The Federal Government is considering a plan to reduce the current 99 visa categories to 10, attracting warnings from migration agents.
From July to September last year the Government invited submissions from the public to submit opinions, and received 255 responses. Now it is waiting on advice from the Department of Home Affairs on how to carry out the cuts.
On its website, the Department of Home Affairs describes the current visa system, which has not changed significantly in almost 30 years, as “an artefact of a bygone era” and “ill suited” to the future.
Since the 1980s, Home Affairs says, the permanent migration programme has fluctuated from 52,600 places to a planning level of up to 190,000 places. Visa and citizenship applications are forecast to increase by around 50% by 2026-27, reaching 13 million applications per year. Border crossings are likely to increase by 25%, to nearly 50 million, by 2020.
According to SBS News, migration agents have warned the proposed reduction could affect the success rate for applicants. Immigration law is not easy to understand, and in most cases applicants need assistance to identify which visa subclass is appropriate for them. Canberra migration agent Jason Browne told SBS he believed that applicants might be more likely to try managing their own applications, with the result being more visa rejections, possibly followed by appeals.
The new system would need to maintain the opportunity to transition from temporary to permanent residence. Some of these opportunities were reduced with recent reforms to the 457 skilled visa program. Labor shadow immigration minister Shayne Neumann says closing off pathways to permanent residency could create an “underclass” of migrants in Australia.
There is no indication at present when a reduced category visa system might be introduced.