Budget 2018-19: Changes to Newly Arrived Residents Waiting period

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Budget 2018-19: Changes to Newly Arrived Residents Waiting period

The Government announced in the 2018 Budget that from 1 July 2018 it proposes to increase the newly arrived residents waiting period to 4 years. This measure was entitled “Encouraging Self-Sufficiency for New Migrants”. The Assurance of Support period applying to some family visas will also increase to 4 years for applications lodged on or after 1 July 2018. The Government estimates a saving of $202 million over the next five years from this measure.

The measure
The Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period describes the period of time in which new migrants, on a relevant permanent or temporary visa, must wait until they are eligible for most social security and family assistance payments. Currently, the NARWP is 2 years, and only applies to some social security payments and concession cards. Some migrant groups are exempted, such as those arriving in Australia on humanitarian visas. (We note that we are awaiting clarification of whether holders of Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) or Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEV) are exempt). There is also an exemption to access to Special Benefit payments for those who experience a substantial change in their circumstances since arriving in Australia and are in financial hardship.

In February 2018, the Minister for Social Services introduced the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Encouraging Self-sufficiency for Newly Arrived Migrants) Bill 2017 (“the Bill”). This Bill, which remains before Parliament, seeks to increase the NARWP to 3 years and extend it to other social security payments (such as carers allowance, bereavement allowance, widow allowance and parenting payment) and to family assistance payments. This Bill is subject to an inquiry by the Senate Community Affairs Committee, which is yet to table their inquiry report. The measures contained in the Bill were estimated to affect approximately 50,000 families for Family Tax Benefit and 30,000 single people for other payments. The measure contained in the Bill was estimated to save $1.3 billion over the next four years.

Although the Bill remains under consideration, this Budget measure seeks to further extend the NARWP to 4 years. The Government expects that the combined measures will impact around 66,000 families and 47,000 individuals.

The NSSRN strongly opposes this measure. In our submission to the recent Senate Community Affairs committee’s inquiry into the Bill currently before Parliament, we summarised our key concerns. We oppose the extension of the existing NARWP, and the introduction of a new waiting period to other social security and family assistance payments, because they:

  • Are based on a flawed assumption that the reason migrants need income support is that they choose not to work.
    • Ignore the evidence that a lack of coordination between Australia’s migration system and employment policies has made it difficult for some migrants to secure ongoing well-paid employment, even where they have qualifications and experience to match skills shortages.
    • Further disadvantage migrants, increasing the inequality between them and the rest of the community and increasing their vulnerability to exploitation.
    • Do not adequately take into account the effect these measures will have on children, or those who require care and assistance to manage day-to-day living.
    • Disadvantage individuals who have already taken steps to migrate to Australia, or those who have indicated a willingness to provide an Assurance of Support.
    • Fail to recognise the lifetime contribution of migrants to Australia’s economy and community.

Our submission on the Bill can be read here. The NSSRN also appeared at the public hearing conducted by the Senate Community Affairs Committee as part of their inquiry. The transcript from our appearance can be accessed here.

Other organisations, such as ACOSS, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA) have also opposed the measure. FECCA has said that this measure would cause “considerable hardship” for migrants.