The quiet visa change brings good news to Australia’s skilled immigrants.
- March 6, 2023
- Posted by: ASIFCONSULTING
- Category: News Update
The quiet visa change bringing good news to Australia’s skilled immigrants
Skilled migrants who worked in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic but were denied permanent residency due to a “sneaky” visa change will now be able to stay.
SBS News published the story of Bridget (not her real name), a French winemaker who was devastated after learning she was no longer eligible for permanent residency despite having lived and worked in regional Australia for three years. Bridget, who also volunteered for something like the County Fire Association (CFA) in Victoria, expected to face the choice of returning to France or pursuing another years-long path to stay.
On March 20, 2019, changes were made to the 482 Temporary Skill Shortage visa, but Bridget said she was unaware of them until she applied for her visa months later. It’s unclear how those initial changes were announced, and Bridget says she didn’t see any. It wasn’t until three years later, when she started the application process, that she realized she was no longer eligible to apply for permanent residency.
Bridget was even more surprised because the federal government had recently announced that those on the “short-term stream” of the 482 visas, which did not previously provide access to permanent residency, would be able to become permanent residents as a “reward” for remaining in Australia during the pandemic if they worked for the government for at least one year.
Bridget, who had instead applied for the “medium-term stream” because she believed it already gave people access to permanent residency if they lived in a regional area for three years, was not allowed to apply through the new initiative, even though she had worked throughout the pandemic.
Bridget was considering leaving Australia this year when her visa expired due to a lack of a path to permanent residency. Her other options would be to apply for another temporary visa and hope that the guidelines do not change again in three years or to apply for a different visa while abroad.
“In addition to short-term stream TSS visa holders, the government advises that this pathway is also available to medium-term stream TSS visa holders with an occupation on the Regional Occupation List,” according to the advice.
It means that other migrants, like Bridget, who was on the medium-term stream will now be able to apply for permanent residency if they spent at least one year in Australia between February 2020 and December 2021.
According to the department, on December 14, 2021, there were 988 people in Australia who held 482 medium-term visas with a job on that geographical occupation list.
‘I couldn’t believe it,’ she said.
The change was not widely publicized, as had been the case with previous announcements. Bridget learned about it from a YouTube video on a channel dedicated to Australian visa news. She discovered the announcement on the department’s website, but it wasn’t until she received a call from her immigration agent that she believed it could be true.
“At first, I couldn’t believe it, which is why I always consult three sources to ensure the information is correct,” she explained.
While this is good news for Bridget and some other migrants in her situation, she expressed mixed feelings about it.
“I felt relieved, but I still felt angry because I don’t understand why they had to put us through all this stress, anxiety, and uncertainty [but] I was thankful because at least they fixed the problem.”
She also wonders why it took the government so long to make the change, given that the changes to the short-term stream were announced on July 1, more than seven months ago.
“Why did it take them so long to include us? It’s because they forgot about us, in my opinion,” she stated. “They’re just trying to fix their mistake, which is fine; I’m not complaining; I just don’t understand how this works.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs told SBS Headlines this week that the latest changes were communicated to migration professionals on February 13. It also stated that it collaborated with the Business, Industry, and Regional Outreach (BIRO) network to aid Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery.“BIROs engage directly with stakeholders across the country to help fill skills gaps where Australian workers are not available, and to convey information to visa settings,” according to the spokesperson.
Bridget, on the other hand, claimed that Australia’s immigration system was complicated, that decisions were not widely communicated, and that simple information was not always available.”The Department of Home Affairs—they just read what you have on your screen. “They make the laws, but they don’t even explain the laws to you,” she said.
Former Department of Immigration secretary Abul Rizvi claimed that over the last decade, the Department of Home Affairs had become a place where customer service was less important.
“You could even say it was unimportant,” he said. “As a result, it… does not place a high value on effective communication.”
“A better organization would have worked much harder to communicate and explain the change, as well as promote the change across several different media outlets.”
Bridget is now in discussions with her current employer about continuing her sponsorship while she applies for permanent residency, which could take another two years.
She said she was glad she didn’t leave Australia last year and stayed in the hope of finding a solution.
“It takes a big weight off our shoulders; now you can make projects, individuals know where someone’s life is going, and it’s not for nothing.”
Immigration places increased, visa processing turbocharged in October federal budget
The increase brings the permanent migration rate for 2022-23 to 195,000, including an additional 9000 places for regional visas within the skill stream for a total of 34,000.
The number of state and territory visas will also increase dramatically, from 11,200 last year to 31,000 this year. International students’ post-study work rights will also be extended from two to four years for bachelor’s degrees, three to five years for master’s degrees, and four to six years for PhDs.
