The Coalition government is attempting to introduce a new policy which would require migrants seeking permanent residency to first apply for a “provisional visa”.
The move comes as part of a suite of new streamlining measures that are intended to cut costs, with provisional visa holders being denied access to the Centrelink payments and social services that permanent residents have access to.
The government will also be reducing the overall number of visa types from 99 to 10, while outsourcing various aspects of the application process to private sector providers.
The changes were initially revealed in a discussion paper released by the Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, earlier this week. This comes after new research was recently published showing that the number of short-term visitors to Australia each year is expected to increase from 40 to 50 million by 2022-2023.
As part of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s (DIBP) discussion paper, Dutton also issued an open call for consultation from experts and industry stakeholders.
“The government provided over $35 million over two years in this year’s budget for initial scoping work on service delivery to be undertaken,” Mr Dutton said.
The DIBP’s discussion paper attempted to undersell the impact of the new provisional visa by pointing to several other visa categories—including partner visas—which already feature a probationary period before the holder can apply for permanent residency.
“Most of the permanent visa categories, however, do not have a provisional stage, and applicants do not have to spend any time in Australia prior to applying for—or being granted— permanent residence. Permanent residents might also be eligible to receive welfare payments and services,” the paper reads.
“The United Kingdom, The Netherlands, the United States and others have a more formal assessment process and period for evaluating those who seek to stay permanently.’’
According to comments from Dutton, the new changes will greatly improve “the integrity of the visa system” by easing the “burden on taxpayers” and providing faster processing for “legitimate travellers”.
“Reform of Australia’s visa system will build on measures to enhance assessments of visa applicants and holders and to support decisions on the grant or revocation of visas, as recommended by the 2015 Joint Commonwealth-New South Wales review of the Martin Place Siege,” Dutton said.
Dutton also added that the changes will have no immediate impact on current visa holders, and that the public consultation period is expected to run until September 15th.
“[The findings] will inform a final package of changes which will be subject to further government approval,” Dutton said.
Labor is currently opposing the government’s proposed changes, calling them a “massive overreach”, while a document that was recently leaked from the Department of Social Services (DSS) warned of the damage it could cause to Australia’s social cohesion.
“DSS is concerned that the proposed reforms risk undermining social cohesion (and potentially increase the risk factors that may lead to violent extremism) by creating double standards,” it said.
The CEO of Absolute Immigration, Jamie Lingham, has issued a statement echoing the comments of the DSS, warning the government that introducing this requirement for all permanent residency applicants may result in unnecessary stress and anxiety for a group of undeserving people.
“Our view is that Australian permanent residency should be seen as a privilege and not a right, therefore we are not opposed to the temporary pathway concept, for the right visa subclasses. However, we do agree with the DSS sentiment that temporary visas create a level of anxiety, as well as a class of people who are not truly settled until they have secured their permanent status in Australia,” Lingham said.
“With a number of occupations being removed from the pathway to permanent residency, we are already getting reports from clients that the attraction of overseas workers with families is becoming increasingly difficult. Therefore, we believe that a pathway from a provisional to temporary visa to permanent residency should be available to everyone.”
“In this scenario, we would support raising the bar on the number of required years’ work experience in an occupation—and an increased wage threshold—for greater concessions to the age requirement. We need skilled and experienced migrants to pass on their knowledge to Australian workers, and believe that an age cut-off of 45 years is not realistic or sustainable.”
“While ten visas may sound simple, we would suggest that these will be ten highly complex visas, as opposed to 99 visas that are fit for a specific purpose. We had less than ten visas in the 1980’s, and believe that the increase to just under 100 was both valid and required. There is nothing new happening here,” he said.
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