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Government reveals new parental visas

SBS has obtained information about a new government visa program that will allow people to pay tens of thousands of dollars for their migrant parents to come to Australia. Preetinder Singh Grewal has this exclusive report…

In the Turnbull Government's latest immigration shakeup, parents will be allowed to visit for up to ten years.

But as the government tries to tighten its budget, children will have to cover the costs of their parents' healthcare.

Following years of pressure from ethnic communities, Malcolm Turnbull promised changes to parent visas in the election campaign.

A new visa will allow as many as 15,000 people each year to bring their parents to Australia.

But the government doesn't want elderly migrant parents to be a financial burden on the taxpayer.

So their children will be legally required to buy private health insurance for their parents and promise to cover any extra healthcare costs.

Alex Hawke, the assistant immigration minister, explained the scheme in an exclusive interview with SBS.

"There's great expense to the taxpayer in relation to health costs over time with elderly parents. That's the problem that government's around the world have been wrestling with."

Applicants can seek a three-year visa for $5,000 or a five-year visa for $10,000, with the opportunity of a single renewal for another five years at the same price.

Australian National University migration expert Henry Sherrell says the high fees are a concern.

He's also concerned that the plan contains no pathway to permanent residency for the parents.

"There are some things to be concerned about. The costs look extremely high for a temporary visa.”

“There's also the question of whether these people will be living in Australia but sort of living apart from the community because if they're always going to be a temporary citizen, or a temporary migrant, they'll have no pathway to permanent residency and they'll be expected to leave after 10 years."

Mr Sherrell says other temporary visas require private health insurance. But he says this is different.

"This is one of the first instances we've seen where temporary migrants will be liable for public health cover in this country, because so many other temporary migrants require private health insurance."

"But in the case of emergencies, in the case of other unexpected accidents and things like that, they're still caught up in the safety net. Now, it looks quite explicit to me the government's new commitment means that's not the case, here."

The rules would help the government limit rising healthcare costs and, if legislated, could deliver hundreds of millions in visa fees.

If the 15,000 quota were filled in the first year, the Treasury would bank $150 million in visa fees alone.

Minister Alex Hawke says the government could also save on childcare.

"With parents coming to spend more time with their children and their grandchilren, family units will be more cohesive. We expect to see reduced pressure on some childcare facilities because grandparents will be available and able to, under this visa, care for their grandchildren while the parents work."

Those sponsoring their parents for the new visa need to be Australian citizens or permanent residents, or eligible New Zealand citizens.

Dianne Pajarillo is a Filipino permanent resident working as a nurse at a hospital in Melbourne.

Her husband is a nurse at another hospital and both work night shifts and weekends.

Her mother lives with them on an Aged Parent visa and helps look after the children, but needs to return to the Philippines every year for visa renewal.

Ms Pajarillo said her interest in the new visa would depend on what the costs are, given the Aged Care visa only costs $130 to renew.

But she already pays for her mother's private health insurance  - at $250 a month from Medibank Private - and thinks that deal is fair.

"I work in the healthcare industry, I know what's happening, I know the burden. There's a lot of ageing population in the whole of Australia, I can see that. It's just money, you can't afford to have the older population increasing."

The government plans to introduce the changes with the federal Budget next week.

If it passes through parliament, the visa will be rolled out from November this year.

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