Australia’s 2020/21 Budget, described by some as being the most important one since World War II, for the upcoming financial year was released in early October. As expected, much of the Budget was dominated by the government’s response to coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the Australian economy, particularly with immigration numbers having significantly decreased in recent months. Population growth has been an important driver of Australia’s economic growth over the past few decades, so a sudden halt to it has damaged Australia’s economy.
Permanent migration numbers, set by the government for 2020/21, will remain at 160,000, with a net overseas migration forecast of 72,000. Population growth has fallen to negative levels and is expected to be just 0.2% in 2020-21 and 0.4% in 2021-22, the slowest growth in over a century!
The average tax refund Down Under is AU$2600
The average tax refund Down Under is AU$2600
Visa changes, requirements and news
The Australian Immigration Department intends to impose an English requirement on Partner visas and applicants will need to demonstrate at least a basic understanding of the English language. This is expected to be met with criticism from minority groups in Australia, with a lot of migrants who apply each year not yet having learned the language.
With Australian borders closing in March many people have tried to come to Australia, whether they are migrants wishing to start a new life, international students or partners of those already living in the country, and have paid significant amounts in visa application charges (VACs).
People from overseas who are aged under 31 years of age will be able to apply for a Working Holiday Visa without paying government tax. Backpackers who had to leave the country earlier than expected due to the pandemic will also be eligible for some relief.
For those on temporary skilled work visas and visitor visas, no refund will be provided. Instead, they will be given a waiver when applying for their next visa to Australia when travel restrictions are lifted.
Student visa holders, who require a further student visa to take part in their studies or remain in Australia as they are unable to leave due to the travel ban, will also have VACs waived.
International students and recent graduates who would like to apply for a temporary graduate 485 visa can submit Visa applications offshore.
People who are sponsored by an employer, and global talent, business innovation and investment visas have preference to other visas in processing.
Work rights, limitations for WHV makers lifted
Working holidaymakers would be allowed to work for more than 6 months with the same employer.
Backpackers currently working in food processing or the agriculture sector will be eligible for a further visa and will be exempted from the 6 month limitation with 1 employer.
417 and 462 holders will be allowed to try and work in construction or paid and volunteer disaster recovery work. Those in disaster recovery work may go with a similar leader for twelve months rather than six.
Seasonal work programme and pacific labor theme staff within the agricultural sector, whose visas are expiring, will have their visas extended by twelve months for work that is approved by employers.
Major workforce gaps in the horticulture industry were recently identified. It is said that fruit and vegetable farmers require an extra 26,000 workers to harvest their crops in summer, and this is typically reliant on overseas workers.
The Budget also outlined that $29.8 million will be injected into developing a global business and talent attraction taskforce to encourage top tier businesses and exception talent to Australia as part of the economic recovery response and to create jobs.
International students in Australia
The Australian border closure has brought devastation to the public sector universities and most education institutions experienced a massive financial hit due to the loss of international students.
In fact, universities are estimated to lose around $3-4.6 billion in revenue from international student fees between 2020 and more in 2021!
Student Unions have expressed their concerns in the educational sector and conveyed how international students contribute to the well-being of Australians by fuelling economic growth and prosperity that provides jobs for Australians. They also play a key role in working on important projects like breeding drought resilient crops, developing cures for diseases like COVID-19, and world-leading efficient solar and plastic recycling technology.
So far it’s been communicated that Australian international borders will remain closed until at least 17 December, 2020. Only New Zealanders are to be granted access to Australia in the first opening of international borders by either nation since Covid-19 restrictions were imposed.
New Zealanders now can go to New South Wales and the Northern Territory - and avoid mandatory quarantine.
The Budget also suggested the government will being rolling in small numbers of migrants from selected countries in late 2020, but it does not anticipate immigration will be back to normal until at least 2021. Like many other things, this would be dependent on the discovery and development of a vaccine.