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'Feeling edged out': Australia’s permanent visa grants drop to lowest in 11 years

Source: SBS

A total of 160,323 permanent visas were granted during the last financial year - lowest since 2008. The government says its focus is now on regional migration.

Australia’s annual permanent migration intake fell to the lowest level in over a decade as the government’s focus shifts towards settling more migrants in regional Australia.

A total of 160,323 permanent visas were granted in 2018-19, while the migration planning level cap remained 190,000. The intake is the lowest since 2008 when under 159,000 visas were issued.

In March 2019, the government cut the annual migration cap by 30,000 to maintain the intake at 160,000 for the next four years.

Migration intake
Australia's migration intake since 2007-08. Source
SBS Punjabi

Immigration Minister David Coleman said the government’s push is now on regional migration.

“Our population plan will ease the pressure on the big capitals while supporting the growth of those smaller cities and regions that want more people,” Mr Coleman said.

“We’ve reduced the cap for the Migration Program from 190,000 to 160,000.

“We’re also dedicating 23,000 places for regional skilled migrants and have announced two new regional visas to help fill some of the tens of thousands of job vacancies in regional Australia."

We’re directing migration to those smaller cities and regional areas that are crying out for more people and those regional economies that simply cannot fill jobs with local workers.

While the number of visa places for Australia’s regions has been jacked up, Skilled Independent visa stream has been cut to less than half, slashing it from nearly 44,000 to under 19,000 this year. Skilled independent visas allow visa holders to settle anywhere in Australia without any conditions.

Under the reworked migration planning levels, 23,000 visa places have been reserved for regional Australia and two new regional visas introduced in November 2019.

These visas come with stringent conditions and visa holders are required to live in regions for at least three years before they can apply for permanent residency. Regional visa holders are not allowed to move to non-designated areas. If they do, they could be deported. 

Australia’s Skilled Occupation List is also being reviewed to better align it with the skill needs of Australia’s industries and to fill the skill gaps in the regions. The new Skilled Occupation List will be unveiled in March 2020.

Mr Coleman said the last year's intake included 47,247 family visas and 8987 places under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme, up from 6,221 places in 2017-18. 

'Feeling edged out'

With the federal Government scouting for international talent under its new Global Talent Visa and sending migrants to regions, temporary residents seeking permanent residency feel they are being edged out with stringent requirements. 

5,000 places for the Global Talent visa will be adjusted in the truncated Skilled Independent category that's already witnessing a huge demand a comparatively very little supply. 

Many applicants with engineering, IT and accounting degrees who have been waiting for months and in some cases years, feel hope is dimming out for them. 

According to information published by the Home Affairs Department, only 100 applicants were invited to apply for this visa in August. The minimum points score required ranged from 85 to 105 occupations such as Accountants and IT professionals which jumped to 100 in December after the changes to the points test came into effect in November 2019. 

Gautam Kapil, an ICT business analyst in Sydney, has been waiting for his visa since July last year. But he is losing out hope now.

I have studied here, worked here for years, have the experience of Australian industry. But it seems all that doesn’t count for anything now. 

Migration agent Jujhar Bajwa said many of his clients have spent years in Australia studying and working, and now find themselves “locked out” by changes in migration intake.

“Many applicants have years of experience besides expensive university degrees in accounting, engineering and IT and they have great English, but can’t make the cut because there’s so much competition and so few visas are being released,” he told SBS Punjabi.

He said while moving to regions can open up an opportunity for them, it's not an option that everyone is willing to take. 

"There are many married people, they have families and jobs. They can't just quit everything move to a small place where they'll have to start from a scratch," Mr Bajwa said. 

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