With the year that 2020 has been given the covid-19 pandemic, and with the current climate around the declining status of the Australian economy, the Federal Budget has been at the forefront of many minds as this is expected to provide a more tangible outline of what can be expected in the year to follow.
The Federal Budget 2020-21 was released on 6 October 2020 and with it, a number of changes that impact the immigration industry. The predictions in the budget papers indicate that there will an estimated decrease in the net overseas migration numbers (reducing from 154,000 to 82,800) for the year 2020-21 however, the numbers are expected to gradually increase to approximately 201,000 by 2023-24.
The key announcements related to the Department of Home Affairs and the migration program for the year 2021-21 are outlined below:
Migration Planning Levels
While the migration planning level is expected to remain the same (160,000 for the 2020-21 program year) there is a significant change in the distribution of places available to different visa application streams with Family stream related visas taking the lion share at 77,300 allocated places. This number is a significant increase from the allocated places in the 2019-20 year of 47,732.
Likely in an effort to boost the economic recovery, the Business, Investment and Innovation Program which targets high net worth individuals has also received an increase in places allocated to 13,500 places. Further more, to attract global talent for settlement in Australia, the places allocated to the Global Talent Independent visa has been tripled from 5000 places in 2019-20 to 15,000 places for this budget year.
More significant perhaps, is that of the 77,300 places allocated to the Family Stream of visa applications, 72,300 places will be allocated exclusively to partner visa applicants.
The Humanitarian Program ceiling will be set at 13,750 places.
Priority allocation for processing
The Budget further outlined that in terms of the visa programs that will receive priority allocation, Employer Sponsored, Global Talent and Business Innovation and Investment Program visa applications would receive priority in the skilled visa streams.
For partner visa applications, where the sponsor resides in a designated regional area, the visa applications will be prioritised in the 2020-21 migration program
English Requirement – Partner Visa Applicants
English language requirements will be introduced for Partner visa applicants AND the sponsor where the sponsor is a Permanent Resident and not an Australian citizen or an eligible New Zealand Citizen. This additional requirement is expected to “enhance social cohesion and economic participation outcomes”. While not clear how the Department will implement this requirement at this stage, this announcement has seen significant pushback from the Australian community and migration industry as it would be taken to lock out a number of applicants who do not speak English as a first language.
Visa Refunds and Waivers
Given the impact that Covid-19 has had on individuals and businesses, it comes as a relief that the Budget has expanded the provisions with respect to refunds available. Specifically;
- VAC refunds and waivers will be available to current visa holders who are unable to travel until the border reopens.
- Temporary skilled workers and visitor visa holders will be eligible to have the VAC for a subsequent visa application waived, to allow them to return to Australia once travel restrictions are lifted.
- Working holiday makers will be eligible to have the VAC for a subsequent visa application waived, to allow them to return to Australia once travel restrictions are lifted or otherwise be able to access a VAC refund.
- Prospective marriage visa (PMV) holders will be able to access a VAC refund. This is following the announcement from the Department of Home Affairs that they would not extend the entry date for PMV holders and would move to cancel the visas where applicants are offshore
- Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme visa holders will be able to access a VAC refund.
New Zealand Pathway to permanent residency
Under the Subclass 189 visa application stream, access to Australian permanent residency for New Zealand citizens has been expanded to all New Zealand citizens who have at least 3 years taxable income above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold ($53,900) in the last 5 years.
Changes to the Business, Investment and Innovation Program
In addition to the increase in places allocated to the Business Investment and Innovation program, the government is expected to introduce changes to ensure an improvement on the quality of investments and applicants within the program.
The main focus will be on attracting higher value investors, business owners and entrepreneurs to ensure a better economic outcome for the program.
While many other visa subclasses have not had an increase in the government application fees associated with the applications announced, the Business, Investment and Innovation program will see an increase of fees by an additional 11.3% (above regular CPI indexation) effective 1 July 2021.
Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce
The government will establish and deploy a “Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce” to attract international business and exceptional talent to Australia.
This together with the significant increase in places available to the Global Talent visa stream is expected to support the post covid-19 pandemic recovery and lead to an increase in local jobs where international businesses set up shop in Australia.
Our team can help you plan your migration journey in 2020/21, please book a consultation for further advice about your eligible for an Australian visa during this financial year.