Most migrants on bridging visas aren’t ‘scammers’, they’re well within their rights
The following opinion piece, co-authored by Dr Shanthi Robertson from the Institute for Culture and Society was first published with full links on The Conversation(opens in a new window).
Perhaps the primary reason for the so-called “blowout” in bridging visas – as quoted in an ABC article – is simply because more legitimate applications for skilled and family migration are now made in Australia and waiting times for visa processing have increased.
Compare permanent partner visas in 2009-10 and 2017-18. There were about 53,000 applicants for partner visas in 2009-10. And there were 27,000 people waiting in the queue in June 2010.
Eight years later, there were 54,000 applicants for partner visas, but with fewer places available (39,800) and more than 80,000 people waiting in the queue.
This means if you applied for a partner visa in June 2010, you were looking at about a six to eight month wait. And by June 2018, this had become around a two-year wait.
A consequence of under-resourcing in the Department of Home Affairs is that the time migrants spend living on bridging visas is increasing as the time taken to process a visa application grows. What’s more, waiting times for sponsored skilled work visas like the Employer Nomination Scheme can take up to 19 months.
Barriers to economic and social inclusion
These long waits create significant barriers to the economic and social inclusion of these migrants.
One of the most significant issues is the stigma around bridging visas in the employment market. Although many of these migrants have in-demand skills, local work experience, and the strong desire to work, many Australian employers refuse to hire workers on bridging visas, leading to deskilling, exploitation and financial stress.
Long waits on bridging visas can create specific vulnerabilities for women on partner visas, making them highly dependent on their partners, and often unable to access adequate support in situations of domestic abuse.
In research conducted on the experiences of migrants on the “staggered pathway” from temporariness to permanence, migrants report being denied mobile phone contracts, personal loans or rental accommodation because of their bridging visas.
Travel restrictions placed on some bridging visas also prevent migrants from travelling home to care for family members or attend family events.
Transparent and faster processing would mitigate many of the issues with bridging visas, whether for those exploiting the system or for those legitimate migrants stuck in the indefinite wait.
Minimising time spent on bridging visas means onshore migrants can participate fully in both the economy and the community.
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