Budget 2021-22: Implications on Migration

As part of his Budget Speech, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg indicated that migration planning levels for 2021-22 will remain unchanged with a focus on onshore visa applicants with international borders expected to remain closed for at least 12 months.

The Morrison Government hope to take advantage of Australia’s attractiveness to foreign markets underpinned by the nation’s effective management of COVID-19 pandemic. With Mr. Frydenberg speaking of the government’s focus on streamlining visas to target highly skilled individuals when circumstances allow.

However, the next program year for migration will be dependent upon the success of the COVID-19 vaccination strategy, the number of new COVID cases and the implementation of a safe quarantine program that can accommodate more returning international arrivals, including skilled migrants and international students.

The Morrison government will maintain its planned ceiling for the 2021-22 Migration Program at 160,000 places. Family and Skilled stream places will be held steady at their 2020-21 planning levels which will include 79,600 skill and 77,300 family stream places, with a continued focus on onshore visa applicants, including reducing the onshore Partner visa pipeline.

Skilled Migration
The government will continue to prioritise Employer-Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation, and Investment Program visas within the Skilled Stream.

The government has maintained the allocation of the Global Talent Independent (GTI) Program at 15,000 places, which was tripled from the previous year’s planning levels of 5,000 places.

The government has also decided to maintain the Humanitarian Program at 13,750 places in 2021-22 and over the forward estimates. However, Budget document noted that the size of the program will remain as a ceiling rather than a target.

Student Visas
According to Budget Papers, a key assumption in its economic forecast is that international students will only be able to return to the country as part of “small-phased programs” later this year and student numbers will only “gradually increase” from 2022.

A positive outcome for student visa holders is the government’s announcement of further flexibility for student visa holders in the hospitality and tourism sectors to work beyond the current 40 hours-per-fortnight limits. This measure builds on previous changes in response to COVID-19, adding these two sectors to the other critical sectors of agriculture, health and aged care, who also have uncapped working limits.

Parent visa
In a new provision, 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.

Temporary visa holders
The government has removed the requirement for applicants for the Subclass 408 Temporary Activity visa to demonstrate their attempts to leave the country in order to undertake agricultural work. Furthermore, the period in which a temporary visa holder can apply for the Temporary Activity visa has also been extended from 28 days prior to visa expiry to 90 days prior to visa expiry

Adult Migrant English Program
The government will introduce a new delivery model for the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) from 1 July 2023 to improve English language, employment and social cohesion outcomes for migrants by linking provider payments to student outcomes. The cap of 510 hours will be removed and migrants will be able to study until they have reached the level of ‘vocational’ English.

Long-term Impacts
In a major blow to Australia’s economy that is heavily reliant on immigration, the 2021-2022 Budget estimates reveal that the country will suffer yet another year of negative net overseas migration.
As previously noted, the Net Overseas Migration (NOM) is expected to fall from around 154,000 persons in 2019-20 to around -72,000 persons by the end of 2020-21. Net overseas migration will take at least one to two years to return to pre-pandemic numbers, once borders are properly opened. This means Australia’s recovery will be a much longer process than countries like Canada or the US which do not have as stringent skilled migration border controls.

Source: SBS News

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