Australian visas: What’s changing in 2019?

Australia’s immigration laws have recently seen some changes that affect persons currently in the country and those looking to enter it.

Immigration is always a hot topic in Australia. The country has strict immigration laws driven by popular sentiment and practical need. That they do not always engender the same types of policies is evident in the changes we are seeing or may see, this year.

Low-skilled migrants with limited English get a pathway to Australian permanent residency

The Federal Government drafted the Designated Area Migration Agreements and entered into them with two regions: the Northern Territory and the Great Southern Coast of Victoria

The DAMA’s allow employers in these areas to sponsor migrant workers with lower skills, language and income requirements in order to meet the demand for labour in sectors such as agriculture which requires constant production.

As long as employers prove they have exhausted the pool of domestic workers for their labour needs, they can use the Temporary Skill Shortage visa (Subclass 482) to apply for citizens of the Commonwealth to enter and stay in Australia for a set period after which the sponsored workers will be eligible for permanent residency. For more information click here.

Besides plugging the hole in the labour market, the DAMA’s also look to boost populations in regional areas. They achieve this by offering migrants permanent residency with the caveat that a number of years must be spent in the area into which they were sponsored.

With permanent employment, growing roots after initial years spent in the regions and the prospect of permanent residency, migrants who start this process are likely to stay in regional areas as opposed to moving to an overcrowded city such as Melbourne or Sydney.

Immigration Minister David Coleman indicated that should the scheme prove successful, agreements could be signed with more regions in future.

New Parent visa to be made available

In June 2016 the government committed to a temporary sponsored parent visa that allows parents of migrants to stay in Australia for a period of up to five years. The adoption of the visa was delayed until recently when legislation it was linked to finally passed in November last year.

Now in 2019, migrants looking to have their parents join them for an extended stay in the country can apply for the parent visa. The number of temporary parent visas available annually is capped at 15,000.

Migrants can sponsor the parents for a three-year visa at a cost of $5,000 or a five-year visa with a cost of $10,000. There is also an opportunity for a single renewal. Migrant couples can sponsor only one set of parents for this visa. Click here for more information.

New sponsorship framework for sponsored family visas

The Federal Parliament passed the Migration Amendments (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 paving the way for a new sponsorship framework for sponsored family visas that adopts a two-step application process involving an assessment of the sponsor and subsequent visa application.

Maggie Taaffe, Principal Lawyer at AHWC Immigration Law says the two-stage process will mean longer wait times for partner visas.

“Whilst the new Act states that a Partner Visa application cannot be made before a Partner Visa sponsor is approved, it remains to be seen whether or not the new regulations will allow a Partner Visa application to be lodged at the same time the Sponsor application is made,” Ms Taaffe told SBS Punjabi.

“If not we anticipate there will be approximately a 12-week wait whilst the Partner Visa sponsor is approved before the application for the actual Partner Visa can be made.”

Ms Taaffe says the new legislation also means additional scrutiny of the sponsoring partner as the Bill also provides for sharing of personal information between a range of parties associated with the family visa program. These changes are aimed at safeguarding vulnerable family members, particularly children and married partners from violent sponsors.

A business visa that doesn’t require evidence of investment

A special business visa aimed at boosting the economy of South Australia was rolled out in November last year. The Subclass 408 (Temporary Activity) visa does not require any capital outlay and allows visa holders and their families to stay in Australia for three years.

Priority will be given to businesses related to defence and space, cyber security, big data, digital and blockchain, food, wine, AgTech, health and medical technology, robotics, media and film industries. However, applicants with business plans related to other industries can also apply. Click here to read more about this visa.

Cutting Australia’s permanent immigration intake

Australia’s annual permanent immigration was capped at 190,000 in 2011 and has remained at that level up until now. For the first time since 2007, the actual amount of incoming immigrants was just over 162,000 with a cut seen in family and skilled visas.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly said he is in favour of capping the annual immigration intake at 160,000. The Prime Minister has also said he would like to give more control to the states and territories over immigration intake levels in their respective areas.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian last year asked the Federal Government to cut immigration to the state by half, while the ACT’s quota for nominating applicants for state-sponsored 190 subclass visa has been increased to 1,400 from 800.

Australian citizenship

The Federal Government has been trying to pass some changes to the Australian Citizenship law through the parliament that would make Australian permanent residents wait four years and pass an English language test before they can apply for citizenship.

These changes are opposed by opposition Labor, the Greens and some crossbench senators who have all moved to block the passing of the legislation.

The Government reworked their proposed Bill and listed it among the legislation intended for discussion and passage during the Spring sitting however, it was never brought for discussion.

For now those opposing these changes seem to have won, but it remains to be seen if the Government abandons or reworks their legislation which by its very nature could limit future immigration into the country. Read more about the proposed changes in Australian citizenship law.