A raft of immigration policy and visa changes will be implemented in the new financial year 2021-2022 – which will impact international students, skilled migrants, partners of Australian citizens or permanent residents, or those looking to live and work in Australia permanently.
Australia’s permanent Migration Program for 2021-2022 has been designed to support the country’s immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic while paving the way for future economic growth as Australia paves the way into the post-pandemic recovery phase.
- Migration Program ceiling to be retained at 160,000 including 79,600 places for skill 77,300 places for family streams
- Australian citizenship application fee will be raised from $285 to $490
- A total of 22 occupations have been added to the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL)
Here’s an overview of immigration policy and visa changes that will be implemented in 2021-2022:
The Morrison Government has retained the planning ceiling for 2021-2022 at 160,000 including 79,600 places for the skill stream and 77,300 places for the family stream.
With this guarded approach, the government aims to maximise flexibility for program delivery and to leave room for changes in response to the unpredictable trajectory of COVID-19 and uncertain economic circumstances.
Priority to employer-sponsored, global talent and business visas:
Just like the program year 2020-2021, the planning levels for the Business Innovation and Investment Program will remain at 13,500, the Global Talent Visa Program at 15,000 and the Employer Sponsored visa will remain at 22,000.
In a statement to SBS Punjabi, a Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said the skill stream will continue to focus on these three visa categories to help Australia’s economy rebound after COVID-19.
"There will be continued flexibility within the Skill stream to respond to uncertain health, border and economic conditions arising from COVID-19,” the department spokesperson said.
Commenting on the department’s approach to retaining flexibility, Former deputy secretary in the Department of Immigration Abul Rizvi said planning levels are flexible and often adjusted to align with the current circumstances.
"If you look at this year's Global Talent allocations, the government was perhaps too ambitious and therefore they have sliced it for the current program year. It's, however, not clear why they have cut business innovation visas because the backlog is huge. They have increased places for Employer Sponsored category which suggests a surge in demand," he explained.
As Australia’s international borders remain closed, the federal government has announced that it will fast-track visa applications for more occupations on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) to support the country's post-coronavirus economic recovery.
As part of this process, employer-sponsored visa applications with an occupation on the PMSOL will be given priority during processing.
While all other skilled occupation lists will remain active, applicants with occupations on the PMSOL list will have their visas fast-tracked.
Revealing the new list on 22 June, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the government consulted with employers, business leaders and industry bodies to determine the changes.
“[The] Government has received valuable feedback from Australian business stakeholders on critical skill vacancies, which has been considered together with data from the National Skills Commission, in order to develop today’s update to the Priority Migration Skilled Migration List,” Minister Hawke said.
Click here for the full list.
Focus on onshore applicants:
Decoding these immigration policies, Melbourne-based migration agent Navjot Kailay said while the department plans to prioritise economic visa cohorts, in terms of applicants, the top priority will be given to those who are currently onshore.
"Onshore applicants will benefit from these announcements in the financial year 2021-2022 as the borders are likely to remain closed until at least early 2022. So overall, there isn't much hope for those who are currently stranded outside Australia," Mr Kailay said.
He added that the planning levels for the next financial year also take into consideration the government's population planning objectives, including their aim to reduce congestion in Australia's major cities.
"Government is keen to reduce pressure from major cities like Sydney and Melbourne because of population blow-out concerns. So it's anticipated that the government will issue more skilled visas to international students who currently live and work in regional and low-populated areas," Mr Kailay added.
The Australian Government had on 17 December announced that it will be slashing business and investment visa streams from the existing nine categories to four - Business Innovation, Entrepreneur, Investor, and Significant Investor, to support Australia’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
As part of the changes, the requirements for a Business Innovation visa - which allows successful applicants to operate a new or existing business in Australia - will now be increased, making it tougher for new applicants to prove their 'business acumen.'
Business Innovation visa holders will now be required to hold business assets of $1.25 million, up from $800,000 and need to have an annual turnover of $750,000 up from $500,000.
At the same time, some visas will have lesser thresholds, for instance, the $200,000 funding threshold currently required for Entrepreneur visa applicants will be scrapped from next year.
