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Major changes announced to Australia’s migration program for 2020-21

Source: SBS

Australia has announced major changes to its migration program with more places allotted to partner visas, priority to onshore applicants and increased focus on employer-sponsored applicants.

The Government will maintain the 2020-21 Migration Program planning level at 160,000, it announced in the federal budget on Tuesday night.


  • Migration intake capped at 160,000 for 2020-21
  • Family Stream places will increase from 47,732 to 77,300 places for 2020-21
  • Employer-Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas will be prioritised

While the cap will remain at 160,000 places, the government has announced a major change to the program structure.

      • Family Stream places will increase from 47,732 to 77,300 places on a one-off basis for the 2020-21 Migration Program year.
      • Employer-Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas will be prioritised within the Skilled Stream.
      • Budget papers have revealed there will be an increased number of places for Partner visas (72,300 within the family stream visas) and onshore applicants will be prioritised.
      • Onshore visa applicants and Partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area will also be prioritised for the 2020-21 Migration Program.
      • Among new permanent residents, two thirds will be in the skilled stream and one third from the family stream.
      • Global Talent Independent program allocation tripled to 15,000 places.
      • Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) increased to 13,500 places.
      • The Government will also offer Visa Application Charge (VAC) refunds, waivers or visa extensions to visa holders who have been unable to travel to Australia due to COVID-19.
      • There will be 13,750 places allocated for the Humanitarian Program. 

‘These changes will help maximise the economic benefits of the Migration Program, and enhance the responsiveness of the program to evolving health and economic challenges,’ the document reads.

Major changes to Partner visas

The Government will introduce English language requirements for Partner visa applicants and their permanent resident sponsors.

‘These changes will help support English language acquisition and enhance social cohesion and economic participation outcomes,’ the document reads.

‘The Government will apply the family sponsorship framework to Partner visas which will mandate character checks and the sharing of personal information as part of a mandatory sponsorship application and subject the sponsor to enforceable sponsorship obligations.

‘These changes will complement existing family violence provisions within the Partner visa program.’

Bride and Groom feeding wedding cake to each other during an Indian wedding ceremony.
Bride and Groom feeding wedding cake to each other during an Indian wedding ceremony.
Getty Images

Former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration Abul Rizvi said the increase in allocation for partner visas was long due but he called out the government for introducing English language requirement.

“It is good the Government is at last acting to start clearing the backlog in partner visa applications. That backlog was been entirely of its own making through unlawful limits on the number of partner visas issued that started when Morrison was Immigration Minister,” Mr Rizvi told SBS Hindi.

“But the proposal to introduce English language requirements for both the sponsor and the applicant for partner visas is just an appalling bit of dog-whistling.

“Not since the White Australia policy (and the limits on same-sex marriage) has an Australian Government acted to interfere in the decisions of Australians about who they chose to marry,” he said.

Melbourne-based registered migration agent Rohit Mohan says the changes announced to partner visas will have a huge impact on applicants.

“Never before has English been a requirement for partner visas. This will be an additional challenge for applicants but an increase in the number of places is good news. There’s a huge backlog,” Mr Mohan said.

He also feels the new sponsorship criteria which include mandatory background checks will be welcomed by the Indian community.

“We have seen many cases of family violence within the community where sometimes partners coming from abroad have no idea about their partners’ history in the country.

“Many have a hard time after coming here. These changes aim to address that issue and I believe it will be welcomed by the community,” he says.

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Disclaimer: We’d like to point out that the information contained in this segment is general and is not specific advice. If you would like accurate information relevant to your situation, you should consult a registered migration agent.