On 7 October 2020, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge announced the Migration Planning levels for program year 2020-21. The key focus of the program will be positioning migration as a means of supporting Australian businesses and creating jobs within the domestic labour market.

The total number of places allocated has not changed since the previous program year and remains capped at 160,000 places. What has changed significantly is the distribution of places across the various visa categories. The biggest winners from the new program year are the family visa categories with 77,300 allocations and the skilled stream with 79,600 allocations. The Federal Government anticipates that two-thirds of permanent visas will be granted to those individuals already in Australia. This is unsurprising given that Australian borders have been closed for almost 7 months and look to remain closed well into next year.

Budget by numbers....

Migration Planning Levels 2020-2021
Visa category Numbers allocated
Business Innovation and Investment 13500
Child 300
Employer Nomination Scheme 22000
Global Talent 15000
Other family 500
Parent 4500
Partner 72300
Regional 11200
Skilled Independent 6500
Special Eligibility 100
State/Territory Nominated 11200

Skilled Stream visas

The largest allocation has gone to the skilled stream in recognition that these visa categories provide a direct boost of labour and skills to Australian businesses, particularly in areas of critical shortage. Priority has been given to the Global Talent Visa, which started out as a pilot program last year and has now tripled in allocations from 5,000 to 15,000. The Global Talent visa is targeted towards attracting the best and brightest across key industries of the future including MedTech, advanced manufacturing, Fintech and Cyber Security. This program will be supplemented by the Government Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce discussed in last month’s newsflash.

The Global Talent visa presents growing opportunities for business sponsors to attract high calibre individuals in niche or specialised roles to Australia with a pathway to Australian permanent residence. These individuals will then transfer knowledge to Australian workers and be ‘job-multipliers’ positioning Australian businesses at the forefront of jobs of the future.

Additionally, the Business Innovation and Investment program has received a boost to 13,500 places, twice the allocation from the preceding year. This visa program is really designed to attract foreign investors and entrepreneurs to Australia with the Federal Government looking to tweak the program criteria to ensure that Australian venture capital is at the centre as well as emerging small/medium businesses. This will really assist Australian businesses who are looking to commercialise new products or technology, particularly in response to the current pandemic where new ways of doing business and pivots in business operations has been critical to maintaining operations. Businesses operating in the manufacturing, IT and Transport, Postal and Warehousing may really benefit from the venture capital focus of this program.

Family Stream visas

The majority of allocations within the family stream category will go to partner visas, with 72,300 of the 77,300 allocations going to this visa category. It is expected that 75 percent of these places will be used for onshore applicants with a view to clear the significant volume of applicants in this cohort awaiting visa processing. The focus on partner visas is recognition from the Federal Government of the uncertainty that the process places on couples wishing to make Australia their home together and gives these individuals more confidence to plan their future here.

The big surprise from the Partner visa program for 2020-21 is the planned introduction of English language testing for Partner visas, for both sponsor and visa applicant with a view to promoting social cohesion and the update of the English language. It is expected that a functional level of English will be required before visa finalisation. Additionally, family sponsorship provisions for Partner visas will come into effect including mandatory character checks, the sharing of personal information with the visa applicant and enforceable sponsorship obligations for spouse sponsors. These measures are all designed to increase the integrity of the Partner visa program.