Australian residents wishing to be permanently reunited with their parents in Australia are being forced to rethink their plans, following the Turnbull Government’s controversial decision to more than double the required salary for sponsors.
The changes to visa regulations were made at the beginning of April in the form of amendments to the Social Security (Assurances of Support) (AoS) Determination 2018, revoking the 10-year-old versions previously in place. As it doesn’t require passing a bill through Parliament the changes have come as a shock to the tens of thousands currently on waiting lists.
While it has been confirmed by the Department of Human Services that any AoS forms lodged prior to 1 April will be assessed under the old rules, those in a less favourable position, some having waited years to be reunited with their parents, are panicking they won’t meet the new criteria.
For example, a single person wanting to sponsor one parent may have been required under previous rules to prove an annual income of $35,793, a manageable figure compared to the increased amount of $57,738.
If you’re thinking of brining both parents, then you’re looking at $86,607 as a single person, and a couple now faces an income test that is nearly double the previous rate.
The higher income tests apply to both temporary and permanent versions of the contributory parent visa (143 and 173), the contributory aged parent visa (864 and 884) and the non-contributory parent visa (103 and 804), as well as the ‘remaining relative’ (835) visa.
Meanwhile the changes rule out anyone who has a debt to the Commonwealth, such as a HECS debt, from sponsoring anyone at all.
Adding to the concern is the already competitive nature of parental visas, with a cap of just under 9,000 places in 2018.
Mary Patetsos, Chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA), told Neos Kosmos she has seen the concern and anxiety the changes have caused firsthand, and believes it has come about unnecessarily.
“The changes represent a move of the goalposts. People plan to do what’s required to jump over the hurdle and bring their family, parents, aunties, uncles, even children to Australia and then the goalposts change and of course that creates an issue for people,” Ms Patetsos said.
The changes not only impact the Greek community of newly arrived migrants, but also members of newer communities, who are striving to create a strong base in Australia, just like the Greeks have managed to do over the years.
Ms Patetsos says family reunion programs have played a big role in the benefit of migration on Australia, evident post-WWII, which saw a large number of Greeks, Italians and northern Europeans immigrate Down Under.
She says that while older parents may not contribute themselves directly to the workforce, by helping to raise young children, it permits parents to return to the workforce, contributing in that way.
When it comes to the government’s motivation, Ms Patesos says that possible reasoning such as trying to shape the type of people coming into the country or cost saving are not exactly sound arguments.
And if it’s a move to ensure taxpayers aren’t burdened, an important factor in Ms Patestos’ opinion, then she says there are other ways of going about it.
“Australian taxpayers ought to be protected but I think that there are other ways of ensuring that, by making sure we have employment programs, that people are able to study and do what they need to do to become active consumers and employees, and others to create small businesses and become employers themselves,” she explains.
It is important to note that aside from proving their income, sponsors face other costs including a non-refundable application fee of close to $4,000 regardless of the outcome, and a deposit of at least $10,000 with a guarantee to cover any social security benefits needed by their parents in the first 10 years.
The optics of showing migrants as a burden are not in line with much of the research available, which shows migration has been an economic stimulus for Australian society with social and cultural advantages, and instead should be looking at all the contribution that has occurred.
Both Labor and the Greens are opposed to the changes made by the government, with Shadow Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann and Shadow Social Services Minister Jenny Macklin calling it out as the “latest attempt by the out-of-touch Turnbull Government to make life harder for multicultural communities around Australia”.
Taking a stand against the changes, an online petition has been started on Change.org, with some migration agents writing directly to the Migration Institute if Australia to coordinate a response and lobby the government to reverse the decision, which, with the necessary traction, could prove fruitful.
“Governments are always listening to communities, that’s what they’re meant to do. If there’s enough of a community interest in this and push, they’ll have to listen to the concerns,” said Ms Patestos.
“What we’ve got to realise is, these changes affect family reunion regardless of where you come from. We wouldn’t be who we are without migration. So it’s a bit harsh, and possibly even foolish to think that now we can do it a different way and not lose anything.”