Pacific Engagement Visa program – legislation passed through Senate

The Albanese government has passed legislation allowing up to 3,000 individuals each year from Pacific nations to settle permanently in Australia via the Pacific Engagement Visa program. A landmark decision considering this is the first pathway for Pacific Island nationals into our permanent migration program. While the intended start date
of the 1 st July 2023 has been missed, Labour recently secured the numbers required to pass the legislation in the Senate. The program intends to recognize the need to regional cooperation to execute the program and
importance of strategic visa allocations to neighboring pacific countries in the face of intense geostrategic
competition.


Significant progress was made regarding the critical details of the visa early this year, however contentions
surrounding the delivery of the program and balloting process were put forth in the Senate inquiry, with
submissions being put forth on behalf of representatives of Australian businesses, farmers and Pacific diaspora.


Among the requests was a push for a clearer and more certain pathway to permanent residency for Pacific Island nationals.


The Albanese government has vowed to open the program in the first half of next year, enabling visa holders to settle in the latter half of 2024. Applicants will be randomly selected via ballot system, after which they would need to demonstrate they satisfy visa criteria.


Eligible countries may Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The proposed criteria for primary applicants of the visa is as follows:


 Aged between 18 to 45 for entry
 Selection through the ballot process
 Primary applicant or spouse securing a formal on-going job offer in Australia
 Meet English language, character and health checks
 Passport holder of a participating country
 Born in or have a parent born in a participating country
The program is critical to promoting solidarity and pacific engagement within our region, by enabling a pathway to permanent residence to our neighbors within limited permanent migration opportunities to Australia or developed nations.

The program is expected to include measures to aid settlement such as program outreach, access to Australia’s health care, public schools and a mechanism to connect successful applicants of varying skill levels with employers
in Australia.
Visa legislation has passed through the House with minor amendments, thereby is expected to be enacted into legislation. Further information will be released once announcements are made.

Source:
https://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/pacific/people-connections/people-connections-in-the-pacific/pacific-engagement-
visa

Written by Ross Ahmadzai

17 Nov, 2023

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