Federal budget updates

The federal budget handed down in October contains a number of important changes for existing and future visa applicants. Important updates include the following:

Partner visas and English language requirements

The Government will apply the family sponsorship framework to Partner visas, mandating character checks and sharing personal information, and also subjecting sponsors to enforceable sponsorship obligations.

The Government will introduce English language requirements for Partner visa applicants and their permanent resident sponsors.

This follows the changes to the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) from earlier this year, in which the Government announced the removal of caps on the number of free hours available to migrants.[1]

Migration program levels

Migration program levels are set to remain at 160,000 for the 2020-21 program year. Changes will be made to the distribution of places, with the Family stream increasing from 47,732 to 77,300.[2]

Within the Skilled Stream, the Government is prioritising Employer Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas.[3]

Onshore visa applicants and Partner visa applicants will also be prioritised, where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area.[4]

New Zealand permanent residency

Pathway to permanent residency to change, lowering the income eligibility requirement for the NZ.[5]

This will apply to Skilled independent (subclass 189) visas and will also be extended to Special Category (subclass 444) visa holders with a taxable income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migrant Income Threshold for at least three of the past five years.[6]

Visa refunds and waivers

Some visa applicants affected by the COVID-19 travel ban will be able to access VAC refunds or waivers[7]:

  • Prospective Marriage, Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme visa holders will be able to access a VAC refund
  • Temporary skilled and visitor visa holders will be eligible to have their VAC waived for subsequent applications upon returning to Australia once travel bans are lifted
  • Working holiday makers will be eligible for VAC waivers
  • Current visa holders who are unable to travel until borders open will be able to access VAC refunds or waivers
[1] https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/aug/28/australias-english-language-program-for-migrants-set-for-overhaul-amid-concerns-over-its-effectiveness
[2] Budget Paper No. 2: Budget Measures, page 9
[3] Budget Paper No. 2: Budget Measures, page 9
[4] Budget Paper No. 2: Budget Measures, page 9
[5] Appendix A, page 179
[6] Appendix A, page 179
[7] Budget Paper No. 2: Budget Measures, page 8