The government is considering a plan to introduce mandatory provisional visas before allowing migrants to live in Australia on permanent visas.
To this end, it has invited submissions from the public as prepares a visa transformation discussion paper.
Some of the questions being examined include: “Should a prospective migrant spend a period in Australia before becoming eligible for permanent residence? What factors should be considered?”
The discussion paper released on July 31st noted that “The number of persons in Australia applying for permanent residence has grown substantially over the last two decades. In 2015-16, around half of all permanent visas were granted to people already in Australia on a temporary visa. This means that temporary residence is increasingly becoming the first step to living in Australia permanently.”
Need for a more formal process
Although there is a consensus that it’s in the national interest to facilitate a pathway to permanent residence for the “best and the brightest” international students and skilled workers, a more formal process and the period for evaluating migrants seeking permanent residency in Australia is still required. This is in contrast to the current situation where migrants hardly have to spend any time in the country before they acquire a PR visa.
The discussion paper proposes a policy that is more aligned to “like-minded countries”, like the UK, the US and the Netherlands which subscribe to a more formal assessment process where those who seek to stay permanently have to go through a probationary period.
While this is likely to create savings in budgetary expenditure, concerns have been expressed that it could also bring divisions within Australian society.
Proposed reforms could undermine Australia’s social cohesion
The Social Services Department said as much in a note prepared last year during a meeting held with the DIBP boss Michael Pezzullo. It stated: “The proposed reforms could undermine Australia’s social cohesion and potentially increase the risk factors that may lead to violent extremism by creating a two-tier society where migrants are treated substantially differently to Australian citizens,”
Permanent residents like Maninder Singh Bhullar, who started on a temporary visa for two years before getting Australian permanent residency earlier this year, feel that a probationary period of stay on a temporary visa could cause migrants to undergo unnecessary hardships.
Speaking to SBS Punjabi, he said, “Not many employers were willing to hire me as long as I was on a temporary visa. Getting a loan to start something of my own was much harder than it is now,”
It is also a high drain for migrant workers on a temporary visa who have just landed in Australia to have to fork out health insurance premiums to supplement their Medicare cover, a cost which can run into hundreds of dollars.
But those in support of the discussion paper feel it’s time to overhaul Australia’s visa system and modernise it from the “artefact of a bygone era” that it is now.
Some of the major changes under discussion include cutting down the number of visa categories from 99 to around ten while making the visa system more responsive to ever changing local and global trends.
You can give your opinion on this form available on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection portal.