Australian Government Proposes Changes to Visa System

In July, the Department of Immigration and Border protection announced a number of proposed reforms. Some of the most controversial reforms, which have received a great deal of media coverage, relate to securing Australian citizenship and the Australian citizenship test. However, there are a number of other proposed reforms which relate to Australia’s visa system.

According to the department’s website (https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/visa-reform), these reforms are aimed to make Australia’s visa system “easier to understand, easier to navigate and more responsive to [Australia’s] economic, social and security issues.

The department cites a changing immigration and border landscape, namely increasing numbers of travellers visiting Australia and “complex risks at the border” as the reasons why these reforms are necessary.

The proposed reforms to the Australian visa system are as follows:

  • Greatly reducing the number of different types of visas. Right now, Australia has 99 different types of visas: the department is proposing to reduce this to around 10
  • Better distinguishing between temporary entry, long-term entry, and permanent residence
  • Introducing a provisional residence category, to make the visa system stronger, and to save tax-payer money
  • Reforms to keep Australia an attractive and competitive destination for both temporary and long-term visitors

These proposed reforms are currently under a period of consideration and review. This means that the Government invited input from stakeholders and the general public, and will review that feedback before proceeding. In the case of these reforms, the Government release a policy consultation paper which members of the public were invited to comment on, as well as running stakeholder forums and other activities as part of consulting with industry, community sectors and “other interested parties”.

The public consultations closed on 15 September. The department then called for Expressions of Interest for global experts to contribute to the process. The Government held industry briefing in Sydney, Singapore, Bengaluru and San Francisco as part of their search to find independent providers who could provide advice on the new visa delivery system. Discussions also involved building a global digital visa-processing platform.

The department has stated that it will use independent companies to improve the system and bring better services to those who use it, while decision making over visas, security checks and policy making will continue to be carried out by the Government.

The next step will be for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to consider these broad consultations and come up with a detailed policy proposal and specific legislation needed to implement the reforms. We will be keenly waiting for announcements from the Government to see what exactly these reforms will look like, and when we can expect to see them implemented!



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