Monday, 31 July 2017
Media release

Transforming Australia's visa system

The Turnbull Government will undertake a public consultation on transforming Australia’s visa system to simplify it and better align it with Australia’s long-term economic and social priorities.

Australia’s visa system has served us well, but it needs modernising to meet future needs of rising traveller volumes and complex risks at the border. International arrivals and departures are expected to grow from 40 million to 50 million by 2020. Short-term visitors alone will reach nearly 10 million by 2022-23.

Overseas travellers are contributing to our nation’s wealth. For example, foreign students have helped lift education exports to a record $20.3 billion while international tourists have injected $34.2 billion into our economy.

Australia needs a visa system that will better harness the economic and social opportunities of these legitimate travellers and better detect threats before they arrive at the border.

To help inform its consideration of reform options, the Government will consult the public, including stakeholders, on design elements of a new visa system. 

The consultation will consider:

  • the scope for reducing the number of visa types from the current 99 visas to around 10;
  • the delineation between temporary entry and long-term or permanent residence;
  • the role a period of provisional residence could play in enhancing the integrity of the visa system and easing the burden on taxpayers; and
  • options to ensure sufficient flexibility within the reformed visa system to enable Australia to remain a competitive destination for temporary and longer-term visitors.

In parallel, the Government is engaging the private sector on options for a modernised visa service delivery that will improve system accessibility for legitimate travellers. The Government provided over $35 million over two years in this year’s Budget for initial scoping work on service delivery to be undertaken. 

Reform of Australia’s visa system will build on measures to enhance assessments of visa applicants and holders and to support decisions on the grant or revocation of visas, as recommended by the 2015 Joint Commonwealth-New South Wales review of the Martin Place Siege.

The Government has begun strengthening visa risk assessment systems to better detect threats before they arrive at the border, following a $100 million investment in last year’s Budget.

The Government is also investing in new biometric capability to strengthen identity checks, a $59.9 million investment announced in this year’s Budget.

These measures build on the Government’s efforts to restore public confidence in Australia’s immigration programme and border security, after Labor’s ruinous years in office.

The Government has stopped the boats, abolished the 457 visa programme and replaced it with new arrangements that prioritise Australian jobs and strengthened citizenship arrangements.

Reform of the visa system and its delivery to clients will be a complex and time-consuming undertaking. The public consultation will be held over coming months.

Details of the consultation arrangements and a discussion paper can be found at: www.border.gov.au/Trav/visa-reform.

The consultation is the first step in a long-term project. There is no immediate impact on users of Australia’s visa system from today’s announcement.

The findings of the consultation will inform a final package of changes which will be subject to further Government approval.