Australia should reevaluate visas for parents of immigrants, the Productivity Commission advised on Tuesday after revealing each year's intake costs taxpayers between $2.6 billion and $3.2 billion.
Parents who arrived during 2015-2016 are estimated to cost between $335,000 and $410,000 each over the course of their lifetime.
“A high cost for a relatively small group,” the commission’s Migrant Intake report stated, given that their contribution to Australia is “typically poor”.
It reasoned that they provided low income and income tax, were more likely to lack English-language proficiency and relied more on social services in the areas of health and aged care.
However Joseph Caputo from the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia dismissed the recommendation as "nonsense".
“When parents come out they usually look after the grandchildren and that's a great assistance to families in Australia, and it's been proven time and time again that family reunion is of great benefit to the Australian society," he told SBS.
"To actually make it more difficult or more expensive for migrants to come here, it is really nonsense. Do we really want only wealthy people to come to this country?”
Cameroon-born weightlifter Simplice Ribouem said he had encountered difficulties in trying to bring his mother to Australia.
The Commonwealth Games gold medalist, who represented Australia at the Rio Olympics, said he hoped to bring his mother over following the death of his father who suffered a heart attack in 2015.
“I don't want my mum to pass away without seeing my kids,” he told SBS.
“To get my mother here, I tried with immigration and it was very hard ... it was really, really hard."
Departure stamp on the inside page of a passport. Source: iStockphoto
Visas for parents of either Australian citizens or permanent residents are divided into two streams: the 'non-contributor' visa which takes 18-30 years to process and costs $7,000, and the 'contributor' visa which has about a two-year processing time at $50,000, payments that did not cover annual intake costs, the commission report said.
“Given the balance of the costs and benefits, the case for retaining parent visas in their current form is weak.”
The report suggested raising the current visa charge for contributing parents, and narrowing eligibility for those non-contributing parents if there were strong compassionate grounds.
It also recommended that families of non-contributing parents paid for any income and health support during their residence.
Savings from raising the visa charge and reducing their use of public services could then be redirected to vulnerable members of the Australian community such as those suffering mental health disorders, or to support immigrants through the humanitarian stream, who better contribute to the country’s economic development.
The report advised Australia overhaul its current skilled migration program to maximise the benefits that immigrants could provide.
It noted the value of young immigrants, especially those around the age of 25, to the economy because they were most skilled and had the highest English-language proficiency.