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The Federal Budget 2020- 2021: What it means for migrants

We are at that time of year again when the whole nation stops to check what the new Federal Budget will bring to our nation and as individuals.

The budget is usually announced by the Federal Government annually around May.

However, due to the COVID crisis, the 2020-2021 economic and fiscal update (Federal Budget) was delivered on Tuesday 6th October.

What is the Australian Government Budget?

The annual budget provides more than just the government’s income and expenditure. The government usually provides information such as economic forecasts and any new government policies such as increased spending or reduced taxes, the number of net overseas migration, and more.

Impact of Covid-19 in Australia

The outbreak of COVID-19 is primarily a public health issue, but it is also having a major impact on the economy and the financial system. As the virus has spread, Australia has restricted the movement of people by closing its international borders for non-permanent residents and citizens. The result has been major disruptions to economic activity as well as on a humanitarian level.

In Australia, the government had to spend a large amount to get us through with different economic stimulus measures.

Australia responded quickly and decisively to the threat of the pandemic. The result is a far lower number of people infected and lives lost compared to elsewhere in the world. However, COVID-19 has brought the country into a recession never seen for nearly 30 years!

Migration Program Levels

The current Migration Program Planning level will remain at 160,000 for the 2020-21 program year, however, the distribution of places will change as follows:

Stream and Category 2020-21
Skill stream
Employer Sponsored 22,000
Skilled Independent 6,500
Regional 11,200
​State/Territory Nominated 11,200
Business Innovation & Investment program 13,500
Global Talent 15,000
Distinguished Talent 200
Skill Total 79,600
Family Stream
Partner 72,300
Parent 4,500
Other Family 500
Family Total 77,300
Special Eligibility 100
Child (estimate; not subject to a ceiling) 3,000
Total 160,000


Visa Priority

Employer Sponsored, Global Talent, Business Innovation and Investment Program visas will be prioritised within the Skilled Stream.

Onshore visa applicants and Partner visa applicants where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area, will be prioritised for the 2020-21 Migration Program.

Visa Refunds and Waivers

Prospective Marriage Visa (PMV) holders will be able to access a VAC refund (this is in line with information that the Department is not extending the entry date for PMV holders and moving to cancel the visas of those offshore). This does NOT refer to applicants who have already obtained their 300 visa and are in Australia. The Department of Home Affairs are still to put in place a process for the refund.

Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme visa holders will be able to access a VAC refund.

Temporary skilled workers and visitor visa holders will be eligible to have the VAC for a subsequent visa application waived, to allow them to return to Australia once travel restrictions are lifted.

Working holiday makers will be eligible to have the VAC for a subsequent visa application waived, to allow them to return to Australia once travel restrictions are lifted or otherwise be able to access a VAC refund.

VAC refunds and waivers will be available to current visa holders who are unable to travel until the border reopens.

Permanent Migration

New Zealand Pathway to Permanent Residency – the income eligibility requirement for the New Zealand stream of the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa has changed.  This will allow Special Category (subclass 444) visa holders who have a taxable income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migrant Income Threshold ($53,900) for a minimum of three of the last five income years, including the most recent year.

Business, Investment and Innovation Program

The Government will introduce changes to improve the quality of investments and applicants.

The program will focus on higher value investors, business owners and entrepreneurs and improve the economic outcomes of the BIIP.

Visa application charges for BIIP visas will also be increased by an additional 11.3% (above regular CPI indexation) on 1 July 2021.

Places in this program will be increased to 13,500.

Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce

A newly established Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce will be established to attract international businesses and exceptional talent to Australia, to support the post- COVID recovery and boost local jobs.

This initiative builds on the existing Global Talent Initiative and Business Innovation and Investment Program and the new initiative announced by the Prime Minister on 9 July 2020 to attract export-orientated Hong Kong-based businesses to Australia.

Family stream program and visas

The new partner sponsorship framework is expected to commence in November 2021 and the new sponsorship regime includes the family violence provisions and the newly announced English language requirements.

English language requirements will be introduced for Partner visa applicants AND the permanent resident (PR) sponsor. The Department will require an applicant and a PR sponsor to hold functional English Language to enhance social cohesion and economic participation outcomes.   This will be demonstrated by either an English language test or 500 hours of committed English lessons with the Adult Migration English Program (AMEP).

The English changes are intended to apply to all new applications from November 2021 and will be implemented at the second (permanent resident) stage of partner visa applications; ie ;801 and 100 applications.

Federal Law Circuit Court

Funding of $35.7 million over four years from 2020-21 will be provided to the Federal Circuit Court (FCC) for additional resources and judges will be provided to expedite the resolution of migration matters.

An increase in filing fees for migration litigants will be used to partially offset the cost of this measure.

Machinery of Government

Responsibility for the migrant adult education and also settlement services will be transferred to the Home Affairs portfolio.

National Action Plan to Combat Modern Slavery 2020-25

$10.6 million will be provided over five years from 2020-21 for the provision of grants to deliver community-based projects to prevent modern slavery.

The full Federal Budget papers can be accessed on the site.


Published Mon 19 October 2020.


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