Where has the year gone?

December 4, 2020
Myer Lipschitz

“It’s December already, where has the year gone?” is a common comment at this time of year but this particular year we know where we spent much of our time – isolated in our homes. It’s a year demarcated by isolation and stagnation from an economic and social perspective and next year can only be better. This is also true in terms of immigration policy which left very little to cheer about in 2020 but the outlook for 2021 has to be brighter.

In terms of the year that’s been, things turned sour fairly early on with Australia calling Covid 19 a pandemic prior to the announcement by the World Trade Organisation and essentially closed its borders on 20 March 2020 with exemptions for only Australian citizens, permanent residence and their immediate family.

In May we would normally receive the Federal Government’s budget announcement including details relating to the annual migration quota however this decision was postponed until October. This delay is why state sponsorship lists, which are normally produced in July were postponed until such time as the government finalised the migration quota so that they could decide on the number of migrants each state could sponsor.

Many of our clients overseas applying for general skilled migration visas are dependent upon the production of state sponsorship lists but as I write this these state allocations have yet to be finalised. All indications are that it should happen soon and we expect state sponsorship list to be produced later this month.

Delays associated with state sponsorship lists have meant that many of our clients who had obtained English-language tests and positive skills assessment have had to essentially tread water for much of this year. Even those offshore applicants who had filed general skilled migration visa applications have had to wait as priority was given to those already in Australia. With 36,000 Australians stranded overseas the government hardly wanted to add to the number of permanent residents overseas wanting to gain access to Australia by approving offshore cases hence the focus on processing applications made while the candidate was in Australia.

I’m sure that 2021 will however be a brighter year in terms of migration to Australia. There are several Covid 19 vaccines in production and Australia has entered into five separate agreements for the supply of Covid 19 vaccines if they are proven to be safe and effective.

Our interstate borders have been relaxed and it is now possible to travel anywhere in Australia except Western Australia and that’s set to change next week. In terms of our national border Australia already has quarantine-free travel arrangements with New Zealand and is working towards establishing similar arrangements with other low-risk countries such as Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

Towards the middle of next year, we should see a gradual return of some of the 120,000 international students who remain stranded overseas and of course July of next year demarcates the beginning of another immigration year with the publication of more state sponsorship lists.

The number and variety of occupations appearing on state sponsorship lists usually mirror economic activity in a particular state and relevantly the federal government is providing $257 billion in direct economic support to cushion the blow and strengthen the recovery. The 2020 – 21 budget commits a further $98 billion including $25 billion in direct Covid 19 response measures and $74 billion in new measures to create jobs bringing the government’s overall support to $507 billion. Other stimulatory measures such as tax reform, quantitative easing, and record low interest rates will no doubt have the desired effect of stimulating the Australian economy and, as the economy grows, so too do skill shortages and the need to import skills from overseas.

Of course there is also the stimulatory measures of state governments to be added to Federal expenditure with Victoria alone spending $13 billion to combat the coronavirus crisis with more than $7.6 billion in direct economic support for business in Victoria.

It’s probably going to be several years before we see the high level of tourists, students and migrants returning to Australia and it is conceivable that those allowed to enter might have to have a health passport (no jab no entry) in addition to a national passport to gain entry to Australia but there is a general feeling of optimism in Australia that the worst is behind us.

Our message to those who feel that they have been treading water as far as migration to Australia is concerned is to hang in there. To those that have already filed applications that are as yet undecided we should see more decisions being made next year and to those who have completed English-language and skills assessments and are waiting on the state sponsorship lists, progress cannot be too far off with state sponsorship lists due to open up shortly as well as more updates in July of next year.

If 1992 was an “annus horribilis” according to Queen Elizabeth II, I wonder how she would describe 2020? Whilst I’m not going to predict 2021 to be annus mirabilis (wonderful year) it has to be an improvement on 2020 from a health, social, economic and migration perspective.

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