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Government to deliver balanced migration program



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M e d i a R e l e a s e

MPS 85/96 GOVERNMENT TO DELIVER BALANCED MIGRATION PROGRAM

The Government will deliver a planned and balanced migration program despite obstruction from Labor, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock said today.

Mr Ruddock has outlined some of the measures the Government will employ to implement its policies and reclaim its ability to manage Australia's migration program.

"The Government has attempted to restore balance to the migration program by extending some of the management tools introduced by the former Government. Those measures had received bipartisan support from the Coalition," Mr Ruddock said.

"The Opposition is now being hypocritical by claiming it supports the Government's smaller program of 74,000 places, but it will not support measures to deliver the program in a balanced, flexible and measured way."

"Labor says it has delivered smaller programs without these measures. The reality is it only delivered smaller numbers by demolishing skilled migration and because it had chloroformed the economy into recession, so that no-one wanted to come here."

In his statement the Minister has outlined new measures which are less flexible, but remain the only options left open to deliver a program which balances Australia's social, economic and environmental needs. The measures include: • priority given to processing applications where the sponsor is an Australian

citizen

• priority given in the parent visa category to applicants where the majority of their children live in Australia • if necessary, as a last resort, using "cap and terminate" powers introduced under Labor to limit numbers in the categories where the more flexible cap and queue

powers do not presently exist • an extension of the existing list of Occupations Requiring English in the

Concessional Family category to improve the settlement and employment prospects of migrants • the counting of the immediate family of refugee and humanitarian entrants under those categories, despite the Opposition's insistence that they enter under fee­

paying family categories

'These measures are not my first choice for managing the program, but this has been forced upon the Government by the Opposition's lack of cooperation," Mr Ruddock said.

"I would like to see a return to the cooperative approach that existed when I and some of my colleagues held the shadow immigration portfolio. I would urge the Opposition to reconsider its position, so that we can have more flexible measures in place."

13 December 1996

The Hon. Philip Ruddock MR Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Telephone: (06) 277 7860 Facsimile: (06) 273 4144

MEDIA CONTACT: Steve Ingram 06 277 7860 0419 278 715

INFO SHEET DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION AND MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS

8. MANAGING THE MIGRATION PROGRAM - CHANGES TO PROCEDURES ANNOUNCED ON 13 DECEMBER 1996

This information sheet summarises additional migration procedures announced by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Mr Philip Ruddock in a Statement to the House of Representatives on 13 December 1996.

The additional procedures have been introduced following the disallowance in the Senate on 7 November 1996 of a number of changes to migration regulations which had already taken effect.

These had been announced by the Minister on and after 3 July 1996, and had come into effect progressively up to and including 1 November 1996.

In summary, the key procedures announced on 13 December are as follows: (Note: where appropriate, the corresponding disallowed measure is shown in italics):

ENGLISH LANGUAGE SKILLS

(Disallowed: the addition of 20 points for English language ability in the Concessional Family* category)

The Government will now adopt a different approach to English language skills, by expanding the Occupations Requiring English (ORE) list.

- Prospective migrants whose occupations are listed on the ORE must demonstrate that they have vocational level English, irrespective of any other attributes they may have.

The ORE list currently contains 115 occupations, and is to be expanded to include most skilled occupations. This will take effect for applications decided from 1 July 1997 and will apply to migrants in the Independent, Concessional Family and Regional Family * categories.

In 1995-96 about 23 per cent of applicants in the Concessional Family category followed an occupation on the list. After the expansion, it is estimated that about 85 per cent of applicants will be affected.

CONCESSIONAL PASS MARK

The Minister confirmed that the pass and pool mark for Concessional Family applicants would remain at the increased level of 115 and 110 points respectively. The higher marks were needed as a

management tool to deal with the large pipeline of applications that had built up.

The higher levels were also necessary to address an anomalous situation which had arisen as a result of the disallowance motion.

The disallowance removed the points for English language ability for principal applicants in the Concessional Family category, but left in place this provision for the spouse of the principal applicant.

