Taking a cautious approach, the Morrison Government has announced it will maintain the planned ceiling for the 2020-21 Migration Program at 160,000 places.
In a noticeable departure from the traditional migration composition, the government has placed greater emphasis on family stream visas, raising the planning level from 47,732 to 77,300 places on a ‘one-off basis’ for this program year.
“While overall the government has placed greater emphasis on the family stream, most of these are people already in Australia,” the Acting Minister for Immigration Alan Tudge said in a joint media release with Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton.
Former senior Immigration Department official Abul Rizvi said while this could be an indication of the government’s intention to clear the massive partner visa application backlog that currently sits at 100,000, it could also mean a significant cut for places in the parent category.
“While the family stream has been increased, it appears places for parents have been cut (presumably offset by an increase in temporary parent visas which are not counted as part of the program). Adding around 4,000 child visas, the overall family stream would be around 50% of the program,” said Mr Rizvi.
Budget papers also reveal that an English language requirement will also be introduced for partner visas and their permanent resident sponsors.
Calling it a “shocker”, Melbourne-based migration agent Ranbir Singh said this could spell bad news for permanent residents intending to bring their partners to live with them in Australia permanently.
“It is a huge shock for permanent residents and their partners. We weren’t anticipating this development and would like some further clarity as to whether the same rule would also apply to Australian citizen sponsors as well,” he said.
Mr Singh, however, said that there is some reprieve for partner visa applicants and those who currently remain onshore and unaffected by the COVID-19 induced border closure.
“The government will also be prioritising onshore visa applicants and partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area. While the focus on onshore applications was expected, the fact that partner visa applicants with sponsors in regional areas will get priority is quite a pleasant surprise,” he said.