Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs)
The TPV is a class of visa that was introduced in Australia by the Howard Government in October 1999 and abolished by the Rudd Government in August 2008. Under the Howard Government’s TPV regime, the type of visa granted depended upon how the person had entered Australia. Those who had arrived in Australia with a visa – typically by plane – were eligible for a permanent Protection Visa (PV), allowing them to live permanently in Australia. However, those who had arrived in Australia without a visa – typically by boat – were eligible only for a TPV. The TPV was valid for three years, after which the person holding the TPV was required to re-apply for protection to remain in Australia.
Initially, the policy allowed TPV recipients to apply for a permanent PV at the point of reapplication. However, amendments to the TPV regime in 2001 made this much more difficult. If a person holding a TPV had spent seven days or more in a country where they could have sought and obtained protection en route to Australia, they were not eligible for a PV and could only apply for another TPV. This was known as the ‘seven day rule’. This meant that most refugees who arrived by boat would remain indefinitely on a TPV.
Under the Howard Government’s policy, refugees on TPVs were granted work rights but denied other rights that were available to refugees on permanent PVs, including the right to family reunion and the right to re-enter the country if they decided to leave Australia. They were also denied a range of services available to refugees on permanent PVs, including community support programs and English language tuition.
Approximately 11,000 TPVs were issued between 1999 and 2007, and approximately 90 per cent of TPV holders eventually gained permanent visas.
On 5 December 2014, the Abbott Government passed the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Act 2014. Under this scheme, TPVs can be granted for up to three years, and holders are entitled to work. However there is no right to family reunification.
Temporary Humanitarian Concern visas (THCVs)
Two other types of temporary visas are the Temporary Safe Haven Visa (Class UJ) and the Temporary (Humanitarian Concern) Visa (Class UO). The Safe Haven Visa was originally created in 1999 to provide temporary refuge to people from Kosovo, and includes a sub-class of visa, the Humanitarian Stay (Temporary) Visa (sub-class 449), which was created to provide temporary refuge to people from East Timor. The Temporary (Humanitarian Concern) Visa was originally created in 2000 for people who held the ‘Safe Haven’ Visa and who needed to extend their stay in Australia for further medical treatment or counselling. This visa cannot be applied for directly. Rather, an eligible person must first be invited to accept the Safe Haven Visa which will then allow the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to grant them a Temporary (Humanitarian Concern) Visa.
Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs)
The creation of a new Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) was announced on 25 September 2014. Under the scheme, TPV holders have the opportunity to transition to a five-year SHEV if they agree to move to a regional area (to be defined in the Regulations), and engage in study at an approved institution (to be defined in the Regulations), or undertake work that means they are not reliant on income support for more than 18 months in the five-year period.
What are SHEV pathways?
At the end of the five years, SHEV holders will be eligible to reapply for another SHEV or TPV. Applications will be assessed based on the applicant’s ongoing need for protection.
SHEV holders who, for at least 42 months of the five years, have engaged in regional employment without depending on social security benefits or have engaged in full-time study in regional Australia or both, will be eligible to apply for standard onshore migration visas that may give rise to permanent residence. Applicants may apply to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection as soon as they have satisfied the requirements. They do not need to wait for their SHEV to expire.
New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland have indicated their support for this scheme. Statements by former Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, suggest that the SHEV is not intended as a long term residency solution for most. The Minister stated that the threshold for applying for a migration visa will be very high, and, of those who wish to apply for one, said: ‘Good luck to them if they choose to do that and if they achieve it’.
Furthermore, there are concerns that SHEV will not be a viable option for refugees with physical or mental disabilities, or who are unable to work, such as young adults or those who arrived in Australia as unaccompanied minors. Regional farming groups have also noted that seasonal farm work may not necessarily guarantee employment for SHEV holders.