Major visa overhaul ahead?

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) recently announced they are seeking submissions on simplifying and modernising Australia’s visa system. The DIBP deems the current status quo as complex, uncertain, and does not currently meet the “economic, social and security interests” of Australia.

The consultation focusses on four key points:

  • Reducing the number of visa subclasses from the currently 99 to approximately 10,
  • An investigation on the delineation between temporary, provisional, and permanent visas,
  • Easing the burden on taxpayers where possible,
  • Provide for further competitiveness as a global destination for temporary and permanent migrants.

The current system is structured towards the economic benefits and increasing the wellbeing of the Australian community, an overhaul that occurred way back in the 1970s. This economic approach is the basis for many requirements in line with the policy objective of the visa subclass and programme.

Attempts to simplify visas in recent years has had mixed results as it has mainly entailed consolidating a number of similar subclasses into “streams” within one subclass, with a few tweaks along the way. For example, last year five temporary activity visa subclasses were consolidated into three new subclasses with one added as a stream to an existing subclass. Since 2012, similar treatment has occurred to permanent employer sponsored, tourist and student visas.

Has consolidating subclasses made visas simpler? Arguably it has not because the regulations have been roughly comparable and confusion may lead some applicants to choose the wrong stream, which can be fatal to an application.

The scope of this investigation, however, appears to be much, much larger. Public submissions close 15 September 2017.