The Migration Amendment (Streamlining Visa Processing) Bill 2019 (Cth) (the “Bill”) is currently being considered by the Commonwealth Parliament. On 11 September 2019, the Bill passed the House of Representatives and was introduced to the Senate later on the same day. The Bill is sponsored by Mr David Coleman (Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs) and proposes to amend the Migration Act 1959 (Cth) (the “Act”).
An earlier version of the Bill was introduced in the previous session of Parliament, but lapsed on the dissolution of Parliament before the Federal Election.
As outlined in the Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum (“EM”), the amendments to the Act will “enable the Minister to specify groups of visa applicants who are required to provide one or more personal identifiers to make a valid application.”
Under the Act, biometrics are referred to as “personal identifiers” and includes individual physical characteristics, such as a facial image or a set of fingerprints, which can be digitised into a biometric template for automated storage and checking. The Bill's Explanatory Memorandum says that:
"Once ‘anchored‘ to a person’s biographic information, such as name, nationality and date of birth, a biometric adds significantly to verifying that a person is who they claim to be, and to linking an individual to security, law enforcement, and immigration information."
The amendments will provide a mechanism for the Minister to specify a group of visa applicants who must provide one or more specified personal identifiers in order to make a valid visa application.
The Bill's Explanatory Memorandum reveals that the Government believes there need to be changes to the current legislative framework in order to provide Departmental officers with "the tools to more effectively meet current threats" and to "keep pace with advances in biometric technology". It says:
If passed, the amendments will allow the Federal Government to take advantage of these information holdings and overcome difficulties in requesting and obtaining personal identifiers from non-citizens, by requiring personal identifiers to be provided up front in the visa application process. These identifiers are more accurate than document-based checks of biographic details, such as name, date of birth and nationality. Obtaining personal identifiers in the application process promotes early detection and assessment of critical information.
It is noted that amendments to the Act are not designed to require all visa applicants to provide personal identifiers in order to make a valid visa application.
In his second reading speech to the House of Representatives, the Minister said:
A report tabled in February 2019 by thewho considered the earlier version of the Bill, noted that the Law Council of Australia questioned:
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Migration Amendment (Streamlining Visa Processing) Bill 2019 (Cth) - Bill, Explanatory Memorandum and second reading speeches available from TimeBase's LawOne Service
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