Community consultation for new proposed temporary visa for parents

Sydney, 14 November, 2016

It was a privilege and an honour to be invited by Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) for a community round table consultation held at Holiday Inn Parramatta on Thursday, 27 October, 2016.

After receiving the invitation, I consulted a few Migration professionals including Thiru Arumugam and several community members, besides reviewing relevant information, to have a full perspective and understanding of this matter.

The round table consultation was chaired by Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, The Hon Alex Hawke MP.

The consultation had about 15 people from various communities which included Indian Australian, Chinese Australian communities and broader Australian community as well as representatives of local MPs and aged care providers.

As we know, the Coalition and Australian Labor Party gave commitments for a new and improved temporary visa for parents during the campaign for 2nd July Federal election.

After the Coalition Government was re-elected, a discussion paper was released by Assistant minister on 23 September, 2016. This was followed by consultations with the broader Australian community.

This consultation had two formats;

  1. Written submission: Closed on 31 October, 2016
  2. Community consultations: DIBP invited key members of the Australian community to participate in closed-door forum discussions for the inputs for final settings of this Visa. Such consultations took place in Sydney CBD, Parramatta, Melbourne and Brisbane in October and November. Sessions were chaired by Minister Hawke and also had participations from key DIBP officials.

Final particulars and details of this Visa will be announced by the end of 2016 and the new temporary parent visa will be implemented from 1 July 2017.

Australian Migration Programme has 3 components;

  1.  Temporary Visa programmes,
  2.  Humanitarian Programme: 13,750 places available in 2016-17.
  3.  Permanent Migration programme: 190,000 places available in 2016-17. It has Skill stream and Family stream.  Skill stream (128,500)  is 2/3 of the programme. Skill stream can be either points tested or employer sponsored. Family stream has 57,400 places. Preference is given to spouses, partners and children.  Extended family members including parents had 8675 places in 2016-17.

As you know, there are basically three types of visa available for parents.

A. Temporary visitor visa: This visa is generally valid for 3 months of stay but can be for a period of 12 months. It requires parents to leave Australia for 6 months after staying here for 12 months. There are further and longer options of Visa duration of 5 or 3 years depending on whether they have lodged a permanent Parent Visa application or not. A security bond may be needed.

B. Parent Visa: Also called Parent non-contributory Visa. Parents can apply for this visa in usual way if they qualify for balance of family test. Lodgement of “Assurance of Support” (AoS) is required from eligible sponsors (Children). Very few places are available. Only about 1500 such Visa were issued in 2015-16. Waiting period is about 30 years.

C. Contributory Parent Visa: This has a waiting period of about 2 years but sponsors are required to pay Visa Application Charge (VAC) of about $47,295 for the primary applicant and $44,845 for the spouse, and AoS of  about $20,000 before this Visa can be issued. Balance of Family test must still be passed.

You can see that B and C type of Visa are not a realistic option for many parents and families.

Considering the benefits from the stay of parents with their children’s families in Australia (cultural, psychological, help in child care, their children’s earlier resumption of work after maternity/paternity leave), there has been a growing demand from migrants (Australian citizens and permanent residents) to have the facility for a better and more practical system for parent visa.

Both major parties announced their decision to work for such new temporary visa for parents during recent Federal election campaign.  Both parties also  said that such Visa must not cause undue financial burden on Australian community and affect the Budget adversely.

Consultation process is part of this work. The Turnbull Government has also been in close consultations with the Federal Opposition. This proposed Visa is basically a bi-partisan endeavour.

Salient features of proposed temporary parent Visa:

  1. It will be for up to 5 year duration.
  2. It will have multi-entry provisions
  3. It will not require parents to leave Australia after 12 months’ stay. They can live here for full 5 years.
  4. They can reapply for another up to 5 years long Visa.
  5.  Balance of family test not needed.
  6. Some sort of Assurance of support (AoS) in the form of a Bond from the sponsoring children will be a part of this Visa to take care of any contingency
  7. Parents must hold a valid Health Cover from an Australian Health Cover provider.
  8. There will be a Visa Application Charge (VAC).
  9. The sponsor must have been living and contributing to Australia for a number of years. A longer period will give them a higher priority in eligibility.
  10. The sponsor will go through income and asset assessments.
  11. The sponsor will be required to undergo a criminal history check and agree to a range of enforceable obligations.
  12. Re-application of this Visa can occur onshore.

I took part in the discussion actively and contributed to it, I believe, meaningfully.

My suggestions included following besides many others;

  1. There should not be any age restrictions as long as parents pass the health check ie physiological age preferred over chronological age.
  2. Depending on relevant factors, they should also be given limited rights to work for a small numbers of hours. Such jobs should be those which a local is not prepared to do.
  3. Government should explore the possibility to have a more affordable Health cover through Medicare, if possible, because the cost of adequate Health care for one person is about $250/month which is $3000 a year for one person and $6000 for the couple. This is not a small cost. If Medicare could come up with a Health Cover scheme, without having profit as a goal, it is likely the premium may be upto 30% cheaper.
  4. Government should talk with Private Health Cover providers to develop an insurance cover for the total health care cost including “Gap” payments which can be substantial if parents require hospitalisation or need to consult specialists.
  5. There should not be any waiting period for re-application after end of the duration of the Visa and onshore re-application should be allowed.
  6. There should not be any English language requirement as such requirement will defeat the very purpose of this Visa.
  7. VAC should not be higher than what it is for temporary parent Visa presently.
  8. Income and asset assessments for sponsors should not be onerous and mechanisms for AoS (how AoS can be delivered by the sponsor) should be made easier and practical.
  9. Full refunds should be made if an application for Contributory Parent Visa is withdrawn and application for this new Visa is made.

At present, many things about and details of this proposed Visa are not clear or confirmed. After taking notes of submissions and consultations, the policy will be finalized and announced at the end of 2016. The visa will be implemented from 1 July, 2017.

Dr Yadu Singh

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