On 11 May 2021, Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handed down his third Federal Budget in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra. In this new budget, new migrants will be forced to wait four years before accessing most government welfare payments under a significant cost-cutting measure. Previously, the duration of the waiting period to receive welfare payments depended on a migrant’s situation and visa type, but the new measure brings most government subsidies and visa classes in line with the current four-year wait to access JobSeeker, Austudy, and youth allowance payments. Prior to the new changes, permanent migrants were able to immediately access the Family Tax Benefit B and some visa classes were exempt from wait periods. Also, a number of payments previously had shorter two-year wait times for migrants, including the carer payment, dad and partner pay, parental leave pay, and Family Tax Benefit A.
What this means:
From 1 January 2022, this measure will:
- increase the Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period (NARWP) for Carer Payment, Parental Leave Pay and Dad and Partner Pay from 104 weeks to 208 weeks.
- increase the NARWP for Carer Allowance and Family Tax Benefit Part A from 52 weeks to 208 weeks.
- introduce a 208-week NARWP for Family Tax Benefit Part B.
- remove the qualifying residence period for Parenting Payment.
The measure will also ensure the previous NARWP changes implemented from 1 January 2019 are applied consistently to concession cards. The NARWP will increase for:
- 309 and 820 visa holders claiming a Low-Income Health Care Card, changing from 104 weeks to 208 weeks.
- Special Category Visa holders claiming a Low-Income Health Care Card or Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, changing from 104 weeks to 208 weeks.
This measure is subject to the passage of legislation.
What is the waiting period?
The waiting period consists of time spent in Australia as an Australian resident. This means, if you travel overseas, the time you are away from Australia won’t count towards the waiting period.
Who does this measure affect?
This affects people who meet both the following criteria:
- They are claiming some payments and concession cards.
- They are granted a relevant permanent or temporary visa on or after 1 January 2022.
The changes will not apply to migrants who are granted a permanent residency or a relevant temporary visa prior to 1 January 2022.
When will this start and finish?
This measure starts on 1 January 2022 and is ongoing.
A cost saving measure?
According to the Australian Government, this change further encourages self-sufficiency for newly arrived residents, and improves the sustainability of our welfare system. This measure will improve the future sustainability of our welfare system and provides savings of $671.7 million over the forward estimates.
The government is expecting to save $671 million over five years by making the newly arrived residents wait four years to access most welfare payments. The Australian Council of Social Service has flagged this change as “very concerning”. The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) reported that the new changes “seems like a blatant money grab from people who can’t vote.”
Migration cap – Budget 2021-22
The budget also imposes a cap on migration. The budget is based on a key assumption that the migration rate is to fall from around 194,000 persons in 2019-20 to a loss of 97,000 people by the end of 2021-21. It will also incur a loss of 77,000 in 2021-22. Despite the predicted second year of negative net overseas migration, the migration program for the next financial year is capped at 160,000. The government also reiterated their plans to focus on onshore visa applications, without changing the number of places available in the family, skill, or humanitarian streams. It was also revealed that permanent and temporary migration is assumed to gradually restart halfway through 2022.