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Bridging visa ‘blow out’ now bigger than Hobart and Government expects it to keep growing

July 26, 2019 no comment kartik

The number of people in Australia waiting for a visa decision has swelled to a size equivalent to the population of Hobart.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, 229,000 people on bridging visas were in Australia in March. Hobart’s population at the latest census was 222,000.

And a new report has identified the impact of this group on the labour market for the first time.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) analysed the census to find this group had an unemployment rate of about 20 per cent.

That is high compared to the Australian average, but it still means four in five who were looking for work were working — equivalent to many tens of thousands in the labour force.

A migrant is granted a bridging visa when one visa has expired but they are still waiting for their new visa application to be finalised.

Processing times for visas and the number of migration-related court appeals have increased in recent years. These prompt delays, meaning more people remain on bridging visas.

Melinda Cilento, chief executive of CEDA, said that temporary migrants had improved Australia’s prosperity overall, though the growth in bridging visas did warrant closer inspection.

“The community’s looking at that and wondering how well the system’s working and is it actually working the way that we want it to work,” she said.

“Many of these people on bridging visas still have working rights — that’s also a question the community will be asking: Is this the outcome we’re looking for?”

Senator Linda Reynolds, representing the Home Affairs Ministers, told the Senate on Tuesday that the growth in bridging visas was caused by increased arrivals generally and she anticipated further growth.

“As numbers increase, of course you will get an increase in all sorts of categories of people arriving, and making claims to stay,” she said.

“So you would expect that number to grow merely by the fact of the amount of people who come here by air.”

Behind the growth

A recent parliamentary committee highlighted the growing trend for Malaysians arriving in Australia on a tourist visa then applying for asylum.

In June 2014, just 7 per cent of Malaysians temporarily in Australia were on bridging visas, according to Department of Home Affairs figures.

By March this year, the share had risen to 34 per cent.


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