No Federal Budget is uneventful as within our system the Government can control the inflow and exodus of people in many shapes, ways and forms.  Here is a summary of key developments impacting the immigration sphere revealed by the 2018-19 Federal Budget (8 May 2018).

DHA cost reductions in management and services:

  • 37% expected drop (from $2,960 to $1,873 million ) managing unlawful citizens due to lower numbers of onshore and offshore detainees forecasted.
  • 8.5% drop (from $807 to $744 million) providing migration and citizenship services
  • 6.5% drop (from $462 to $432 million) of regional co­operation and refugee and humanitarian assistance

A revenue increase of $2,541.7 million (gain of $394.4 million) expected from Visa Application Charges (VAC) expected for FY2018–19.

The Budget Portfolio Paper notes “the increase is primarily due to previous Budget measures, which impacted visa applications and pricing and, to a lesser extent, new measures.”  What this means exactly is unknown to us.


Border Force funding announcements

Funding increases in:

  • $122 million for security capabilities at nine major airports
  • $130 million upgrade to the Department of Home Affairs’ ICT infrastructure
  • Visa processing
  • Passenger screening
  • Goods and Visitor border clearance
  • Identity management
  • Threat analysis

Interestingly, we note the reduction in the provision of migration and citizenship services and a subsequent increase in ICT spending.  This has been an interesting trend in the last decade and something that we have investigated to determine the trajectory of visa processing.  Stay tuned for our upcoming insight on this.


Visa program changes

Visas for General Practitioners — targeting areas of doctor shortages from 2019
  • Improve the targeting of visas for general practitioners to areas of shortage
  • 2,100 overseas trained doctors planned per annum from 1 January 2019
  • Visas for other specialities and for state and territory based employment not affected
Retirement visas ­permanent pathway

Pathway to permanent residency introduced for existing:

  • Retirement visas (subclass 410)
  • Investor Retirement visas (subclass 405)

Both visas to eventually close for new applicants.

A portion of the parent permanent migration places will be quarantined for retirement visa holders each year.

Retirement visa holders in Australia will be eligible to apply onshore for a permanent visa through the Parent (subclass 103) or Contributory Parent (subclass 143) visa streams.

Retirement visa holders will be exempted from some parent visa requirements that they would typically be unable to meet, such as having family in Australia. The pathway will remain open until all retirement visa holders who wish to transition to permanent residency have done so.

Peru / Australia Free Trade Agreement

Peru is expected to be added to the list of those countries exempt from labour market testing.


Skilling Australians Fund

Further refund provisions for the Skilling Australians Fund levy expanded. These include:

  • An approved employer’s sponsorship application but the subsequent visa application is refused on health or character grounds
  • An approved sponsorship and visa application but the visa holder does not commence work with the employer
  • Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa holder prematurely leaves their employer where the visa period was for more than 12 months. Refunds will only be available in this scenario for unused full years of the levy

These provisions are in addition to the existing refund provision for circumstances in which an employer’s sponsorship application is refused.


Exemptions for religious workers

Exemptions for religious organisations:

  • Paying the SAF levy for Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482)
  • Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visas under the Minister of Religion Labour Agreement
  • Company-­specific Labour Agreement, covering bishops, ministers of religion and religious assistants.

This will be at a cost of $105.1 million over the forward estimates period. While the Government will provide $1.8 million to the Department to implement the measure deducted from the revenue available for payments through the Skilling Australians Fund.

The Skilling Australians Fund levy is subject to the passage of legislation through the Parliament.


Humanitarian and refugee assistance

Streamline employment servicing arrangements for newly arrived refugees.

Newly arrived refugees receiving activity tested income support would be eligible for full jobactive services after 26 weeks (increase from 13 ) of being registered for income support payments. The improved sequencing of services to bolster refugee services relating to settlement and language:

  • Humanitarian Settlement Program
  • Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)
  • jobactive

Refugees with adequate English language skills have optional access to jobactive Stream A (Volunteer) from six weeks after their arrival.

Refugees eligible for jobactive will also have access to tailored employment services such as workplace ­specific English language training including those who have exhausted their AMEP training hours and cultural awareness training.


More information?

If you wish to discuss any of this information further, we would be happy to provide you with our views over the phone.

Please contact us on +61 2 8234 8400 if you wish to speak with our representatives.