Australia proposes fee hike for immigrant parent visas

Australia will consider substantial fee hikes for migrants bringing out their parents following a controversial government report which proposed tougher rules and fees to offset the cost of absorbing older immigrants.
Australia will consider substantial fee hikes for migrants bringing out their parents following a controversial government report which proposed tougher rules and fees to offset the cost of absorbing older immigrants.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Migrants upset by govt panel's report, which says aged parents are a burden to health system

Australia will consider substantial fee hikes for migrants bringing out their parents following a controversial government report which proposed tougher rules and fees to offset the cost of absorbing older immigrants. In a finding that caused anger among immigrants, the Federal Government's independent advisory body, the Productivity Commission, recommended in a report released last week that fees for parent visas should be "substantially" increased from the current ones of about A$50,000 (S$51,800) per parent.

The commission said older migrants cost the nation because they are a burden on the health system and many do not hold jobs or pay taxes. It said the cost to Australia of admitting a parent was between A$335,000 and A$410,000 over the course of his or her lifetime.

"Immigrant parents are at stages of their lives when they make considerable claims on the aged care, health and social security systems, which must be met through taxpayer funds," said the report.

"They tend to have low integration into the labour market largely due to their older ages and, in some cases, poorer than average English- language proficiency. This means lower income (and income tax) than other immigrants."

Currently, foreign parents of Australian citizens can apply for permanent residency if most of their children live in Australia and they either pay about A$50,000 for fast- tracked processing or wait up to 30 years and pay a fee of up to A$6,000.

In the past year, 8,675 parents received visas, including 80 Singaporeans, according to official figures provided to The Straits Times. The total included 7,175 parents who received visas under the fast-tracked scheme and 1,500 under the slower, lower-fee scheme.

In the past year, 8,675 parents received visas, including 80 Singaporeans, according to official figures provided to The Straits Times. The total included 7,175 parents who received visas under the fast-tracked scheme and 1,500 under the slower, lower-fee scheme.

The commission said "the case for retaining parent visas in their current form is weak" and recommended fee hikes for fast-tracked parents. Others should be admitted only where there are "strong" compassionate grounds, it said.

The findings were fiercely rejected by migrant communities which have been pushing for Australia to make it easier to bring over parents. Migrant groups say they tend to place a particularly strong emphasis on involving grandparents in the life of the family.

The main organisation representing Australians from ethnically diverse backgrounds, the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia, said it was "strongly opposed" to the recommendations. It said the commission had adopted a "punitive approach" and had discounted the social and cultural benefits of uniting parents and children.

"The availability of family reunion is important for successful settlement, allowing migrants to maintain family ties and connections," the federation said in a statement.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said he will consider the commission's recommendations before making changes.

The government on Friday confirmed plans to introduce a temporary, sponsored visa to allow parents to visit for five years, as long as applicants hold private health insurance. The visas are due to begin next year.

Migrant groups - led by members of the fast-growing Indian community - have long urged the government to ease visa requirements for elderly parents who assist with the children and family cohesion.

An Australian-Indian who helped to lead a public campaign for change in the lead-up to the election, Mr Arvind Duggal, said he wanted his mother to be allowed to become a permanent presence in the lives of his young children.

Mr Duggal, who moved from India in 2008, said his mother has had to visit on a tourist visa and can spend only a year in Australia before returning to India for six months.

"We always learn from our grandparents and our children are missing that part," he told SBS News earlier this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2016, with the headline 'Australia proposes fee hike for immigrant parent visas'. Print Edition | Subscribe