Australia's new parent visa 'absolutely unfair' say migrant communities

After years of campaigning for the new temporary parent visa so overseas grandparents can come to Australia for longer, many say they now feel excluded.

Melbourne couple Inderdeep and Harpreet Sandhu were looking forward to Australia's new temporary parent visa, so their parents in India could spend more time with their three children.

Now, they say, they have been left wanting.

“It is absolutely unfair because what the initial terms and conditions promised were ... they have not been stuck to,” Mr Sandhu told SBS News. 

The Sandhus with their two children.
Source: Supplied

The new subclass 870 Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visa, which opens for applications on 17 April, allows grandparents to visit their families in Australia and will cost $5,000 and $10,000 for a three-year and five-year visa respectively and will be subject to an annual cap of 15,000.

But families can only sponsor one set of parents who must have their own health insurance and will be able to renew the visa only once, meaning parents are permitted to stay in Australia for a total of 10 years.

The Sandus, now Australian citizens, arrived in Australia in 2007.  Their youngest two children were born here. 

Their respective parents have been to Australia on the visitor visa in the past, but they were looking forward to being reunited for longer. 

“For us, this visa means a lot, our culture is such that we have always been used to having joint families and to having our elders around us.”

Our culture is such that we have always been used to having our elders around us.

- Harpreet Sandhu
Inderdeep Sandhu is in remission after a battle with breast cancer.
Source: Supplied

The new visa was committed to by the Turnbull government during the 2016 federal election, after a lengthy campaign from migrant communities. In particular, Indian migrant Arvind Duggal, who founded the Long Stay Visa for Parents committee led the charge. 

Mr Duggal says migrant communities in Australia deserve fairer terms than the new three and five-year parent visas offer. 

"Under the current visitor visa, parents are already allowed to live with us for two years (in total), they are paying only $140," he says. 

"Under the new visa, they have to pay $5,000 for staying one year extra." 

“They are trying to make money from the grandparents visiting their kids, which is un-Australian and unethical.”

They are trying to make money from the grandparents visiting their kids, which is un-Australian.

- Arvind Duggal, Parent visas campaigner

The federal government has backflipped on a number of key commitments it had made during the campaign including signalling there would be no cap on visa numbers, then capping the visa at 15,000 places annually, as well as charging substantive fees. 

Campaigner Arvind Duggal says he will keep fighting for fairer visa terms.
Source: Supplied

Permanent parent visas

Permanent migration visas for parents of migrants are difficult to obtain.

The “contributory” parent visa costs $47,120 per person with an average wait time of 45 months and the “non-contributory” parent visa will require a waiting period of more than 30 years with a cost of around $6,000.

The Sandus have numerous siblings living in India, so neither of the permanent migration options are available to them as they do not pass the “balance of family” test.

They are also ineligible under the visa as it requires a family income threshold of $83,455.

“$80,000 income for a single person like me is quite hard, so we won't be eligible for this visa at all,” Mr Sandhu says.

Ms Sandhu is in remission after a battle with breast cancer and has had to quit her job.  

"If I had the long-term visa it would have been a great help to me and my family because I have three young kids and it's so hard to manage my health, their lives along with mine," she says. 

Priced out

Married Sydney couple, Arron Ji and Olivia Zhu arrived in Australia in 2017 and are permanent residents.  

Mrs Zhu gave birth to the couple's second daughter last year and their parents live in China. 

They say the fees for the new temporary visa will mean they are going to be priced out.

“We are children from low-income families and so we don't have high salaries, if we apply for the three-year visa, we need to pay $5,000, for us it is quite a bit of pressure," says Mr Ji. 

"When my dad first found out about the visa, he was really excited but once he found out about the exact details he decided against applying for it and said he would go for the holiday visa instead."   

Olivia Zhu says the visa fees place a lot of pressure on new migrants to Australia.
Source: Lin Evlin

They had hoped to bring their parents to Australia on a semi-permanent basis to help out with childcare, so that Mrs Zhu can return back to work. 

"It would be a massive help to have our parents here, we have jobs that can be high pressure in nature and there is a lot of things to take care of from a day to day perspective as well," says Mr Ji. 

It would be a massive help to have our parents here, we have jobs that can be high pressure.

- Olivia Zhu, Sydney migrant

Melbourne based migration agent Kirk Yan recently conducted informal WeChat surveys on the new visa and found many people were either not eligible to apply or could not afford the visa.

“Around 70 to 80 per cent who are interested in applying for this visa say they may not be eligible to apply due to the sponsor requirements,” he says. 

Olivia Zhu and Aaron Ji had high hopes the new parent visa would help them reunite with their respective parents long term.
Source: Supplied

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told SBS News the new visa was designed after extensive public consultation and the income threshold is to ensure sponsors have sufficient resources to support their parents.

Immigration Minister David Coleman says it was the government and not the Labor Party that introduced this new migration pathway into law. 

"The new visa will help thousands of Australian families, and it’s been successfully introduced by the government despite ongoing opposition from the Labor Party," Mr Coleman told SBS News.  

"This new visa is just one of many initiatives the Morrison Government has put in place to ensure migrants are supported." 

Australia's new parent visa absolutely unfair' say migrant communities

In November last year, the Coalition passed laws which made changes to the temporary sponsored visas for parents, without Labor’s support.

Labor argued the legislation had terms the party did not agree with, such as limiting the visa to one set of parents per household.

In recent weeks, the Labor party has been critical of the Coalition's policy on this visa and have taken to Chinese 'super app' WeChat to attack it, calling it "a joke". 

Labor is expected to announce its policy on the temporary parent visa during the election campaign.

Published 17 April 2019 at 5:56am, updated 17 April 2019 at 10:04am
By Lin Evlin