The current timeframes for reopening Australia’s borders remain unknown, due to the need to reach specified COVID-19 vaccination levels. As a result, there is ongoing uncertainty about a return to ‘business as usual’ for many industries and the economy as a whole. Despite the brake on economic growth caused by a reduction in our immigration program, Australia has an opportunity to boost the supply of migrant workers in key areas of labour demand through providing residency pathways for temporary protection visa holders. Nearly 20,000 people currently living in the community on Temporary Protection visas (TPVs) and Safe Haven Enterprise visas (SHEVs) aspire to settle in Australia and make lifetime contributions to our society and economy.
Around 90% of TPV and SHEV holders are at peak earning ages (under 45), have functional English skills, and many have years of sought-after work experience as chefs, personal carers, construction workers, carpenters, builders and plumbers. However, temporary visa status prevents TPV and SHEV holders from buying their own homes, investing in their businesses and settling in Australian communities. Temporary visa holders are also ineligible to reunite with their families by bringing them to Australia so they need to send significant remittances to their families living overseas, which constitutes a financial loss to the Australian economy.
Permanency would lead to better labour market outcomes for TPV and SHEV holders and incentivise domestic consumption and investment. Transitioning to permanent residency will deliver long-term economic returns on investment by enabling migrants to upgrade their skills, sustain and grow their own businesses, employ other workers, and integrate into their local communities.
The Australian Government can achieve this through allowing TPV and SHEV holders to access a simplified residency pathway through amending the existing Skilled Independent (Subclass 189) visa to create a stream for TPV and SHEV holders.