Migrants to wait two years for welfare under budget cuts

THOUSANDS of new migrants to Australia will be forced to wait two years to access welfare if they cannot get a job, under a $225 million budget cut revealed this week.

The cut was released in Treasurer Scott Morrison's mid-year budget update, on top of a further $2 billion in savings in the social services portfolio.

Under the changes, newly arrived migrants who get a visa to join their family or spouse will no longer be able to claim an exemption from a two-year "waiting period" to access social services payments applied to some other migrant groups.

The move will save the Turnbull Government up to $225 million over four years from January 2017, funds that budget documents show will go to "repair the budget and fund policy priorities".

If past immigration trends continue, the change could affect more than 30% of all permanent migrants to Australia each year.

The latest statistics showed 61,085 migrants moved to Australia in 2014-15 to join spouses or family members who were either Australian citizens or permanent residents.

That equated to 32% of the total migration pool for the financial year, with the remaining 68% dominated by those who came on skilled migration visas.

Of those migrating under the "family stream" last year, immigration data shows 47,825 were spouses, 4135 were children joining parents and the remainder were classed as "other" migrants.

The mid-year budget update also showed an almost $1 billion blowout in the cost of running the immigration detention network in the past year.

The cut comes amid a wider social services crackdown using data matching to check Centrelink claims against tax office records - a program expected to raise $2 billion over four years.

The government also hopes to raise a further $29 million over four years by expanding "debt recovery" efforts in the Department of Human Services.

Budget papers show that program will focus on "high-value debts" owed to the government by people with the capacity to pay - such as people who have previously received government benefits but are now employed.