Australian PR status for thousands on temporary visas

CANBERRA, 13 Feb 2023:

Australia today announced that it would allow more than 19,000 refugees who were on a temporary protection visa to apply for permanent residency in the country.

The measure, which will enter into force in March, will benefit thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia and Myanmar who entered the country before 2013 – when Australia launched Operation Sovereign Borders, aimed at controlling refugee arrivals by sea and stopping illegal immigration, the ministries of home affairs and immigration said in a joint statement.

The move will apply to the holders of the two types of temporary visas that Australia grants to those who tried to arrive illegally in the country by sea – called Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEV), and who until now lived “in limbo” in fear of being expelled.

“TPV and SHEV holders work, pay taxes, start businesses, employ Australians and build lives in our communities- often in rural and regional areas, immigration minister Andrew Giles said in the statement.

“Without permanent visas however, they’ve been unable to get a loan to buy a house, build their businesses or pursue further education.”

With the new measure, refugees will enjoy the same rights as permanent residents in Australia – which include social security payments and higher education loans, and be able to apply for Australian citizenship in the future.

The Australian government also announced it will allocate A$9.4 million to provide assistance in the visa application process over two years.

The measure was welcomed by refugee and human rights organisations, which described it as “historic.”

“Today’s announcement from immigration minister Andrew Giles is a historic moment, righting almost a decade of an inhumane policy which achieved nothing but untold harm and trauma to people who sought protection in Australia,” Refugee Council of Australia chief executive officer Paul Power said in a statement.

With this decision, the Labor government of Anthony Albanese fulfilled one of the electoral promises it made before coming to power after winning the May 2022 elections, although it said that measure would only apply to those who entered the country before the implementation of Operation Sovereign Borders.