Immigration Minister Andrew Giles told the Jobs and Skills Summit in September that when Labor took office in May, there was a backlog of nearly one million visas.
The former Coalition government reduced migration program funding to the Home Affairs Department by $875 million over four years while maintaining the 160,000 caps, resulting in significant delays in visa processing.
“We recognize that when people wait and wait, the uncertainty can become overwhelming,” Mr. Giles said.
“Since becoming Minister, I’ve heard hundreds of stories about people who are waiting for their visa applications to be processed. Partners parted ways, unsure when they would see each other again. Businesses are unable to plan an investment decision because they are unsure when their applications will be approved. This is insufficient, and it reflects a visa system in crisis.”Clare O’Neil, Minister of Home Affairs, said the increases were necessary to address the skills shortage.
“This is very real, and it is affecting Australians’ lives,” she said.
“Teachers at their breaking point. Nurses who are no longer able to work the double and triple shifts they have been doing for the past two years. Funerals are being postponed. Flights are being canceled due to a lack of ground personnel. Fruit is rotting on trees in our areas because no one is picking it.
Ms. O’Neil stressed “our focus is always on Australian jobs first”, but the impact of COVID had been “so severe that even if we exhaust every other possibility, we will still be many thousands of workers short, at least in the short term”.
“But I want to emphasize that one of Labor’s priorities is to shift the focus away from short-term migrants and towards permanence, citizenship, and nation-building,” she said. “I want to emphasize that one of Labor’s priorities is to shift the focus away from short-term migrants and towards permanence, citizenship, and nation-building,” she said. “Teachers at their breaking point. For nurses who are no longer able to work the double and triple shifts they have been doing for the past two years, Funerals are being postponed. Flights are being canceled due to a lack of ground personnel. Fruit is rotting on trees in our area because no one is picking it.”
Ms. O’Neil stressed that “our focus is always on Australian jobs first”, but the impact of COVID had been “so severe that even if we exhaust every other possibility, we will still be many thousands of workers short, at least in the short term”. “I want to emphasize that one of Labor’s priorities is to shift the focus away from short-term migrants and towards permanence, citizenship, and nation-building,” she said. “Teachers at their breaking point. For nurses who are no longer able to work the double and triple shifts they have been doing for the past two years, Funerals are being postponed. Flights are being canceled due to a lack of ground personnel. Fruit is rotting on trees in our area because no one is picking it.”
“One of Labor’s priorities is to shift the focus away from short-term migrants and towards permanence, citizenship, and nation-building,” she said.
Labor says the changes “could mean thousands more nurses and technology workers settling in the country, this year”.
“This is about making the big switch to an electric vehicle.”
“I’d like to emphasize that one. We need an immigration program that shows who we are and what we stand for,” Ms. O’Neil said.
“This is a turning point in our history as momentous as the post-war ‘populate or perish’ program that was the foundation of our post-war reconstruction, nation-building, and national security.
“Our immigration system has the potential to be a powerful promoter of Australia’s open, free, prosperous, democratic society around the world, so let’s start showing it some love and care.”
The Albanese administration has also announced a review of Australia’s migration system, which will be completed by the end of February 2023.
The review will “outline the objectives of our immigration system and guide future reform — with a focus on Australian productivity, unlocking the potential of all migrants, and the need for most migrants to contribute to the economy.”
Ms. O’Neil said Australia needed to move “away from a system focused almost entirely on keeping people out, to one that recognizes that we are in a global talent competition”.
With “more than 70 unique visa programs, each with their criteria and subcategories,” she claimed the current system was “fiendishly complex” for potential migrants.
“People who program here may end up spending years filling out forms at significant personal expense, only to be allowed to stay for a short period,” she explained.
The 195,000 annual intakes will include 142,400 places in the skill stream, 52,500 in the family stream, and 100 in the special eligibility stream.
There has been no announcement regarding the humanitarian intake. The current program allows for 13,750 places in 2022-23, plus an additional 16,500 places for Afghan refugees over four years.
Mr. Giles announced earlier this month that over two million visas had been processed since the government took office.
While the backlog had decreased from nearly one million in June 2022, Mr. Giles stated that the current number on hand was approximately 872,000 due to the dramatic increase since borders reopened.
“The Albanese government has increased activity to shorten processing times and remove uncertainty for those who have been waiting for a visa decision for a long time,” he said.
“The Department of Home Affairs has already added 260 new employees to help with visa processing, and more are being hired and trained over the next few weeks and months.”
According to Mr. Giles, Australia has received nearly 2.22 million new applications since June 1, 2022, compared to nearly 495,000 for the same period in 2021.
The Australians have agreed to a bonus of $9000.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will present his first budget on Tuesday, October 25, with a massive plan to improve Australia’s
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