BERIA (British Ex-Pat Retirees In Australia) has launched an important campaign to call upon the Federal Government to enable temporary retirement (subclass 410) visa holders who have lived in Australia for ten years or more the right to become Permanent Residents and Citizens.

Currently, holders of Retirement Visas (subclass 410) are not eligible to become permanent residents however long they have lived in Australia (and 100 of them have lived here for over 20 years). The visa was withdrawn to new applicants in 2005, and currently only about 3,000 via holders live in Australia. Of these about 2,000 are fighting for the right to apply for Permanent Resident visas.

David Humphries, Policy Adviser for BERIA, a voluntary organisation which represents over 50% of retirement visa holders in Australia has announced that BERIA is mounting a direct campaign and petition asking that the Government allow retirement visa holders who have lived in Australia for at least 10 years to apply for permanent residency.  'We believe that that this is a reasonable request,' he said, ‘and totally in keeping with the spirit of the Australian notion of  'a fair go'.’

BERIA has been in communication with past and present governments, and all political parties, over the past eight years.  In 2008 the Labor Government Minister of Immigration, Senator Chris Evans, made an unequivocal statement in the Senate that ‘people who have sought to settle and remain in Australia ought to have a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship’.  Also in 2008 the Coalition Shadow Minister of Immigration, Senator Chris Ellison, introduced a successful Senate motion calling on the Government to enable temporary retirement 410 visa holders to apply for permanent residency.

Mr Humphries confirmed that ‘All political parties have indicated their verbal support, and successive governments have made enhancements to some of the visa’s conditions, but we’re no nearer achieving permanent residency than we were eight years ago.  Politicians have been willing to give words of support, but unwilling to take action.’

The retirement visa was introduced as a temporary visa, but the 2,000 or so visa holders now living in Australia and calling for permanent residence are self-funded retirees who have made the country their home, and want to spend the rest of their lives here.

The main argument against permanent residency is the cost of health care to which visa holders are not currently eligible.  However, the Government has never balanced this cost against the additional tax benefits to Australia that permanent residency will bring. Currently retirement visa holders, like all temporary residents, do not pay Australian income tax on their overseas sourced incomes. As permanent residents they would pay Australian income tax on all their income and thereby increase Australian tax revenue. Nor has the Government considered the economic impact of the overseas-sourced funds still to be introduced into Australia by retirees over what remains of their lifetime.

Mr Humphries stressed that retirement visa holders see Australia as their home, and contribute hugely to their families and local communities, but are an ageing group.  ‘We’re all over 64 years of age, with many now well into their 80s and 90s.  People of this age deserve the security and peace of mind of permanent visas, not the worry and uncertainty of temporary visas.’  

‘We believe, and our Australian friends and neighbours overwhelmingly agree, that surely ten years living in, and committed to, Australia should qualify temporary retirement visa holders for permanent residency.’ 

He urged everyone who agrees to visit the BERIA petition website and sign the petition:

Source: BERIA Media Release