Following a cut of 20,000 in the immigration intake last year, migration agents fear the intake could fall even further this year with the invites for skilled visas during the first quarter falling by 20 per cent compared to the same period last year.
The Department of Home Affairs has issued 5980 invites to Independent Skilled Visa (189) applicants during the first three months of 2018-19 compared to 7,500 in the first quarter of the last financial year.
The “slow” pace of invites has migration agents worried.
“It’s clear that the Government’s money is not where its mouth is. The Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister have said there would be no cut in immigration, but effectively, there’s a cut,” says Jujhar Bajwa of Bajwa Immigration Consultants.
Skilled Independent visas are capped at 43,990 in the current year’s immigration planning. At this average, there will be a cut of 20,000 in this category alone.
Last year, Australia admitted 20,000 fewer permanent residents than the previous year while the planning levels remain constant at 190,000. In 2017-18, Australia’s immigration intake fell below 163,000 compared to 183,608 in 2016-17.
A cut of 12,000 in the skilled stream that has total 128,550 places and 8,000 in family visas (capped at 57,400) drove last year’s decile in immigration intake to a ten year low.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton who was then responsible for the Immigration portfolio attributed the decline in permanent visas to enhanced scrutiny of applications.
“What these figures show is that we have also strengthened Australia’s permanent visa program by ending Labor’s slavish drive for quantity and replacing it with a sharper focus on integrity and quality,” Mr Dutton said in July.
“I want the migration program to work for Australians, not just the migrants themselves.”
Earlier this year Mr Dutton conceded that he canvassed his cabinet colleagues for lowering the immigration cap by 20,000.
Mr Bajwa says the number of invites issued during the first three months of the current year is an indication a “backdoor cut” in permanent visas.
“We thought the last year was bad but there seems to be a further squeeze on immigration. Until recent months there were only a few occupations, such as IT professionals and accountants, who were facing tough prospects. But now even trades occupations have also started feeling the heat of this squeeze,” Mr Bajwa told SBS Punjabi.
“Empirical evidence suggests the first few months of the year are generally good in terms of inviting applicants to put in their applications, but this year is nothing like the previous years,” he says.
Applicants with IT and Accountancy related occupations are also having to contend with a significantly high threshold of points test score with some occupations requiring an evidence of up to 80 points before an invite is issued.
The minimum requirement was raised to 65 points from 60 at the start of the current financial year.
Immigration Minister David Coleman told SBS Punjabi last week that it’s about the composition of the program rather than any “magic number”.
“It’s our program and I want to ensure that the program matches our regional needs and ensuring that it matches our economic needs to the extent possible,” he said.
He said his priority is to meet the needs of regional areas that want more immigrants.
“That’s something I’m looking at very closely at the moment,” Mr Coleman told SBS Punjabi.
“There are 1.4 million people in Australia who are employed by immigrants and so immigration is very positive for the country.”