PROCESSING PRIORITIES

(Disallowed: the requirement for Preferential Family* category migrants to be sponsored by Australian citizens and the introduction of a new balance of family test for people seeking to migrate as parents)

The Minister announced a new General Direction for migration officers providing guidance on processing priorities to be applied from 12 December 1996 in the Preferential Family category. The General

Direction sets out three priority groups:

Group 1: Applications with the highest processing priority:

- children who apply under child visa subclass 101 and 802 in Australia or overseas

- orphan relatives where there are special

circumstances of a compelling or compassionate nature

- adopted children or children for adoption (subclass 102 visa applicants)

- a spouse/fiance where the application includes a dependent child of both the spouse/fiance applicant and an Australian sponsor

- immediate family members of Humanitarian Program entrants or Protection visa holders where either the relationship existed at the time of visa grant for sponsors who entered under the

Humanitarian Program or application for sponsors who are Protection Visa holders.

This priority is not affected by whether the sponsor is an Australian citizen or permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen.

Group 2: Applicants who have an Australian citizen sponsor have the next processing priority.

- Parents who have the majority of their children living in Australia should have a higher priority than those parents who have only half or a minority of their children living in Australia.

Group 3: Applicants with sponsors who are not Australian citizens have the lowest priority.

- In the case of an application by a parent within this group, those who have a majority of their children living in Australia should be given a higher priority than applications by parents who

have only half or a minority of their children living in Australia.

Where visa applicants are waiting in a queue in the Preferential Family category because a cap or limit (see below) on that visa class has been reached, when the cap is lifted their applications will be processed in

chronological order based on when they reached grant stage, except in exceptional circumstances.

HUMANITARIAN FAMILIES

(Disallowed: the inclusion of immediate family members* of Humanitarian Program entrants and Protection Visa holders in the Humanitarian Program intake, rather than the Preferential Family category as at present, so that they had access to welfare services and benefits immediately)

Non-humanitarian migrants, such as Preferential Family applicants, pay an application fee for migration and then wait some months while the application is processed. On arrival they are not able to obtain some social security benefits for six months.

Humanitarian entrants do not have to pay an application fee to migrate to Australia, are likely to be reunited more quickly than those awaiting processing through other migration channels and have immediate

access to social security benefits after arrival if they need it.

The Government has decided that these family members will continue to migrate through the Preferential Family category and will be counted as part of the Humanitarian Program from 1 July 1996.

However, in view of the Senate's disallowance of proposed regulations, these families will still have to pay the application fee and wait six months for access to some social security benefits.

These families will be given processing priority and will have access to support services provided by the Department of Immigration & Multicultural Affairs to all humanitarian entrants.

CAPPING LEVELS

The Minister foreshadowed the likelihood that the Government would place a cap on the number of places for aged parents and spouses in the Preferential Category during this program year. Aged parents and spouses were currently exempt from capping under the "cap and queue" process.

If the Government was able to use the "cap and queue" process being proposed in legislation currently before Parliament, it was likely that those affected by

such a cap would have only a few months to wait before being granted a visa in the next program year.

(The "cap and queue" process means that once the numerical limit has been reached on a capped category, applications can continue to be processed and, once the visa grant stage is reached, are placed in a queue to be granted in the following program year.

This enables migration officers to give applicants an indication of when they can expect to receive a visa if they are in a capped class, allowing them to plan their travel and other arrangements.)

If the legislation is not passed and the Government needed to use the existing "cap and terminate" process instead, this would mean that once the cap or limit on a certain category had been reached, no more applications could be accepted in that financial year.

The remaining applicants would have to be refunded their application fees and would have to re-apply in the new program year.

*Definitions:

Independent - for people who have skills that will benefit Australia. Applicants must pass a points test to be eligible.

Concessional Family - for non-dependent children, parents of working age who do not meet the balance of family test, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. Applicants must pass a points test to be eligible and be

sponsored by a relative in Australia.

Regional Family - a sub-class of the Concessional Family category intended to encourage people already living in specific designated areas to sponsor skilled family migrants to join them, subject to a range of criteria. There is no points test.

Preferential Family - for close family members, including spouse, fiancb, de facto, interdependent, aged parent and dependent or adopted child. There is no points test for applicants in this category, but

applicants must be sponsored.

"Immediate family members" of Humanitarian Program entrants are proposed for entry to Australia by the family member already in Australia. It includes the spouse and dependent children of the proposer. Parents are included only when the proposer is a minor. The family relationship must have existed at the time the proposer was granted a visa under the

Humanitarian Program, or if the proposer is a Protection Visa holder, at the time the proposer applied for that visa, and the relationship is ongoing.

Prepared by the Public Affairs Section of the Department of Immigration & Multicultural Affairs on 13 December 1996.