A year of change for immigration in Australia

by Ray Clancy on October 31, 2013

in Australia, Australia Immigration

The last 12 months have seen unprecedented change for immigration officials in Australia and visa applicants in a challenging environment.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s 2012/2013 annual report details a busy year of activity including its change of name to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP.)

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The past year has been the second successive year of growth in citizenship applications, with more 120,000 people becoming Australian citizens.

The work included granting almost 4.7 million permanent and temporary visas, managing more than 33 million border movements and answering more than 2.5 million calls at its call centres.

‘This has been a year of unprecedented change for the department and its staff have been operating in a challenging and unpredictable operational environment,’ said DIBP secretary Martin Bowles.

Among the achievements highlighted in the annual report was a second successive year of growth in citizenship applications, with more 120,000 people becoming Australian citizens at ceremonies, including a record 17,059 on Australia Day alone. Bowles said compliance with Australia’s migration system also remained high, with more than 99% of the 5.1 million temporary entrants during the year complying with their visa conditions.

‘While the department promotes voluntary compliance with visa conditions, it is important to note the work of our compliance officers who conducted more than 15,000 locations of unlawful non-citizens,’ Bowles explained.

The migration programme grew by 5,000 places to a total of 190,000 places in 2012/2013, attributed largely to the implementation of the department’s innovative skilled migration selection system, SkillSelect, which was introduced in July 2012.

A number of initiatives were also launched in the temporary residence programme, including the introduction of the significant investor visa to attract foreign investment of at least $5 million.

‘The department has been instrumental in shaping the future of a prosperous, inclusive Australia. Migration is a central pillar of Australia’s past and future. It is also a source of robust national debate. It is important and entirely appropriate that Australia continues to be fully engaged in a national conversation about migration as we progress through the 21st century,’ added Bowles.

During the year the Significant Investor visa was introduced to attract foreign investment by high net worth individuals who must invest at least $5 million in certain investments in Australia and can become eligible for a permanent visa after holding a provisional visa and maintaining their investment in Australia for four years.

The Temporary Work (Skilled) subclass 457 visa programme grew at a record rate. Bowles pointed out that while most employers are using the subclass 457 visa programme appropriately, certain employers are sourcing their skilled labour needs from offshore without regard to the availability of labour locally.

‘In February 2013, the minister announced reforms to the subclass 457 visa programme, introduced from 10 July 2013 that strengthen the department’s capacity to prevent misuse,’ he said.

The department continued to implement the 41 reforms arising from the government’s response to Michael Knight Strategic review of the student visa programme, known as the Knight Review, and Bowles added that officials are working closely with universities to further streamline student visa processing.

The year has also seen simplification and deregulation of visas. Some 149 different visa subclasses, many of which contained similar provisions, eligibilities and entitlements, were reduced to 99.

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