Australia’s annual immigration intake has remained at the centre of political discussion with Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicating it could be slashed, and more opportunities opening up for migrants in regional Australia.
Immigration took centre stage in Australia’s political discourse for the better part of 2017 with much discussion around Australia’s annual permanent intake and the question of how to deal with growing overcrowding in Melbourne and Sydney.

A proposal was put forward to send migrants to regional and rural Australia for a set number of years before granting them permanent residency at a time when many regions are crying out for more migrants.
1. Low-skilled migrants with limited English get a pathway to Australian permanent residency

The Federal Government also signed two special agreements, Designated Area Migration Agreements with the Northern Territory and the Great Southern Coast of Victoria, offering a pathway to permanent residency to semi-skilled migrants with limited English.

2. New Parent visa to be made available

A new temporary sponsored parent visa that will allow parents of migrants to stay in Australia for a period of up to five years will be made available during the first half of 2019. The visa was promised in June 2016, during the run-up to the last federal election but had been delayed as the legislation it was linked to couldn’t be passed until November last year.

3. New sponsorship framework for sponsored family visas

The Federal Parliament passed the Migration Amendments (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 with Government’s amendments and it was subsequently passed by the lower house the same day on 28th November 2018, paving the way for a new sponsorship framework for sponsored family visas.

The new sponsorship framework creates a two-step application process that involves an assessment of the sponsors, and once approved then only a visa application can be lodged.

4. A business visa that doesn’t require evidence of investment

A special visa aimed at boosting the economy of South Australia was rolled out in November last year but is expected to go full steam this year with more applicants applying for it.

The visa, first announced in March this year during the lead up to the South Australian state election, won’t require any capital outlay as is the case with most business and innovation visas.

5. Cutting Australia’s permanent immigration intake

Australia’s annual permanent immigration intake has been capped at 190,000 and has remained at the level since 2011. However, the actual intake last year fell to just over 162,000 for the first time since 2007 with a cut in the family and skilled visas.

6. Australian citizenship

The Federal Government has been trying to pass some changes to the Australian Citizenship law through the parliament that would make Australian permanent residents wait four years and pass an English language test before they can apply for citizenship. These changes were retrospectively applied after the announcement in April 2017.

In order to pass the changes through the Senate, the Government would need the support of crossbench senators some of whom have expressed strong opposition to some key elements of the law. Read more about the proposed changes in Australian citizenship law.

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