Minister briefs Indian community on immigration issues

By Neena Badhwar

The Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Alex Hawke, appraised the Indian community on September 20 at the Madison Function Centre, Dural, about the Government’s immigration policy in a Q&A session organised by the Federation of Indian Associations NSW (FIAN).

The Minister gave details about short term temporary visas for parents for which the community has been keenly looking for.

“Now, temporary visas for parents for a period of three years (at $5,000) or five years ($10,000) are available besides the $47,000 per parent contributory visa.

“The government is concentrating on economic, student and online visa reforms ”“ in tourist, business, family migration and trade categories. More security, more border protection besides drug trafficking, illicit foods are some of the challenges the government faces.

“Our migration system is the best. Even President Trump said he would like US to follow the Australian system as we gave high priority to integrity and quality. We continue to set high standards to the management of people.

“Immigration is the most litigated department as it has more than 200 lawyers with legal challenges from refugees, asylum seekers and others. We must get the laws right and their proper implementation is important. We are polishing Visa 457 scheme so that temporary long stay work visas for genuine skilled shortage are in place,” Mr Hawke said.

He also said that citizenship pathways stayed the same and people needed to show evidence of work, integration, right English skills, family values and allegiance to Australia.

The Minister said the migration program allowed 190,000 migrants every year from which two are skilled migrants and one third comprise refugees, parents and asylum seekers.

Mr Hawke clarified that students were allowed to come to Australia to study and that studying was not a pathway to getting visa. “Students can study and then they must go back,” he said.

Questions were invited from the floor, moderated by FIAN President, Dr Yadu Singh.

Dave Passi asked about visitor visas and why people had to wait long when, sometimes, the situation could be urgent – for example – sickness, death or perhaps a family event.

The Minister said that the volume of applications from India was quite high but insisted that online lodgement of visas was a big success. Genuine application and integrity issues delayed things: “If one person   does anything wrong, it makes it difficult for the next applicant. But I must say that tourist visas are going well with India.”

“We want your feedback if you’ve had bad experience,” he said.

Another question was about English Test for Citizenship as older people might not know English.

“We have exempted children under the age of 16 years and people over 60 who do not have to sit for the test. You cannot expect older people to come and learn a language.” He assured it was in the Bill which was before the parliament.

The Minister said that parents could cost up to $400,000 on the health care system. “We are not able to provide for all the people who may want to bring their parents. Young people can have younger parents and the cost can go up a lot.” The Government is trying to work out the health insurance for older people, he said.

Mr Hawke said that the government was regulating migration agents. “Some can charge more but good advice should come at a reasonable price.

“We have quite a robust process on immigration with counter checks and background checks on Visa 457,” he said.

Jagdish Chawla brought to notice the dilemma the temple priests face as they did not comply to Government’s requirement of five years training for priesthood. According to him, Indian priests came from a lineage training, from father to son or are trained by a guru.

Alex Hawke said that the government was trying to understand the cultural traditions and practices in such cases. “Bring those cases to our attention and we will look into them,” he said.

A case from Perth of 450 students whose visas were cancelled due to collapse of a training college was brought to Minister’s notice. “We want to know those dodgy operators, we want to shut down those people,” he said, adding that the Government was trying to improve the VET system, education colleges and TAFE colleges.

Another question was about IELTS exam which costed a lot. People had completed a university degree, yet had to prove that their English language was good all over again with the exam. If you failed in one, you would need to sit in the exam all over again. Everyone clapped because the questioner wanted to know whether it was simply a money-making exercise.

The Minister insisted that, “Currently there is 72 per cent success rate in IELTS exam and the exam is not too hard.”

It was a successful session and the minister patiently answered each and every query. There were some who praised the Minister to have taken time to explain everything.

Delicious food was provided by Ajay’s Maya Da Dhaba.


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