The Australian Government has announced the introduction of the new Temporary Sponsored Parent visa – subject to the successful passage of the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 through the Senate later this year.
This visa is intended to meet parents’ needs to spend time with their children in Australia without burdening the Australian health care system should their health deteriorate during their stay and to address the lengthy wait times currently being experienced by Parent visa applicants.
In the context of the existing family migration program, this visa appears to complement permanent parent visas by providing a better alternative when compared with other temporary visas by allowing parents to stay longer and renew their visa for a total stay period of up to 10 years.
As always, applicants must meet specified criteria – they must be sponsored by their Australian child who has been approved as a sponsor and not have an outstanding public health debt in Australia. They must also meet identity, character and health requirements and have health insurance with an Australian insurance provider to cover their whole stay.
Sponsorship and visa applications for this visa will be assessed separately. Sponsors must meet specified criteria for the sponsorship to be approved. This includes accepting financial responsibility for their parents and being legally liable for their debt. A visa application can only be made after the sponsorship has been approved.
On face value, it seems that this visa will be introduced to give parents more and/or better options. But consider the introduction of this visa against the recently released Policy Consultation Paper – Visa Simplification: Transforming Australia’s Visa System. This paper raises the prospect of, among other things, reducing the number of visas from 99 to 10! So why introduce another visa now?
The Government has emphasised that this new visa does not replace existing Parent visas. And it has made no secret of the fact that it wants to contain costs, especially those relating to Australia’s aging population. So, imagine if the number of parent visas were “rationalized” to only one – possibly one temporary visa with health requirements. Parents would no longer be onshore holding bridging visas and likely to live out the rest of their days in Australia while they wait for their applications to be processed and, potentially, using Australia’s health care resources.
This type of visa was recently discussed in the Migrant Intake into Australia, Productivity Commission Inquiry Report, No. 77, where it was considered to offset the impact that considerably increasing contributory parent visa application charges and narrowing non-contributory parent visa eligibility would have if they were introduced. So, are these changes the motivation for introducing a temporary parent visa now? Does it herald the introduction of 6-figure visa application charges or more prohibitive visa application criteria as discussed in the Productivity Commission Inquiry?
The big question is whether the next major immigration shake-up will be focused on Parent category visas? I guess only time will tell.