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Federal Budget 2020-21: 6 Changes to the Migration Program You Should Know

The industry has been waiting with bated breath for the October Federal Budget. Finally it's here!

What changes have been announced that will affect the migration program? What do they mean for you? Today, our experts help you breakdown all the changes and the impact they could have on you.


1. Migration Quota and Planning Levels

The migration quota for 2020-2021 will remain at 160,000, but the distribution has been changed quite significantly to prioritise certain visa types. Notably Skilled Independent visas (189 visas) is down 61%, whilst the family stream is enjoying a one-off increase of 62%.

Breakdown of migration planning levels for 2020-21:

Comments from our Principal Migration Agent:

The distribution changes reflect the priorities of the government, which is to attract much-needed skills and to reinvigorate the economy. The Budget also places emphasis on encouraging the growth of regional Australia.

The drop in GSM allocations is understandable. From the government's perspective, GSM visa holders (189, 190, 491 visas) are more likely to compete with Australian candidates for jobs, unlike employer-sponsored visa holders who need to have employment secured before being able to apply.

It's more important than ever for international students to consider studying specifically to obtain state nomination, rather than relying on the 189 visa, or on unpredictable nomination programs like NSW and VIC.

Why? The state nomination program directly contribute to regional growth in Australia. Despite having less allocations, the states can tailor their programs according to their individual needs, and may actually change their requirements to make it easier for certain applicants to get permanent residency. We will need to wait and see once the states release their programs.

The huge increase in places for the Partner visa will also be welcome news for those about to be applying for this visa. The changes will likely result in a decrease in processing time. However, considering the backlog of applications currently being processed, and the fact that these places are intended to be filled by Jun 2021, hopeful applicants actually only have a short window of time to apply to take advantage of the new changes.


2. Partner visas

  • Sponsors need to lodge a separate application, which must be approved before you can lodge a Partner visa application

  • English language requirements for both Partner visa applicants and their sponsors (see 8 October update below)

  • For applicants wishing to apply for a partner visa onshore while on their visitor/ETA visa, the process will not be as straight forward as the sponsorship application must first be approved

  • Mandatory character checks for the sponsorship application

  • Applications with sponsors living in regional areas will be prioritised.

[8 OCTOBER UPDATE: The Acting Minister has confirmed the following:

  1. This requirement will come into effect around mid to late 2021

  2. The required level is functional English

  3. There will be the ability to also meet this requirement through "reasonable efforts", like 500 hours of Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) classes

  4. This English requirement needs to be met "at the time of the granting of the permanent visa" (801/100 visas). 💡 This means you can apply for, and be granted, the temporary 820 or 309 visas BEFORE meeting Functional English requirement. When Immigration is ready to grant you the permanent 801 or 100 visas, after 2 years usually, you will need to have met it then. 💡 You can also take the AMEP classes while on your 820 and 309 visas.

Comments from our Principal Migration Agent:

This really changes things for Partner visa applicants currently overseas.

If you were intending to do an onshore visa application, we recommend trying to apply for a travel exemption to come to Australia, so that you can lodge an onshore application before the new changes are legislated.

“Why now, and why not wait until travel bans are lifted?" Because borders likely won’t open for potential partner visa applicants until late 2021, and additional restrictions will likely be legislated by then. The new restrictions add uncertainty because you won't know whether the sponsorship will be approved in time


3: Border Closures

The Budget assumed that the border won't be fully open until late 2021, except for transitionary entry programs specifically for international students starting from late 2020.


4. 189 NZ Stream / Employer Sponsored / Global Talent Programs

  • Applicants for the NZ Stream of the 189 visa will only need to meet the annual taxable income threshold (currently $53,900) for 3 of the last 5 years, including the most recent year. Applicants were previously required to meet this for each of the 4 years before applying

  • Employer-sponsored and Global Talent visas will be prioritised, along with business/investment visas


5. Business / Investment Visas

  • Application fees will increase by 11.3% (higher than the regular CPI increase) on 01/07/2021.

  • Program to be focused on higher-value applicants, and on improving the economic outcomes of the program. Currently unclear how these changes will affect existing requirements


6. Visa Refunds and Waivers

  • The department is offering visa application charge (VAC) refunds to current visa holders who are unable to enter Australia given the border closure.

  • There are different provisions for these visas: Prospective marriage visa holders: Can apply for the VAC refund as the department is not extending the entry date but rather cancelling the visa of those offshore. Temporary skilled workers and visitor visa holders: Can get subsequent visa application fee waived for when they can return to Australia once the borders reopen Working holiday makers Can get subsequent visa application fee waived for when they can enter Australia after the borders reopen or alternatively they can apply for a VAC refund.


Want to learn more? Have questions?

Join us for our online seminar and extended Q&A session

WHEN: Mon, Oct 19, 2020 5:00 PM

WHERE: Zoom (link will be emailed to you upon registration)



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