01 Oct The Future of Parent Migration
The Future of Migrant Parents to Australia
The Federal Coalition Government has just opened up debate on the possibility of introducing a five-year temporary visa for parents. This has quickly followed on from the recently released (12 September 2016) report by the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Migrant Intake into Australia (Productivity Commission Report). The Government has had the report since April 2016.
The parent stream has always been a big issue for Governments as they see the cost of elder migrants a real burden to the health and welfare system, not having contributed any taxes in their “productive years.”
In order to give some easing to the increasing long waiting periods for the parent visa due to the limited numbers allocated each year, the Coalition Government first attempted to introduce Contributory Parent visas in 1998, in response to the increasingly large queue and the perceived cost of these migrants.
The move was widely opposed on the basis it would “open Australia’s immigration law up to the charge of being directed more towards the rich and discriminating against the poor and underprivileged”.
It was considered unfair to allow rich migrants to “jump the queue”. The cost of sponsoring two parents under the changes at that time would have been $17,060 (now $47,295 for the main applicant and $44,845 for their spouse or defacto partner). The Regulation was disallowed by the Senate on the motion of Independent Senator Brian Harradine, backed by Labour and the Australian Democrats.
Then Minister Philip Ruddock responded by imposing stringent caps on parent visas, blowing out the queue.
This pressured the Senate to allow the amendments and contributory parent visas were introduced in 2003. Since then, the contributory subclasses have come to dominate, being allocated about three-quarters of parent visa places. This gives existing non-contributory visa applicants a queue time of about 18 years.
This is how the Productivity Commission Report saw the current situation and their recommendation
“Family reunion – re-evaluating parent visas
Reflecting their average older age and lower labour market engagement, the parent visa stream makes considerable demands on Australia’s health, aged care and social security system, while not making many fiscal contributions through taxes paid. The contributory parent visa charge recognises the high expected net fiscal costs of parents. However, at its current level, it is only a small portion of these expected costs. Accordingly, most of the costs must be borne by the community as a whole, whereas many of the benefits accrue to the sponsors and the parents themselves.
The Australian Government should amend arrangements for permanent parent visa applicants. In the short term, it should:
- increase substantially the charge for contributory parent visas
- narrow eligibility to non-contributory parent visas to cases where there are strong compassionate grounds to do so, accompanied by clear published criteria to limit applications for such visas
- consider lowering the caps for contributory parent visas
- introduce a more flexible temporary parent visa that would provide longer rights of residence, but with requirements, as for other temporary visas, that the parents or sponsoring child would meet the costs of any income or health supports during the period of residence.
The Australian Government should retain current arrangements for family reunions involving partners or children.”
It is not surprising then to see the current discussion paper to address the present situation. However, you should also note the sponsorship obligations that are proposed. The paper has also emphasized the financial burdens imposed by this group on the economy.
Yet there are also economic and social benefits in family reunion migration.
- Grandparents can provide childcare, allowing sponsors to go from being one-income to two-income households.
- They give physical and emotional support.
- Remittances that would otherwise be sent overseas stay and are spent in Australia.
I would urge all those interested in this matter to make a submission to the ‘discussion’ as invited by the Department.
If you are interested in the current Parent visas, you can obtain full details from the team at The Immigration Group.
Lance Fee is a senior Registered Migration Agent 9790067