In addition, the Premium Investor, Significant Business History and Venture Capital Entrepreneur visas will be closed to new applications from 1 July 2021. Applications already lodged for these visas will continue to be processed.
Adelaide-based migration agent Mark Glazbrook said there were nearly 23,000 outstanding business visa applications as on 30 June 2019 which could have prompted the government to overhaul the system.
“There may be changes being made to limit the number of people who can apply so the Department can clear its backlog.”
These changes will come into effect on 1 July.
In November, the Morrison Government announced temporary changes to the Family visa program to support applicants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of the temporary arrangement, select family visa applicants who have lodged visas offshore no longer have to dash overseas to receive their visa grants, enabling applicants to continue their visa pathway despite their inability to travel offshore in the wake of the current border restrictions.
Announcing the changes on 30 November, Minister Tudge said these “common sense” temporary visa concessions will benefit about 4,000 applicants currently in Australia, predominately those who have applied for offshore partner visas (Subclass 309/100).
“Importantly, this will allow a foreign national who is a partner of an Australian citizen to progress their visa, without having to leave the country,” he said.
The temporary visa concession applies to the following Family visa subclasses:
Partner (subclass 309) visa
Prospective Marriage (subclass 300) visa
Child (subclass 101) visa
Adoption (subclass 102) visa
Dependent Child (subclass 445) visa
These concessions which commenced in early 2021 will continue to remain in place until further notice.
New English language requirement for Partner visas:
In a bid to maximise employment opportunities for newly arrived migrants, the government in October 2020 announced that migrants and their permanent resident sponsors applying for a partner visa will be required to have functional-level English or will have to demonstrate that they have made reasonable efforts to learn the language.
Explaining the policy requirement, Melbourne-based migration agent Ranbir Singh said the applicants and their sponsors will have to demonstrate English language skills at the time of the permanent visa grant.
“Partner visa is a two-stage process – you first get a provisional visa for two years after which you are eligible to get a permanent visa grant.
“It is important to point out that as per the new policy, applicants and sponsors will NOT be required to demonstrate their English language competency at the time of lodgement of a provisional visa (309/820) but will have to demonstrate it at the time of applying for a permanent visa (100/801),” Mr Singh said.
The requirement which applies to both the applicant and their sponsor if they are a permanent resident rather than an Australian citizen will come into effect in 2021-2022.
International students can work for over 40 hours a fortnight in select sectors:
In a bid to address labour shortages, the government has temporarily removed the cap on the working hours for international students employed in the hospitality and tourism sectors.
This change is in addition to similar allowances available to overseas students working in critical sectors, including health, aged care, disability care and agriculture.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on 24 June announced that the Department of Home Affairs will update citizenship application fees to reflect the cost of delivering the program more accurately.
As per the change, the standard citizenship by conferral application fee will be raised from $285 to $490.
“The new fees are commensurate with the comprehensive approach to end-to-end processing of citizenship applications and reflect inflation costs, staffing costs and the increased complexity of applications, which take longer to process,” Mr Hawke said in a press release on 24 June.
Commenting on the change, Mr Glazbrook said the hike, though significant, would also mean that citizenship applications will now be processed faster.
“A lot of people that have gone through the visa application process, if it’s a spouse visa, they have paid over $7000 in visa application charges. International students, of course, pay almost up to $100,000 to get a qualification and live in Australia.
“I think an additional $200 towards citizenship application shouldn’t deter too many people. The government is calling this measure a ‘cost recovery’ process, and with this increase, we are going to see quicker processing that would be certainly one benefit,” he said.
The fee to review migration decisions in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) will increase from the current $1764 to $3000, an increase of nearly 70 per cent. In cases where a 50% fee reduction is granted, the reduced fee payable will be $1,500.
Migration agent Ranbir Singh said the hike is likely to dissuade visa applicants from lodging a review with the AAT.
"The substantial increase of the AAT lodgement fee will serve as a major deterrent for applicants to apply for a review of their cases," he said.
Disclaimer: This content is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.
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