Bridging visa numbers soar as background checks get tougher

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said yesterday there had been much greater scrutiny of applications. The number of temporary foreign residents on bridging visas has soared by 45 percent in the past nine months as the Department of Home Affairs strengthens checks on applicants, particularly from China and India.

Malcolm Turnbull yesterday defended a 20,000 cut in the number of permanent migrants over the past year, saying it reflected tougher scrutiny of prospective migrants. The Prime Minister said the 163,000 permanent residency visas last year was the lowest in a decade, despite record demand from foreigners to come here. “We had more applications than ever, so how did we achieve that? By being absolutely more fastidious and more scrupulous in ensuring everyone who comes here is needed and is somebody we want, and that’s the goal.” Mr. Turnbull said the government saw the immigration program as a “recruiting” exercise. “We want to recruit the best and brightest but we should not take one more person into Australia as an immigrant other than those that we need or want.”

Department of Home Affairs data shows record numbers of prospective migrants were on bridging visas while their cases were being considered. A department spokeswoman said a bridging visa enabled a person to remain lawfully in Australia while their application for a skilled, family or protection visa was being processed. The number of people on bridging visas is a measure of the gap between the demand for visas (of all sorts) for foreigners already resident in Australia and the department’s supply.

Department figures show the numbers on bridging visas jumped from 137,400 to 194,900 in the nine months to March.
Although the slowdown has hit applicants from all countries, applicants from China and India have been most affected. The number of Chinese on bridging visas while their cases are assessed has doubled in the past nine months from 14,100 to 29,200, while the number of Indians on bridging visas has soared from 16,700 to 28,200.
University of Melbourne demographer Peter McDonald said the growing scrutiny of visa applications, including checks for terrorist links, was resulting in a slowing of the rate at which they were being granted. Growth in foreign student numbers was lifting demand for permanent residency applications.

As well as tighter scrutiny, the growth in bridging visas reflects changes to the government’s migration program, particularly the decision to axe the 457 visa program and replace it with a temporary skill shortage visa.
The department estimates the number of people on bridging visas at June 30 would be below the level at the end of March at 176,000, but still 30 percent ahead of last year.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said yesterday there had been much greater scrutiny of applications.
“We’re worried about issues around fraud, worried people (were) claiming qualifications for a particular job when they didn’t, and we’ve really cut back now.”