The budget delivered on Tuesday 6 October 2020 saw migration planning level for 2020-21 remain unchanged at 160,000 places. However, there are major changes to the program structure.
§ Employer-Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas will be prioritised within the Skilled Stream.
§ Global Talent Independent program allocation tripled to 15,000 places.
§ Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) increased to 13,500 places.
§ Family Stream places will increase from 47,732 to 77,300 places on a one-off basis for the 2020-21 Migration Program year, most of the places will be for Partner visas (72,300 within the family stream visas) and onshore applicants will be prioritised.
§ Onshore visa applicants and Partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area will also be prioritised for the 2020-21 Migration Program.
§ The Government will also offer Visa Application Charge (VAC) refunds, waivers or visa extensions to visa holders who have been unable to travel to Australia due to COVID-19.
§ There will be 13,750 places allocated for the Humanitarian Program.
*Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP)
The government has raised the allocation for the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) to 13,500 places (from 6,862 in 2019-20).
The budget paper indicated that “From 1 July 2021, the Government will streamline and improve the operation of the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP). The Government will introduce changes to improve the quality of investments and applicants. Visa application charges for BIIP visas will also be increased by an additional 11.3 per cent (above regular CPI indexation) on 1 July 2021. These changes will sharpen the focus of the BIIP program on higher value investors, business owners and entrepreneurs and improve the economic outcomes of the BIIP.”
Acting Immigration Minister, Alan Tudge, also mentioned in his media release that the BIIP will be reformed to ensure that investments are targeted at Australian venture capitals and emerging small and medium size businesses to support the economic recovery.
* Global Talent Independent
As per the planning levels, the government has tripled the allocation of the Global Talent Independent (GTI) program to 15,000 places, a massive increase from the previous program year’s planning level where the government had set an objective to grant 5,000 visas.
Rupert Grayston, the director of standards and accreditation services at the Australian Computer Society that provides nominations for GTI applicants in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector said that “this is a substantial increase for a program in its second year, particularly during a time of ongoing border restrictions. Awareness of the GTI program seems to be growing, and ACS is increasingly seeing evidence of a significant pool of candidates. It nevertheless remains to be seen whether such growth can be realised”.
* General Skilled Migration
Given that the migration number remains the same as the previous year, it is likely that an increase in allocation for partner visa, the GTI scheme and the business and investor visas will mean significantly lesser places for Australia’s General Skilled Migration program which could face cuts of up to 50%.
Family Stream places will increase from 47,732 to 77,300 places on a one-off basis for the 2020-21 Migration Program year. However, most of the places will be for Partner visas (72,300 within the family stream visas) and onshore applicants will be prioritised.
Onshore visa applicants and Partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area will also be prioritised for the 2020-21 Migration Program.
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.
According to the budget paper, the Government will introduce new sponsorship criteria for Partner visas which will require sponsors to undergo character checks and provide personal information as part of their sponsorship application, and subject the sponsor to enforceable sponsorship obligations. These changes will complement existing family violence provisions within the Partner visa program.
Some communities welcomed the new sponsorship criteria which include mandatory background checks as they have seen many cases of family violence within the community where sometimes partners coming from abroad have no idea about their partners’ history in the country. The changes will help to address this issue.
Budget paper also reveals that the Government will introduce English language requirements for Partner visa applicants and their permanent resident sponsors.
“From late 2021, new partner visa applicants and permanent resident sponsors will be required to have functional level English or to demonstrate that they have made reasonable efforts to learn English,” Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said.
“People will be able to demonstrate this through, for example, the completion of 500 hours of free English language classes through the AMEP.” Tudge said the changes would help support social cohesion and economic participation, while better protecting vulnerable people from controlling or exploitative partners.
Through the government’s Adult Migration English Program, migrants can access as many hours of free English classes as they need to reach vocational English.
Partner visas are processed in two stages and the minister’s office said the new language requirement would not need to be met until someone was applying for permanency, usually after two years of being able to live in Australia on a temporary partner visa.
Mr Tudge said there was almost one million people living in Australia with poor or no English and that language skills were necessary to finding work and staying safe. “And we want to encourage everybody to be able to learn English so that they can fully engage in Australian life, in every aspect of it, from employment markets, to our democracy, to our society, to community activity.
“English is absolutely essential in order to do all of that.” The changes announced to partner visas will have a huge impact on applicants. Never before has English been a requirement for partner visas. This will be an additional challenge for applicants.