Budget 2014-15 - Immigration Changes

The 2014-15 Budget released last night had a number of important announcements.

These include:

  • Merger of the Department of Immigration with Customs
  • Creation of the Australian Border Force to focus on immigration compliance
  • Likely closure of the Carer, Aged Dependent Relative, Remaining Relative and Non-Contributory Parent categories from 1 July
  • A range of cost-cutting measures, mostly targeted at asylum seeker processing

Merging of Operations

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) will merge with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service from 1 July 2015. The merged entity will be called Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

An agency called Australian Border Force will be created within the Department and this will be responsible for enforcing customs and immigration laws. We expect a sharper focus on compliance operations going forward with more funding and perhaps new powers to enforce immigration laws.

The MRT and RRT will be merged into the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Social Security Appeals Tribunal and Classification Review Board.

The MRT and RRT are involved in reviewing refusals of visa applications - this requires a high level of knowledge of the Migration Regulations and Migration Act. We hope that the standards of the MRT and RRT will not diminish after this merger.

Migration Program

There will be no change to the overall migration program of 190,000 for the 2014-15 year. The composition of the program will be as follows:

Skilled Stream128,550
Family Stream60,885
Special Eligibility Stream565
Total190,000

We do not as yet have a detailed breakdown of the individual programs, but the Minister's press release suggests that more places will be allocated for employer sponsored (ENS and RSMS) visas, at the expense of the Skilled Independent Subclass 189.

Cessation of Other Family and Non-Contributory Parent Programs

Most concerning is the implication in the budget papers that the Other Family and Non-Contributory Parent programs will be closed to new applications.

No confirmation of a decision has been received but presumably, it will no longer be possible to apply for these visa categories from 1 July 2014. Hopefully applications lodged before this date will not be affected.

The visa categories which could be affected in the Other Family Stream include:

  • Remaining Relative: where all of a person's close family are living lawfully and permanently in Australia
  • Aged Dependent Relative: for older relatives being supported by an Australian permanent resident or citizen
  • Carer Visas: where are relative needs to be in Australia to look after a sick or disabled person who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

Contributory parent visas are processed on a priority basis - currently 18 months - but require applicants to pay over $40,000 each to obtain visas. Non-contributory parent visas have significantly lower application fees, but take 15-20 years to obtain.

The good news is that additional places will be available to the partner and child streams - these types of application are currently taking 12 months or so to process.

Cost Reduction

The following cost reduction measures were announced:
  • Cessation of Outreach Officer Program from 1 July 2014
  • Cutting IAAAS support to asylum seekers seeking merits review
  • Renegotiation and Consolidating contracts for external service providers in offshore asylum seeker processing centres

Conclusion

Most of the changes are cost reduction and administrative changes. People looking at applying for Other Family and Non-Contributory Parent visas should definitely consider applying as soon as possible to avoid any upcoming changes.

No announcement was made regarding the Skilled Stream, including the much-awaited announcement of the Skilled Occupations List for 2014-15.

References

Department of Immigration and Border Protection Portfolio budget 2014-15
Press Release - Government success stopping illegal boats to save $2.5 billion
Press Release - Boosting the economy through Australia's migration programme
Press Release - 20 000 places for those most in need of protection
Press Release - A stronger border - establishment of an Australian Border Force

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