Figures released by the Department of Home Affairs show 229,000 people held a Bridging Visa in Australia in March 2019 while a decision was being made to grant their substantive visa. This is a significant increase considering the number of people on a Bridging Visa in 2014 was 107,000. The media has compared the new figure to “the population of Hobart,” as the size of Australia’s temporary migration program comes under the spotlight.
What is a bridging visa?
A Bridging Visa allows a person to stay in Australia lawfully while their immigration status is resolved. Different Bridging Visas are available depending on a person’s circumstances for eligibility. Migrants may be eligible to obtain a bridging visa if their current visa is likely to expire while waiting for a new visa to be finalised. It can also be issued in cases where a visa decision is under review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Why is the number of people on bridging visas increasing?
It appears bridging visas are on the rise as waiting times for visa decisions increase. Here’s a break down of some of the contributing factors.
A higher volume of migrant arrivals
Senator Linda Reynolds, representing the Department of Home Affairs, told the Senate last month that the growth in bridging visas was caused by a general increase in migrant arrivals, which has subsequently led to more people applying for a second visa to stay in Australia.
Ms Reynolds says, “As numbers increase, of course you will get an increase in all sorts of categories of people arriving, and making claims to stay.”
“So you would expect that number to grow merely by the fact of the amount of people who come here by air.”
More rigorous assessments of visa and nomination applications
Government processing times have also increased in recent years due to the level of rigour required to assess visa applications. The Department of Home Affairs is continuing its focus on character and integrity, sponsorship compliance and the genuineness of applications. As a result, the increase in waiting periods for visa decisions have led to an increase in the need for bridging visas.
Peter McDonald, a professor in Demography at the University of Melbourne, said the number of bridging visas was now “enormous compared to any past history.” He believes the growth has not only resulted from a greater number of people arriving into Australia, but also the lengthy queues for visas, such as permanent residence Partner Visas.
An increase in visa refusals and cancellations
Visa refusals increased by 46% in 2017-18 compared to the previous year, which has resulted in a significant number of applications requiring review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. This increase in visa refusals and cancellations has contributed to the growth in the number of people who require a bridging visa while appealing a visa decision at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
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