2021 Federal Budget Overview

Posted on May 12, 2021 by Benson Shi



The Federal Budget 2021-21 is aimed at ‘Securing Australia’s Recovery’ and re-growth following the devastations and informed by the lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic – a more resilient and secure Australia.

The budget announced a deficit of $106.6bnin 2021-22 (5% of the GDP) which is an improvement from the 202021 Budget (improved by 52.7 billion).

The Federal Budget Overview states:

while we are not out of the pandemic, we are better placed than most countries in the world to meet the economic challenges that lie ahead.”

The path to securing Australia’s recovery – creating jobs and guaranteeing essential services – is outlined in the Budget as achievable through:

  • Personal income tax cuts
  • Business tax incentives
  • Expansion of infrastructure
  • Funding for schools, hospitals, aged care, mental health and the NDIS;

The Government is providing $1.5 billion in this Budget to extend a range of health responses, to keep Australians protected alongside the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines

From an Immigration Perspective – a more resilient and secure Australia

In keeping with the main theme of recovery, resilience and security, the 2021-22 Budget focuses on keeping Australians, our borders and our economy safe.

In a Joint Media Release from the Hon Karen Andrews MP (Minister for Home Affairs) and the Hon Alex Hawke MP (Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs), it was provided that:

“A secure Australia, along with a carefully managed migration program, will all support Australia’s economic recovery and ongoing prosperity as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Australia’s immigration framework is structured to effectively respond to Australia’s economic, social and domestic interests and is aimed at ensuring that migration is beneficial for future and current economic and social growth in Australia.

Resultingly, the Budget 2021-22 has upped the ante as a result of COVID-19 effect on our GDP, infrastructure, and economic outlook within the gambit of: migration program, national security, border security, community safety, an social cohesion.

Migration Program

Australia currently has the biggest number of bridging visa holders in history (over 312,000 people) as Australia also faces a backlog of applications, people on departure grounds, and a reshuffling of certain visa categories.

Australia will open its borders next year in a budget plan to bring back migrants and speed up the economic recovery, amid federal government fears that growth cannot be sustained if the borders remained closed and Australia remains isolated from the world.

Going forward the key now is to implement innovative and adaptive responses to promote domestic and global economic, democratic, and social recovery

It is important to note that of 45000 travel exemptions per month:

  • Of 20,000 inward applications – 35% are approved
  • Of 25,000 outward applications inclusive of Australians leaving the country)

70% are approved

ISL has enjoyed an impressive track record in facilitating inward travel exemptions. Most recently A highly renowned construction company sought Immigration Solutions Lawyers assistance to apply for a travel exemption for their highly skilled employees. They were eligible to apply under the category of critical skills and Tthe employees were essential in the completion of a major construction project which required their experience and knowledge to install highly specialised technology:

  • The construction project was valued over AUD100 million
  • ISL carefully prepared the travel exemption (in progress), presenting a strong case for the overseas workers to arrive to work for the large-scaled infrastructure project.
  • ISL submitted a range of essential and detailed documentation including:
  • ISL managed to fast-track the applications lodged in 3 days and got the approval within 7 business days

ISL has also assisted an ASX listed energy company required a civil engineer to enter Australia from Japan for highly specialised work project

  • We applied for a subclass 400 and a travel exemption
  • The visa was granted within 2 days of submission!
  • The travel exemption was granted in a week!


To facilitate a recovered, resilient, and secure Australia, and our immense humanitarian agenda, the 2021-22 Migration Program highlights:

  • Maintained ceiling of 160,000 places

-79,000 skilled stream

-77,300 Family Stream

-“Family and Skilled stream places will be maintained at their 2020-21 planning levels, with a continued focus on onshore visa applicants, including reducing the onshore Partner visa pipeline” (Budget 2021-22)

  • Humanitarian Program – 13,750 places and maintenance of commitment to resettlement

-“The Humanitarian Program will be maintained at 13,750 places in 2021-22 and over the forward estimates, and the size of the program will remain as a ceiling rather than a target.”

  • Increase in flexibility for student visa holders to work beyond 40-hour limit in hospitality and tourism sector

-“The Government will provide further support to employers in the tourism and hospitality sectors to help them find workers, by temporarily allowing student visa holders to work more than 40 hours per fortnight, as long as they are employed in the tourism or hospitality sectors. This measure builds on previous changes, in response to COVID-19, which allowed international students working in critical sectors, such as agriculture, health and aged care, to work more than 40 hours per fortnight. This measure is estimated to result in an unquantifiable increase in receipts over the forward estimates period” (Budget 2021-22)

  • Phased return of international students

-According to Budget Paper No 1, a key assumption in its economic forecast is that international students will only be able to return to the country as part of “small, phased programs” later this year and student numbers will only “gradually increase” from 2022.

