Migration agents feel the move will slam the door on older visa applicants who they say will be severely disadvantaged.
The latest set of changes introduced to skilled permanent visas has lowered the maximum age of a skilled partner to 45 for which an applicant can claim additional points in the general points test.
Earlier, applicants for general skilled visas whose spouses and de facto partners were under 50 years of age, were able to claim additional five points.
The change, introduced last week, will apply to Skilled Independent visas Subclass 189 and Subclass 190 and Skilled Regional Subclass 489 with effect from 1 July 2018. During recent years, Indians have emerged as the largest migrant group in Australia to receive 189 and 190 visas that are both permanent visas, while Subclass 489 visa is a temporary visa with a pathway to permanent residency.
In an amendment made to the Migration Legislation last year in July, the maximum age for which a visa applicant could claim points was lowered from under 50 years to under 45 years at the 'time of invitation'. However, the maximum age of the skilled partners for claiming additional points wasn’t lowered at that time.
In an explanatory statement the Department of Home Affairs said the purpose of this amendment is to rectify this “oversight” to make the maximum age for claiming points consistent for primary applicants and their skilled partners.
Benefit to the Australian economy
The Department says lowering the maximum age at which visa applicants and their spouses can claim points for migration would benefit the Australian economy as those migrants arriving in the country at an older age have lower rates of labour force participation. Citing the Productivity Commission’s findings, the Department said such migrants “contribute to higher cost due to the use of government-subsidised health care and support services.
“In light of the Productivity Commission’s findings, it is appropriate to make amendments to provide that skilled migration visa applicants can only claim points for having a skilled partner if their partner is under 45 years of age.”
'As good as shutting the door on older applicants'
Seema Chauhan has been a migration agent on the Gold Coast for over 10 years. She agrees that the older migrants find it difficult to find meaningful employment in Australia.
“My personal experience is that migrants arriving at that stage of their lives find it difficult to secure good employment opportunities. Bringing the maximum age of the spouse for claiming points in line with the principal applicant was the only logical thing to do because it was an anomaly,” Ms Chauhan told SBS Punjabi.
For permanent skilled visas, an applicant needs roughly 70 points in order to be successful. These points primarily come from an applicant’s age, education, work experience, English proficiency etc. Applicants between the age of 26 and 32 get the maximum points for age. There are additional points if an applicant has a state nomination.
Melbourne-based migration agent Mamika Kalra says the chances of an applicant aged over 45 succeeding in getting a permanent visa are very rare.
"They have to get maximum points in English, work experience and education and also get additional points in order to succeed. But not many applicants are that good," she says.
Ms Chauhan says for older applicants, every additional point makes a crucial difference to their visa prospects.
“After the age of 39, it’s a sliding scale for general points test. Very few applicants over the age of 40 qualify in the points test and when these additional points are not going to be available for those over 45, the number is going to go down even further,” she says.
"It's as good as shutting the door on older visa applicants".