Migrants forced to wait four years for benefits in Australian budget’s biggest cost-cutting measure

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New migrants to Australia will be forced to wait four years before they can access government benefits under a Federal Government’s plan to save $671m.

The cost-cutting measure, contained in Tuesday’s budget, will apply the waiting period to all those granted residency from 1 January 2022, affecting 13,200 future migrants and 45,000 families, with carers and parents to be hit the hardest.

In a budget announcing a deficit of $106.6bn in 2021-22, the Morrison government has applied the biggest savings measure to new migrants, who it estimates will continue to be granted visas at a rate of 160,000 a year.

Currently, migrants are eligible to receive family tax benefit B immediately; carers allowance and family tax benefit A after one year; and paid parental leave and carers payments after two years.

All these payment types will be subject to the four-year waiting period from 2022, although the measure will only apply prospectively, meaning those who have already achieved residency status will be exempt.

The measure saves $45.7m in 2022-23 ramping up to $415.2m in 2024-25.

Australia’s migration program has been severely interrupted by Covid-19. Due to international travel restrictions the target of 160,000 migrants a year will focus on granting permanent residency status to those already onshore, including families and partners.

The Department of Social Services deputy secretary, Matt Flavel, told Guardian Australia the four-year wait would affect 13,200 individuals and 45,000 families.

The budget papers say savings from the measure will “be redirected by the government to fund policy priorities”.

The budget also contains $464.7m of spending on increasing the capacity of the onshore immigration detention network, including Christmas Island, due to “ongoing capacity pressures … as a result of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the ability to remove unlawful non-citizens from Australia”.

Source: The Guardian

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