Highlights of the Federal Budget 2020-2021 in relation to the permanent migration program

Australia’s economic progress has no doubt been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Significant stimulus measures and ongoing calibration of monetary policy has enabled the economy to sustain itself in the face of the Government’s prioritised response to the global health crisis which led to the announcement of the Federal Budget for 2020-2021 being deferred from May to October 2020 (and with it the finalised Migration Program numbers).

The Federal Budget has been finally handed down last night and as expected, precedence is given to the creation of employment opportunities for affected Australian workers and to critical industries like education, housing, health, and environment to position Australia’s economic recovery.

For migrants and other stakeholders, here are the Federal Budget 2020-2021 key information points in relation to the migration program:

Migration Program levels

  • The current Migration Program Planning level will remain at 160,000 for the 2020-21 program year, however, the distribution of places will change with an increase from 47,732 to 77,300 for Family stream places for this program year only.
  • Priority is given to
    1. Employer-Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas.
    2. Onshore visa applicants and Partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area.

Visa refunds and waivers

  • Access to a Visa Application Charge (VAC) refund is given to holders of:
    1. Prospective marriage visas (PMV)
    2. Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme
  • Eligible to have the VAC for a subsequent visa application waived are:
    1. Temporary skilled workers and visitor visa holders
    2. Working holidaymakers
  • VAC refunds and waivers will be available to current visa holders who are unable to travel until the border reopens.

NZ pathway to permanent residency

  • Eligibility for the Pathway will be extended to Special Category (subclass 444) visa holders who have a taxable income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migrant Income Threshold for at least three of the last five income years, including the most recent year.

Global Talent Independent Program

  • Places in the GTI program will be tripled to 15,000.

Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce

  • A new whole-of-government Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce will be established to attract international businesses and exceptional talent to Australia (mainly from Hong Kong), to support the post- COVID recovery, and boost local jobs.

Family stream program and visas

  • The mandatory family sponsorship provisions for Partner visas will be implemented, requiring character checks and sharing of personal information with the applicant, and enforceable sponsorship obligations. 72,300 of the 77,300 places in the family stream will be allocated to partner applicants.
  • English language requirements will be introduced for Partner visa applicants AND permanent residency sponsor, to enhance social cohesion and economic participation outcomes.
  • These provisions have not yet been enacted and will need to pass legislation before they can come into effect.

There was no mention of the General Skilled Migration scheme and the release of the new Skilled Occupation List (SOL) in the Federal Budget, however, we have been informed that the new SOL is set to be released by March 2021 after the Department of Education, Skills and Employment have confirmed the effects of COVID on skill shortages and our labour market.