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Immigration (Education) Charge Bill 1992

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House: House of Representatives Portfolio: Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs

Purpose To introduce charges for newly arrived immigrants and recent arrivals in respect of English language classes.

Background English as a second language (ESL) classes for migrants are provided under the Adult Migrant Education Program (AMEP). The possession of English language skills is particularly important for migrants seeking to gain employment and also plays an important role in the assimilation of migrants into Australian society. A 1990 report estimated that there are 50 000 to 60 000 long term residents in Australia with language difficulties.

Commonwealth funding on ESL training in 1991- 2 was $114.5 million and this is estimated to increase to $142 million in 1992- 3. Of the latter amount, an estimated $3.65 million will be raised through the charges to be imposed by this Bill. The administration of ESL courses is currently divided between the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs (DILGEA) and the Department of Employment of Employment, Education and Training (DEET). The responsible agency is based on the level of language skills possessed by a person and their time in Australia. Changes in the administration of ESL were announced by the Ministers responsible for the two Departments mentioned above on 20 August 1992. Under the new arrangements, DILGEA will have responsibility for programs for newly arrived migrants and those currently under AMEP. DEET will have responsibility for the ESL needs of jobseekers. As a result of these changes, an estimated $12.2 million will be transferred from AMEP to programs administered by DEET in 1992- 3. This will increase to $18.3 million in 1993- 4 and $38 million in 1994- 5. This will be offset by a reduction in the number of migrants entering Australia, which is set at 80 000 in 1992- 3, a 27.9% reduction on the previous year.

Major changes to the operation of AMEP were announced in the joint Ministerial statement of 20 August referred to above. Firstly, new migrants will be entitled to a maximum of 510 hours of English education if they can show that they lack functional English. While the Ministers noted that this is the average time taken to reach a functional level of English, the publication Ethnic Spotlight notes that this process can take between 440 and 890 hours and that those not able to reach the desired level of skill within the allocated 510 hours will be required to meet the full cost of further tuition. The other major change is the introduction of charges for migrants using AMEP. The charge will be payable by those applying for permanent residence either before or after entering Australia unless an exemption applies (see below for further details). The rate of charge will vary according to the immigration category into which the person falls and whether they are already in an AMEP course. For new migrants the charges will range from $1020 (principally for concessional family entrants) to $4080 (for those entering under the employer sponsored or business skills categories). A number of categories will be exempt from the charge, including the preferential family, refugee and special humanitarian categories. These fees will apply from 1 March 1993. For those already in an AMEP course, an annual fee of $250 will apply to those undertaking formal classes and a $50 fee will apply to those undertaking less formal education. These charges will apply for 1993 and later years.

Main Provisions The Bill will commence on 1 March 1993 (clause 2).

Clause 3 contains a number of definitions, including those for: `exempt entry permit': an entry permit subject to the criterion that permanent settlement is the appropriate course for the applicant and is not contrary to the interests of Australia; an entry permit for a person who is the spouse, dependent child or aged parent of an Australian citizen or a permanent resident; or an entry permit in a prescribed class.

`exempt visa': a visa that satisfies the same conditions as an exempt entry permit.

`stay visa': a permanent entry permit or a visa that allows the person to remain permanently in Australia.

The English education charge will be imposed by clause 5. It will apply to applications by non- citizens for a stay visa made on or after 1 January 1993 where the Minister has given the applicant a notice that the applicant is 18 or over and does not have functional English. (The issue of such notices is dealt with in the Migration Laws Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1992). The charge will not be payable if the applicant is exempt under clause 7.

The situations where the applicant will be exempt are: * the application is in respect of an exempt visa or entry permit;

* the application is withdrawn before the charge is paid;

* the applicant has previously paid the charge and this has not been refunded; or

* the applicant is a permanent resident.

Clause 6 provides that the rate of the charge is to be prescribed up to a maximum of $4080.

Bills Digest Service 26 November 1992 Parliamentary Research Service

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

Commonwealth of Australia 1992

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1992.