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Labor’s 2022 Federal Budget Impact on Australian Immigration

02/11/2022BY Migrate 2 Oz

What Labor’s 2022 federal budget means for immigration to Australia

What does the 2022 federal budget mean for people who want to immigrate to Australia? How does it affect visa processing times and skilled worker visas?

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (right) and Treasurer Jim Chalmers. Source: AAP / LUKAS COCH/AAPIMAGE


  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended changes made to Australia’s migration program.
  • Mr Albanese addressed Australia’s visa backlog in an interview with SBS News.

Australia’s immigration program was altered in his government’s first budget. These reforms have been justified by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Mr. Albanese told SBS News on Wednesday that the government has invested a significant amount of money in the initiative.

The Department of Home Affairs will get an additional $576 million over four years in the October budget to assist with things like visa processing, paying for processing fees outside of Australia, and assisting refugees.

“This is a significant boost in money for Home Affairs, and it means we can resume visa processing," Mr. Albanese explained.

The $576 million includes an additional $194 million to overcome a financing gap for the upkeep of offshore processing centers, with approximately $150 million to be spent in the fiscal year 2022-23. The government intends to spend $632 million on processing done outside the nation between 2022 and 2023.

This week, The Guardian reported that a private prison operator had been given a $47.3 million contract to run Australia’s offshore processing system on Nauru for two months. The operator would be paid more than $750,000 a day to provide services for about 111 people who would be detained for 62 days.

When questioned about Australia’s immigration backlog, Mr. Albanese told SBS News that when Labor assumed power, there were nearly a million individuals waiting for visas, exacerbating Australia’s skill shortages.

“It also has an impact on families who want to get together, individuals who want to visit Australia, and our economy," he added.

“We are increasing our investments significantly, as we promised before the election."

But not everyone is content. Some organisations have stated that the budget fell short of their expectations.

What was in Labor’s federal budget?

The former Morrison government reduced migration program funding to the Department of Home Affairs by $875 million over four years while maintaining the number of skilled and family visa seats at 160,000. Visa processing times have now exploded, and Australian firms have complained about not being able to employ enough workers with the necessary qualifications.

The Albanese government earlier said that the permanent migration program will be expanded to 195,000 people in 2022-23. This covers visas for skilled migrants as well as family members.

The budget made no changes to this figure, although the government did create a new Pacific Engagement Visa for nationals of Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste. Starting next year, up to 3,000 spots will be available each year, in addition to the 195,000 now accessible under the permanent program.

The budget also indicated that the number of skilled visas available under the program will more than double, from 79,600 to 142,400. Employer-sponsored, skilled independent, regional, and state and territory nominated visas will be included.

immigration to Australia

More parent visas will be available this year, with the government boosting the allotment from 4,500 in 2021/22 to 8,500 this year. Partner and child visas will continue to be demand-driven, with no upper limit. There will also be roughly 500 additional family visas available, as well as 100 special eligibility visas.

The humanitarian visa campaign will remain unchanged, with 13,750 spots available in 2022/23 and an additional 16,500 for Afghan refugees over a four-year period.

The focus is on visa processing timeframes.

At the September Jobs and Skills Summit, the Albanese administration vowed to speed up visa processing processes and committed an additional $36.1 million to recruit up to 500 individuals for nine months to aid with wait times.

When Labor took office in May, there were about one million visas awaiting processing, according to Immigration Minister Andrew Giles. Since then, the median processing time for a temporary skilled visa has dropped from 53 days in May to 42 days in July.

Mr Giles said in a statement on 14 October that the department had processed over two million applications but that there was still a backlog of around 872,000 applications due to a dramatic increase in demand since the borders reopened after being closed to international arrivals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Giles stated, “Australia is… witnessing a strong resurgence in visa applications." “Since 1 June 2022, we have received approximately 2.22 million new applications, compared to nearly 495,000 for the same period in 2021."

Mr Giles stated that the Department of Home Affairs had already hired 260 extra people to help with visa processing, and that more will be hired and trained in the coming weeks and months.

What effect does the government budget have on visas?

Former Department of Immigration secretary Abul Rizvi indicated ahead of the budget that the government would need to invest far more than the previously pledged $36.1 million for Home Affairs to keep on top of its workload and reduce processing delays.

However, he stated that whether the incoming administration will fully reverse the $875 million reduction would be determined by the reasons why it was made in the first place.

“Some of the reasons may have been fairly reasonable, and you would not want to overturn them," Mr Rizvi explained. “But clearly, with the tremendous backlog in the visa system that they have right now, any cut is going to be a nightmare."

Mr. Rizvi stated that money was only a part of the problem, with additional concerns emerging over the last decade. This includes changes to the design of visas, which he claims were made to make them more cumbersome.

“You also have the issue that the ethos of the department has fundamentally changed, which is influencing the way visas are processed," Mr Rizvi explained.

“Decision makers end up rejecting applications for trivial reasons."

While the Albanese government did not fully restore financing, it did announce a complete study of the migration system to guide future improvements, with an emphasis on productivity, sponsorship options, and an internationally competitive visa procedure. The report is due by the end of February 2023.

The administration has also announced intentions to raise the Income Threshold for Temporary Skilled Migration. The threshold was frozen at $53,900 per year, but the government claims it is too low, and that more than 80% of all full-time employment now pay more than that.

Will there be more visas available?

Labor campaigned on the pledge of eliminating temporary protection visas and transferring those deemed to be real refugees to permanent visas.

Mr Rizvi stated that he anticipated them to be considered as part of the humanitarian program, which may need an increase of visas for the program.

In 2022-23, the existing humanitarian program allows for 13,750 spots. Over the next four years, an additional 16,500 slots will be made available for Afghan refugees.

However, the administration has opted not to raise this figure thus far.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre expressed “deep disappointment" that key Labor commitments, such as increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake, abolishing Temporary Protection Visas/Safe Haven Enterprise Visas, and providing appropriate social services for people seeking asylum, had not been met in the budget.

“The 2022-23 Federal Budget fell short of popular aspirations for a more compassionate and equitable society for refugees and asylum seekers," the ASRC stated in a statement.