Immigration was the subject of contentious political debate in 2018 and discussions shifted from the size of Australia’s permanent migration intake to how to distribute issues of apparent overcrowding in Sydney and Melbourne. We expect many of the discussions that began in 2018 will continue this year and could result in further visa changes in 2019. Read on for our insights.
More visa changes to employ migrants in regionally
With Department statistics revealing over 90% of permanent migrants settle in Sydney and Melbourne, changes may occur to encourage migrants to settle in Australia’s other capital cities and regional areas. Some changes have already commenced to facilitate this with the announcement of new skilled occupation lists on 11 March 2019 adding 16 occupations to the ‘Regional Occupation List’ for the Subclass 482 visa.
In late 2018, Designated Area Migration Agreements were established to enable businesses to more easily sponsor migrants on a 482 Visa under a more extensive number of skilled and semi-skilled occupations in the Northern Territory and the Great South Coast (Warrnambool) regions. In some cases, the agreements allow businesses to employ visa holders in regional areas with concessions for English language requirements and salary levels. Importantly, migrants working regionally under these arrangements are provided a pathway to permanent residence, which is a win-win for both visa holders and businesses seeking to attract and retain workers in struggling regional towns.
The Government is continuing to fast track negotiations to establish additional regional migration agreements across Australia in 2019, with agreements currently being discussed for Cairns in far north Queensland and the Orana region in central New South Wales.
Visa changes to focus on compliance and ensure migrants are not underpaid
Since the end of 2018, the Department of Home Affairs has the power to request the Tax File Numbers of skilled visa holders to cross match tax information against visa records and more easily identify cases of underpayment. The Government can now also publicly disclose businesses who fail to meet their sponsorship obligations. Throughout the year, we expect the Government will continue to focus on strengthening the integrity of Australia’s visa programs through the active use of these legislative powers.
The opportunity to migrate on a business visa without significant capital outlays
Most of Australia’s Business and Innovation Visas typically require a minimum of $200,000 in financial outlays, but a new visa pathway was rolled out in November 2018 to allow foreign entrepreneurs and investors under the age of 45 to establish a start-up in South Australia without proof of capital outlay.
The new visa stream, known as ‘Australian Government Endorsed Events’, comes under the Subclass 408 (Temporary Activity) Visa and is available to entrepreneurs in South Australia until November 2021. It is expected to ramp up in applicants this year as more people take advantage of the opportunity. It allows budding entrepreneurs and their families to stay in South Australia for up to four years with the support of the South Australian government. Businesses related to defence and space, cyber security, big data, digital and blockchain, food, wine and Agtech health and medical technology, robotics, media and film industries will be prioritised by the South Australian Government, however entrepreneurs with business plans for other industries can also apply.
Visa changes to partner visa processing arrangements
Changes to the way partner visa applications can be lodged were approved by the Parliament in November 2018, however a commencement date to confirm when the legislation will begin to apply has not yet been declared. The commencement date could be announced at any time and if unannounced, legislation will become operational in June 2019.
The change will require Australian citizen and permanent residents to apply to become an approved ‘partner visa sponsor’ if their partner wishes to apply for a partner visa. Only after the Australian citizen or permanent resident has become an ‘approved partner visa sponsor’ can their partner proceed with lodging the partner visa application.
The changes will also have a significant impact on the way in which couples can apply for a partner visa either from within or outside Australia.
A new visa option for parents of permanent residents and citizens
From 17 April 2019, the Government will introduce a new visa to allow parents of Australian permanent residents and citizens to stay for a period of either 3 or 5 years. The program will be capped and only 15,000 of these visas will be available each year. The cost for a three-year visa will be $5,000 and the cost for a five year visa will be $10,000. In contrast with the permanent parent visa program, the Balance of Family test will not be applied to the new temporary parent visa. A no work condition will be applied and the applicant must have health insurance and access to sufficient funds to support themselves while holding the visa. While the new visa is capped and has various conditions, it does provide an additional visa option for migrants wishing to spend more time with their parents in Australia.
Interstaff | Over 30 years of visa experience since 1988
Interstaff will keep you updated on Australia’s migration changes throughout the year and what they mean for you. If you have any questions about the above changes, or if you would like to understand your eligibility for Australia’s various visa options, simply contact our team of migration agents on 08 9221 3388 or [email protected] for an assessment of your visa options