‘Fast-track permanent residency for onshore temporary residents from India,’ says Australia-India business body

The Australia India Business Council has urged the Australian government to offer and fast-track permanent residency for onshore temporary visa holders in skilled and other employment categories from India. Business owners and visa applicants say this will be helpful for them and the economy.

Permanent Residency

Source: Getty Images/Stadtratte

  • Australian government should offer permanent residency to Indian skilled temporary residents: AIBC
  • Over 19,000 Indian temporary residents currently in Australia: Department of Home Affairs
  • Lack of workforce affects business, expansion plan halted: Indian restaurant business owner
Shekar Mani, managing partner at Indian restaurant chain Saravanaa Bhawan, has temporarily halted the expansion of his business in Australia and New Zealand.

“Prior to COVID-19, we were planning to open two more restaurants, but for now, we have decided against that as the business has been badly hit by the pandemic and the shortage of staff is affecting our operations,” Mr Mani told SBS Hindi.

“There is almost a 60-70 per cent drop in employment. We are not able to find skilled staff even if we pay them more,” he added.

Customers dining at Saravana Bhavan restaurant in Australia. Source: Supplied by Shekar Mani

Australia’s labour shortage has only been exacerbated by immigration restrictions that have reduced the number of available skilled and unskilled workers.

A recent suggestion given to the federal government by the Australia India Business Council (AIBC) aims to address such concerns of stakeholders in the hospitality industry, just like Mr Mani.

AIBC is an industry body that works on the bilateral relationship between Australia and India in business and trade. It has urged the Australian government to offer and fast-track permanent residency to onshore temporary visa holders in skilled and other employment categories from India. 

Jim Varghese, AIBC’s national chair, told SBS Hindi, “Australia must revamp the immigration policy as an urgent national priority to invite more young and skilled migrants to Australia to sustain the economic growth during the post-COVID recovery period”.

After issuing a statement on social media, Mr Varghese said AIBC was now planning to send a formal request to the federal government. 

AIBC’s call has come at a time when Australian borders have been shut till mid-next year and permanent migration has been capped at 160,000 for 2021-22.

As businesses across the country battle workforce shortages, these measures are adversely affecting the Australian economy in its post-COVID recovery period.

Mr Jim Varghese, AIBC National chair, at the Indian museum in Dandenong. Source: Supplied by Jim Varghese

Himanshu Gupta is a temporary visa holder and has been working as a research fellow at Charles Darwin University for over a year now. 

He migrated to Australia in 2015 as a Ph D scholar and submitted his expression of interest (EoI) for permanent residency last year under three categories, including the state-sponsored sub class 190 and the global talent visa category. 

“I submitted my EOIs last year and have received a response from the Department of Immigration this month. I will now file my permanent residency application and that will likely take another year or more to get decided,” Mr Gupta told SBS Hindi, adding that the already lengthy process has been further delayed by COVID-19. 

“Even though we pay the same taxes as permanent residents, as temporary visa holders, we receive no benefits like them,” said Mr Gupta.  

Himanshu Gupta, a research fellow at Charles Darwin University Source: Supplied by Himanshu Gupta

Responding to an email query from SBS Hindi on the latest data on temporary residents from India, the Department of Home Affairs confirmed that there are over 16,900 temporary visa holders in the skilled category and over 2,300 in other employment categories from India as of April this year.

The department’s website also notes that due to COVID-19, the processing time for Australian visas has become longer than normal.

“The large population of the skilled younger generation in India provides a huge opportunity to Australia. Skilled young international students need to have a smoother, faster and easier pathway to migration in Australia,” Mr Varghese said.

A recent report from the Grattan Institute on Australia’s skilled migration program has pointed that the pandemic and the closure of Australia’s international borders has offered Australia with a unique opportunity to rethink permanent skilled migration, an opportunity should not be wasted.  

Welcoming Grattan’s recommendations, Mr Varghese said it was right to mention that Australia should “unashamedly” prioritise younger migrants for their earning potential. 

He hoped the reduction of skilled migrants was only temporary given the government’s priority was managing the current public health crisis. 

“AIBC considers that the alignment of Australia’s immigration policy to its trade and economic policy will be one such strategy and a key to the success of its bilateral trade relations with India,” he added. 

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4 min read
Published 24 June 2021 at 10:05am
By Natasha Kaul