  • Flexibility for temporary visa holders working in critical sectors

-“The Government is providing more flexibility for temporary visa holders in order to support Australian farmers to find workers, given the ongoing international border closures imposed to manage the health risks of COVID-19.”

-“From 5 January 2021, work limitation conditions placed on student visa holders have been temporarily lifted to allow these visa holders to work more than 40 hours per fortnight if they are employed in the agriculture sector. This measure builds on changes which were previously provided

for international students working in critical sectors, such as health and the aged care sector.”

-“The Government has removed the requirement for applicants for the Temporary Activity visa (subclass 408) to demonstrate their attempts to depart Australia if they intend to undertake agricultural work. The period in which a temporary visa holder can apply for the Temporary Activity visa has also been extended from 28 days prior to visa expiry to 90 days prior to visa expiry. This measure is estimated to result in a small but unquantifiable increase in the underlying cash balance over the forward estimates period.”

  • Extension of validity period for Sponsored Parent (Temporary) Visas
  • Enhancement of migration litigation and merits review

-Additional funding for AAT

-Additional judge for FCC

  • Strengthening of migrant workers’ protection in line with the Report of the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce
  • Focus on Skilled Migration and Global Talent Visa

-Numbers to remain the same (15,000 places)but focus will now be directed into the -Global Business and Talent Attract Taskforce

-The new, whole-of-government Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce will bring together experts from across the Commonwealth, States and Territories as well as the private sector, as part of the Government’s JobMaker plan.

-Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Services at the time, Alan Tudge, explained:

“Australia has always been an attractive destination for talent and investment, but given our relative success economically, from a health perspective, and socially, we will be even more attractive.

“We want to capitalise on this and be very focussed on attracting key businesses and global super talent to Australia. This will aid our recovery and boost jobs for Australians.”

National Security

Budget allocation validates the enhanced requirement for Australia to capable of identifying and responding to threats (domestic and foreign).

  • $1.3 billion boost to ASIO over 10 years
  • $51.8 million boost to ACIC

Border Security

  • $464.7 million additional funding towards the Immigration Detention Network
  • 7 million to maintain the AFP Airline Liaison Program
  • Additional $38.1 million to continue Regional Cooperation Arrangement in Australia

Community Safety

Modern Slavery’ can generally be defined as when “control over a person is [exercised] in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploitation through the use, management, profit, transfer or disposal of that person”. It includes barbarous practices such as human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, and child exploitation

As part of Australia’s upcoming National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse, the 2021-22 Budget, is effectively attempting to combat child exploitation through the implementation of:

  • 59.9 million to AFP over four years to allow it to further invest in frontline operational activities

-“to further invest in new frontline operational activities to keep our children safe, building on the success of the Government’s investment in the AFP to establish the world-leading Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. This investment builds on the $300.2 million investment in the Australian Federal Police in the 2020-21 Budget” (Joint Statement)

  • $11.9 million over four years to equip intelligence, research and border protection agencies “to disrupt the cash flow behind child sexual abuse; prevent and disrupt child sexual abuse; intercept material and offenders at the border; and, enhance out ability
  • $7.8 million over four years to Indo-Pacific Partners on regional policy responding to child sexual abuse
  • $9.6 million to support cross-border access to data to support the investigation of serious crimes, including child sexual abuse and exploitation

Social Cohesion

  • $29.3 million to support refugee women and other migrant women’s safety, social and economic inclusion – as part of the Women’s Safety Package.


Concluding Remarks

Our new budget is structured to effectively respond to Australia’s economic, democratic, and social interests aimed at ensuring that migration is beneficial for the current and future economic growth in Australia in light of COVID-19. The growing emphasis on skilled migration targeting migrants with specific skills and abilities that support sectors in demand, such as the construction industry and aged care, is indicative of this proactive step forward towards recovery. The Minister’s Special Envoy for Global Talent also indicates Australia’s policy objective to restructure and re-grow our multicultural nation.

We watch with great optimism the allocation of resources and the next fiscal year 2022-23 Budget building upon this year’s responses to build a resilient, secure and recovered Australia. Going forward the key now is to implement these innovative and adaptive responses to promote domestic and global economic, democratic, and social recovery