New temporary Parent visa on the table
Following the Coalition’s election commitment to introduce a new temporary sponsored parent visa, Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has announced a new continuous five-year visa for aged parents of immigrants in Australia. The visa offers families a new way to reunite, on the condition they contribute to the cost, as the Turnbull Government tries to accelerate a program that can otherwise take decades.

The announcement was made at the launch of a public consultation drive inviting community submissions on a range of issues that will help inform and shape the visa, which is likely to come into effect from July 2017.

A discussion paper detailing the design issues as well the legislation required to implement the changes has also been released.

Currently, the temporary parent visa is only offered on a case-to-case basis to applicants who have lodged a concurrent permanent parental visa application. Visiting parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents are allowed a continuous stay of up to 12 months.

Long-term visas for parents of either Australian citizens or permanent residents are currently streamed as ‘contributor’ or ‘non-contributor’. The turnaround time for a contributor visa, which costs $50,000, is two years, while a non-contributor visa, at $7000, takes 18-30 years to process. About 1500 people migrate in this category each year.

As Australia’s demographic profile undergoes a massive change, a number of community groups have lobbied for an overhaul of the process. Online petitions gathered substantial traction in the weeks leading up to the election.

“Many migrant families face particular pressures through the separation of children from parents, and grandchildren from grandparents. Reuniting three generations of families has great societal benefits, and that’s why we’re announcing a temporary visa of five years,” Minister Alex Hawke said, addressing a gathering of media at Sydney’s Coronation Club Burwood.

“We have already had significant inputs from different community members. The Turnbull government will consult widely so that the setting for this visa enables the most options,” he noted.

Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs Zed Seselja, Member for Reid Craig Laundy, and Member for Bennelong John Alexander also addressed the gathering.

Acknowledging inefficiencies in the current program, Hawke added that the government sought to help families spend time together, “While ensuring that we do so in a way that does not burden our healthcare system and mitigating costs to the Australian taxpayer.”

The long-term sponsored visa was a key election issue for both major parties, with Labor promising a parental visa that would allow parents of migrants a continuous stay of three years.

“It is a policy supported by both sides of politics. We all have a stake in this dialogue and hope to work together. We certainly don’t want this to become a political football,” Hawke confirmed.

Based on community inputs, the government will work closely with all stakeholders, including the health insurance sector, to tailor a well-managed program.

Meanwhile, a Productivity Commission report tabled recently has urged an urgent revaluation of the visa structures for parents of immigrants. It has proposed that families of non-contributing parents pay for any income and health support during their residency. Parents who arrived during 2015-2016 are estimated to cost between $335,000 and $410,000 each over the course of their lifetime.

The report suggested raising the current visa charge for contributing parents, and narrowing eligibility for those non-contributing parents if there were strong compassionate grounds.

Savings from increased visa charges, and limits on use of public services, could then be redirected to vulnerable members of the Australian community, including those with disability or mental health issues, as well as support immigrants through the humanitarian stream, who better contribute to the country’s economic development, the report advised.

Australia recently announced plans to increase its humanitarian intake of refugees from 13,750 to 18,750 refugees.

“In order to secure and maintain public support for immigration, multiculturalism and a generous humanitarian program, the public need to know that it is their government which controls their borders,” Prime Minister Turnbull told the UN General Assembly.

Courtesy of the Indian Link by Usha Ramanujam Arvind

Administrator’s note:

Finally a better solution to the absurd processing times for parent visas. Details as to the proposed increased visa charges for these visas is still not yet known, but this option is a good one to enable reunion of families – at least in the short term.