Blog

Will the Migration Act’s treatment of disability continue to hold the Australian economy back?

Dominic Cookman

28 Aug 2019

Topics

  • Migration

Highly qualified people from around the world who are considering applying for a permanent visa often consult us due to our expertise in this area. Many of our clients have a disability or children with disabilities. In this article Dominic Cookman outlines some of the barriers families face when wanting to migrate to Australia if one of the family members has a disability, and how this has a negative impact on Australian society and Australia’s economy.

Public interest criteria

Australia’s migration law has a complicated relationship with disability. Every applicant for an Australian permanent residency visa must satisfy a number of ‘public interest criteria’ (PIC) covering (among other things) criminal history and national security considerations. There are also health criteria that must be satisfied by both the applicant and any family members migrating with them.

PIC 4005 and 4007 stipulate that the visa applicants must be free from a disease or condition in relation to which the provision of healthcare or community services would be likely to:

  • result in a significant cost to the Australian community in the areas of health care and community services, or
  • prejudice the access of an Australian citizen or permanent resident to health care or community services.

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) currently implements a policy that deems ‘significant cost’ to be $49,000 throughout the visa applicant’s stay in Australia (the length of their visa). The cost for permanent visa applicants is assessed over a five-year period.

A visa applicant whose projected care costs exceed this amount can be refused a visa on the grounds of failing to meet the PIC, unless they are able to obtain a waiver (in PIC 4007). Moreover, this cost ceiling applies regardless of whether the healthcare or community services will be used by the applicant.

Only visas that have PIC 4007 (as opposed to PIC 4005) attached to them allow for a waiver. Two of the main subclasses of visa that underpin Australia’s skilled migration system – subclass 189 and subclass 190do not have PIC 4007 attached to them, meaning applicants cannot apply for a health waiver.

Effect of this policy

Our Migration team frequently sees the effect of this policy on Australia’s ability to compete for talent in the global labour marketplace. For applicants who are not already in Australia, the only option is to find an Australian employer prepared to sponsor them for a subclass 482 visa (the temporary skills visa), which is not necessarily easy.

Therefore, highly skilled, accomplished professionals, who happen to have disabled children, are frequently discouraged from even applying for an Australian visa out of a fear (which is entirely reasonable) that the health criteria may not be met.

Many of these prospective migrants would be fine additions to Australian society, whose accumulated professional skills are complemented by heroic lifelong dedication to the welfare of their children. The truth is that much of the costs of caring for their children are in fact borne by the prospective migrants themselves, and the residual cost to the health and welfare system would be largely defrayed by their professional contributions to the Australian economy and society.

Extending the availability of the PIC 4007 waiver to the subclass 189 and 190 visas would not only give deserving and dedicated families a fair chance at a life in Australia, but would contribute to Australia continuing to attract and retain the best global talent. It’s appropriate that the Australian government considers taking this much needed policy step.

How can we help?

If you would like to find out more about Australia’s migration laws and how they might affect you, you can contact our Migration team on 02 6285 8000 or by email.