Despite being the largest visa subclass in Australia’s skilled migration program, obtaining a Subclass 189 Skilled Independent Visa is becoming increasingly difficult. Recent amendments to Australia’s migration scheme have not only seen stricter occupation and points requirements for the visa, but also further restrictions on the already limited number of invitations available.
Over the last 6 months, the number of invitations issued for subclass 189 visa applications has declined drastically. Department of Home Affairs statistics reveal that in the current program year (July 2017 – May 2018) only 14,700 subclass 189 invitations have been issued.
In contrast, this time last year, 28,461 subclass 189 invitations had been issued for the same period (July 2016 to May 2017). In 2016 and 2017, approximately 2500 invitations were issued per month. Now in 2018, this figure has dropped to only 600 invitations per month.
The Department of Home Affairs has now revealed the reason for this sudden and unannounced drop in invitations issued.
In July 2017 the Australian Government introduced a new pathway for New Zealanders already living in Australia to obtain permanent residence and subsequently citizenship in Australia. This new visa was established as a new ‘New Zealand’ stream to the existing subclass 189 visa.
Providing a relatively easy and simple pathway to permanent residency for numerous New Zealanders, the first eight months since its introduction saw the Department of Home Affairs receive over 9,000 applications for the new visa stream. In February 2018, approximately 1,500 of those visas had already been granted.
It has now been revealed that the visas granted under this new New Zealand visa stream will be included in the larger skilled migration program ceiling of 44,000 places annually. Therefore, a significant portion of the skilled migration program, which has been previously aimed at skilled offshore migrants, will now be taken by New Zealanders already living and working in Australia.
This has the effect of cutting Australia’s net overseas migration numbers without the need for any formal change to Australia’s permanent migration program and will have an ongoing impact in the coming years.