parents of Australians will provide a new route for temporary stays in Australia for qualifying parents. The changes to the pension system will restrict access for migrants living in Australia unless they meet the criteria outlined above.
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