Plans to introduce mandatory provisional visas before permanent residency in Australia

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NSW Urban development
A building (C) owned by Morgan Stanley's Australian real estate unit Investa Property Group can be seen in central Sydney, Australia, July 28, 2015. Reuters/David Gray

The Australian government is discussing plans to introduce mandatory provisional visas. This means migrants coming here may need to spend a certain period of time before they will be granted permanent residency.

The Immigration Department is allegedly considering this possibility in a visa transformation discussion paper that invites submissions from the public. One of the questions that the discussion paper is looking into is: “Should a prospective migrant spend a period of time in Australia before becoming eligible for permanent residence?” Other factors to consider are being asked as well.

The number of persons in the country applying for permanent residence has grown over the past two decades. “In 2015-16, around half of all permanent visas were granted to people already in Australia on a temporary visa,” the discussion paper reads. It implies that temporary residence is increasingly becoming the initial step to live in Australia permanently.

Last year, reports surfaced that the federal government will discuss this move. A “sensitive” and “protected” note was reportedly brought before the cabinet this year.

A probationary period for permanent migrants is expected to result to budget savings. However, there are concerns that it could lead to a divide in the Australian society.

The Social Services Department said the proposed reforms could undermine Australia's social cohesion. They may also increase the risk factors that may lead to violent extremism by creating a two-tier society where migrants are treated differently, the department said in a note, according to SBS.

In other news, the Fair Work Ombudsman is investigating some cases of alleged exploitation of foreign workers on a relatively lesser known work visa. It sparked concerns over unscrupulous employers exploiting the visa following the announcement from the federal government that it was scrapping 457 visa due to similar concerns.

The Department of Immigration has stated that the visa is for short-term and non-ongoing work. It can be availed for highly specialised skills that cannot be found here.

But some experts warned that the visa was being used to fill semi-skilled positions. In 2016-17, 46,000 subclass 400 visas were granted.

Migration agent Yatharth Bharadwaj said the 400 visa is used mainly by huge businesses to sponsor foreign workers, SBS reports. Bharadwaj added that smaller businesses do not use it often because they attract tougher scrutiny. Earlier this year, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that this government was going to scrap 457 visas to prioritise jobs for Aussies.

ABC News (Australia)/YouTube