Immigration Portfolio Budget 2011-12 - Back to the FutureBy Mark Webster
11 May 2011 Last night's federal budget introduced a number of changes to be introduced into the Immigration and Citizenship portfolio. Chief amongst these are:
- Introduction of Enterprise Migration Agreements for resources projects
- A new Selection Model for General Skilled applicants
- Changes to Regional Migration
- Increases to the Migration Program
- Reforms to the Humanitarian (Refugee) Program
- Changes to fees and funding for visa processing
- Changes to security clearance arrangements
Enterprise Migration Agreements for Resources ProjectsEnterprise Migration Agreements (or EMAs) will be agreements to facilitate sponsorship of overseas workers for 457 visas. Their main advantage will be to allow employers working in large resource projects to sponsor workers for 457 visas in a range of occupations outside the usual list of occupations for 457 visas. EMA sponsors would still be subject to the restrictions on salary level and English language ability which apply to the 457 program. This can be viewed as a partial reinstatement of the regional concessions for 457 visas which were axed in September 2009. For more information, please visit our page on Enterprise Migration Agreements.
Selection Model for General Skilled applicantsThe new selection model will apply from 1 July 2012. This will mean that it will not be possible to apply for a general skilled migration visa directly. Instead, applicants lodge an "Expression of Interest" to apply for skilled migration, which is then considered by the Department of Immigration in issuing an invitation to actually lodge for the skilled visa. Refusal of an Expression of Interest does not lead to appeal rights, and quotas will be set each year for the number of invitations issued for each occupation. The intention of this initiative is to reduce the possiblity of a large backlog of skilled applications developing as it did in 2010 (the backlog peaked at over 150,000 applicants), and to limit the number of applications in a single occupation. The model is similar in some ways to the skills matching subclass 134 visa which was abolished in September 2007. More detailed information on this is available on our General Skilled Migration Selection Model page.
Migration (Skilled and Family) ProgramThe overall planning level for the migration program will be increased from 168,700 for 2010-11 to 185,000 for the 2011-12 year. Skilled migration will increase from 113,850 to 125,850 places, an increase of 11%. RSMS will increase by 5,000 places to 16,000 places, an increase of 45%. It is not yet clear where the remainder of the 7,000 increase in skilled migration will be allocated, but hopefully a substantial amount will be allocated to the general skilled program, which currently has a backlog of some 120,000 places. Family migration places will increase by 4,050 places to 58,600 places. This will hopefully mean faster processing for partner applicants who are currently facing waits of 6 months or more for their visas. However, this figure is still below the 2009-10 figure for family migration of 60,000 places.
Regional MigrationRegional Migration is now to be a focus for the Australian migration program, with the following initiatives being announced last night:
- Additional places for the RSMS (Regional Skilled Migration Scheme) for 2011-12.
- The introduction of Regional Migration Agreements.
- Enhanced Regional Outreach Strategy
Humanitarian (Refugee) ProgramThe Government announced an increase of 4,000 places in the humanitarian program over the next 4 years - this represents an increase of 1,000 places each year. The additional 1,000 places will only be available to people residing in Malaysia under the new offshore processing arrangement. Under this arrangement, boat arrivals will be flown to Malaysia for processing. If they are found to be refugees, almost all will be resettled outside Australia. The intended purpose of this arrangement is to deter people smugglers by destroying their business model. This arrangement looks quite similar to the Pacific Solution negotiated with Nauru under the Howard Government. Significant increases to funding for onshore detention centres, processing officers and implementing procedural fairness arrangements for offshore refugee applicants are allowed for in the budget. Total additional spending on the humanitarian program comes to some $450 million over the next 4 years, a truly staggering amount compared to the funding of the rest of the Department of Immigration's functions, and is summarised in the table below:
|Afghanistan Passport and Visa Issuing System Capacity Building Project Phase III||$9.7 m|
|Border Security - initiatives to address irregular population flow in source and transit countries||$33.3 m|
|Border Security - reintegration assistance program - continuation||$7.0 m|
|Humanitarian Migration Program - increase of 4,000 places||$216.4 m|
|Refugee Status Determinations for offshore entry persons - streamlined processes||$107.7 m|
|Regional Cooperation Framework - Transfer of Irregular Maritime Arrivals to Malaysia||$75.9 m|