Budget 2021 – No real immigration surprises, but some reasons to get excited!
The budget didn’t contain many surprises with respect to the migration program for 2021/2022, but there are still reasons for optimism. Until the borders open, and skilled migration and student migration starts flowing again, it is hard for the government to make any firm predictions about how immigration to Australia will evolve in the coming 12 months.
Net migration to Australia will remain in the negative, but not as negative as last year, at the height of the pandemic.
The government announced some massive infrastructure projects, in all of the states and territories, as well as assistance with water infrastructure, and support for all local councils in relation to road development.
But, Australia needs skilled workers!
Notwithstanding the budget’s emphasis on jobs for Australians, it is hard to imagine that there will be sufficient skilled workers in Australia to staff the planned infrastructure projects mentioned in the budget, given there is so much evidence that there are significant skills shortages across the board in Australia already.
We have employers all over Australia screaming out for staff in all sorts of industries, including but not limited to hospitality, civil, commercial and residential construction, IT, medical, and health.
The emphasis on measures to support regional Australia’s sustainability, resilience, and job creation, will further stretch the existing skills base.
We anticipate that nursing and allied health workers will be in even deeper short supply, given the huge amount of funding aimed at aged care, which will target enhanced staffing, and additional registered nurses in aged care settings.
We are hoping that the DHA will make some comprehensive additions to the Priority Skilled Migration Occupation List (PSMOL), to allow more critical workers with visas to access a travel exemption to travel to Australia.
Take our advice – be prepared and get ready now!
Our advice to clients wishing to take advantage of the skilled migration programs is to start getting ready for the borders to open to overseas skilled applicants.
Whether you are in Australia or outside Australia, we suggest that you start laying down the fundamental requirements, such as skills assessments, English-language tests, and any other evidence you can plan for in advance.
As the borders are likely to open by mid-next year to skilled visa applicants, none of these fundamental requirements are likely to expire if obtained in advance. Skills assessments and English-language tests only expire after three years, and miscellaneous requirements such as police certificates expire after 12 months.
It’s also important to note that skills assessment prices are likely to increase from 1 September 2021.
If, in the happy event that the travel exemption regime is relaxed for some skilled workers, skilled migration may even start to flow a little sooner.
If you’re in Australia, get the right migration advice now!
For those of you onshore, we suggest that you obtain professional advice about which skilled pathway is optimal for you. We recommend that you lodge your skilled Visa application as soon as possible given the government’s promise that they will prioritise skilled migration onshore, and family (i.e. Partner Visa) applications. We anticipate that the prioritising of such applications will only last until the borders open. At best, processing will slow down once the borders re-open.
- There was no indication that Visa application fees will be increased. However as noted below, AAT fees will increase at a date to be announced, and skills assessment prices are likely to be increased from 1 September 2021.
- Student Visa holders from offshore are likely to be able to enter Australia towards the end of this year.
- Student Visa holders working in hospitality will be able to work full-time (this is in addition to student visa holders in other sectors such as aged care currently being able to work full-time).
- The 2021-22 Migration Program ceiling has been set at 160,000, including 79,600 skilled and 77,300 family stream places. There will be a focus on granting permanent residency status to those already onshore, including families and partners.
- Amendments to the Migration Act 1958 will strengthen migrant worker protections following recommendations of the Report of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce.
- From 1 January 2021, new permanent residents in Australia will wait four years before they are eligible to access government benefits. At the moment, PR’s are eligible for family tax benefit B immediately; carers allowance and family tax benefit A after one year; and paid parental leave and other carers payments after two years.
- The Administrative Appeals Tribunal will receive $54.8 million over four years to reduce the caseload queue within the Migration and Refugee Division. AAT application fees in non-protection visa review applications will increase.
- The capacity of the onshore Immigration Detention Network (IDN) will be increased and extend to the use of the North West Point Immigration Detention Centre on Christmas Island. According to the budget paper, this measure addresses ongoing capacity pressures across the IDN as a result of the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on the ability to remove unlawful non citizens from Australia.
- $9.6 million over four years will support the bilateral exchange of information between Australia and the United States relating to the investigation of serious crimes.
- The Government will introduce a new delivery model for the Adult Migrant English Program from 1 July 2023 to improve English language, employment and social cohesion outcomes for migrants by linking provider payments to student outcomes.
- The Government will provide $7.7 million over two years from 2021-22 to continue the Airline Liaison Officer Program to disrupt illegitimate international travel to Australia and support approved COVID safe travel.
- The Government will extend the validity period for Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visas by 18 months for individuals who are unable to use their visas due to COVID 19 travel restrictions
- $25.9 million will be made available over four years for a range of further measures to support women affected by domestic violence including further supporting Temporary Visa holders experiencing domestic violence and addressing technology facilitated abuse of women and children.
- TRA (Trades Recognition Australia) Skills Assessment costs are likely to increase from 1 Sept 2021 as a result of alterations to TRA funding.
- $550 million has been set aside to attract global businesses and talent to Australia
- The Government will increase Australia’s consular capability and provide additional support to vulnerable Australian citizens overseas whose return to Australia has been impacted by COVID-19 travel restrictions.
To reiterate what we stated above, we highly recommend getting prepared for your Australian visa now. Whilst borders aren’t opening right now, they will be open again at some point in the near future, and at that time, we predict there will be an influx of migrants wanting to come to Australia. Book a consultation with one of our experienced migration agents and we can help you better understand what to do next!