The Federal Government has announced it will open applications for the much-awaited temporary sponsored visa for parents in the first half of the next year after the Federal Parliament finally passed the legislation tied to the visa.
Federal Senate, on Wednesday, 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, paving the way for rolling out the visa that the migrant communities have been demanding for many years.
“This new visa will help families reunite and spend time together,” Immigration Minister David Coleman said in a statement.
“It will provide a new pathway for parents and grandparents to visit their families in Australia, which will deliver great social benefits to the Australian community,” he added.
However, Mr Coleman took aim at the Labor party that opposed the Government’s amendments to the legislation after it initially voted in favour of it.
“It is astounding that the Labor Party voted against this important legislation. Bill Shorten needs to explain to communities why he instructed his Senators to stand in the way of this reform,” the Immigration Minister said.
Labor sources, however, maintain the party was only opposed to the amendments to the legislation regarding debt recovery powers that the party was concerned about.
Shadow Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann said the Government should deliver the visa that it promised before the 2016 Federal election and not the “revised version” that includes serval conditions that were not part of the promised visa when announced, including limiting the visa to one set of parents per household.
“Conditions like this would force families to choose which parents or in-laws they reunite with. Labor had previously written to the new Immigration Minister David Coleman expressing these concerns and their impacts,” Mr Neumann said.
Migrant communities ran a campaign for a special visa for their parents and during the run-up to the last Federal election, the then Turnbull Government promised a sponsored parent visa that would allow parents of migrants to live in Australia for a continuous period of up to five years.
In the visa unveiled in May 2017, the Government announced that applicants would be able to seek a three-year visa for a fee of $5,000 or a five-year visa for $10,000, with the opportunity for a single renewal for another five years at the same price.
Migrant groups, as well as migration experts, called into question the “very high” fee for the visa.
“I don’t know if many migrants will be keen on this visa for their parents, but I certainly won’t suggest anyone go for it. It just doesn’t make sense to pay such exorbitant visa fee,” said Jujhar Bajwa, a migration agent in Melbourne.
With the new Bill passed by the Federal Parliament that was introduced in 2016, a sponsorship framework has been put in place under which migrants wanting to sponsor their parents, will act as financial guarantors and are legally required to any debt to taxpayers as a result of a medical emergency.
“This new visa will ensure family reunions are possible for many migrant families across Australia while protecting taxpayers with strict guidelines to ensure all public health debts including hospital and aged care fees are recovered by the Australian Government,” Mr Coleman said.
But Mr Bajwa says the much cheaper visitor visas that allow parents to live in Australia for up to two years in a period of three years for a small fraction of the new visa’s cost do not have such “cumbersome” requirements.
“The high fee isn’t the only issue, there’s a mandatory requirement for private health insurance from an Australian provider and in case the parents incur a healthcare debt, the sponsoring children are legally obliged to pay it back despite paying such huge fee. Whereas in the normal visitor visas, there’s no such provision,” he says.
The new sponsorship framework also creates a two-step application process that involves an assessment of the sponsor and once approved then only a visa application can be lodged.
This arrangement is primarily aimed at safeguarding vulnerable family members, particularly children and married partners, from their violent sponsors.