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Further Australian skilled visa changes considered by DIAC

by Lauren 15/06/2009 16:05:00

Further Australian skilled visa changes are on
the horizon.

Are further Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) changes to the Australian skilled visa program on the horizon?  It's already been a busy year, and a recent skilled migration forum with the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) gives the impression that applicants should expect even more Australian skilled visa changes as the year progresses.

Presenting at the forum was Peter Speldewinde, Assistant Secretary for the Labour Market Branch of DIAC, who indicated that changes were being considered in the following areas:

Unfortunately, we don't know anything beyond the fact that the above items are all going to be under consideration. However,  if you're a skilled visa applicant and you're able to lodge sooner rather than later, I'd certainly recommend that you do so.

However, even if you aren't able to lodge your application soon, please don't worry or panic; just be aware that 2009 is likely to see even more Australian skilled visa changes. More news on all these potential changes will be posted as we receive it.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Australia visa information goes live on YouTube, but is it worth a watch?

by Tom 15/06/2009 15:40:00

In their latest initiative, the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) have taken to YouTube with 'ImmiTV'. With this new channel of communication, DIAC now have the perfect means to provide Australia visa information to thousands across the world but the videos they've released so far are of questionable value to the vast majority of Australian visa applicants.

ImmiTV "showcases the work undertaken by staff and highlights events celebrated around Australia". Unfortunately, it's hard to see what information anyone caught in the Australian skilled visa application process could take from the videos already uploaded.

While stories of successful migrants to Australia might provide a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, the videos seem to focus more on the Australian refugee program, as opposed to the skilled migration stream. The videos themselves are well put together, but I can't help but feel that DIAC's efforts would be better served by directly addressing such hot issues as visa processing times and the rise in Australian visa application fees coming on 1 July.

Below is an example of one of the ImmiTV videos, with approx. 20 more videos available on the ImmiTV YouTube channel. Have a look and feel free to tell us what you think, as well as the kind of issues you think DIAC should be focussing on in their online communications.


 
- Tom Blackett is Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

10 days later? The processing time reality of a state sponsored visa for Australia

by Lauren 10/06/2009 19:12:00

Visa processing times continue to confuse
many applicants for an Australia visa.

Processing times continue to dominate the concerns of people on the road to emigrating to Australia, with the changes introduced earlier this year (which we've covered in a previous blog) still causing frustration for thousands stuck in the application process for a skilled visa for Australia.

However, even applicants who have been assigned Priority 1 status are finding difficulties with the new formalities, with the listed '10 day' processing time causing confusion amongst many.

Priority processing and timeframes

To explain, visa applicants are now assigned a level of priority by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) after lodging their application. The order currently stands as follows (listed from highest priority to lowest):

However, even though the above priorities encompass all skilled visa Australia applicants, only Priority 1 and Priority 2 applicants have been given a set length of time in which they should expect their visas to enter processing. The timeframes are as follows:

  • Priority 1) Applicants will enter processing within 10 days of lodging their visa.
  • Priority 2) Applicants will enter processing within 4 months of lodging their visa.
  • Priority 3) Indefinite (Priority 3 applicants will only enter processing after all Priority 1 and 2 applicants have been processed).
  • Priority 4) Indefinite (Priority 4 applicants will only enter processing after all Priority 1, 2 and 3 applicants have been processed).

The '10 day' timeframe given for Priority 1 applicants is confusing, with some incorrectly assuming that 10 days after lodging their state sponsored Skilled Sponsored (subclass 176) visa for Australia application, a DIAC case officer will be in touch to request the police and medical checks for the final stage of the application process. Unfortunately, this is very rarely the case due to the state nomination application process.

State nomination application process

What is the state nomination application process and how does it affect the '10 day' timeframe?

The timeframe is often different due to the state nomination application process that must be completed before a lodged subclass 176 visa can enter processing.

To explain, applicants for a state sponsored Skilled Sponsored (subclass 176) visa can be divided into two types for this purpose; applicants that lodged to DIAC as a subclass 176 from the beginning, and those who lodged a subclass 175 and now want to be considered for a subclass 176 visa. 

We've found that the first type (i.e. applicants who have been preparing to lodge a subclass 176 visa application from the very start of the process) will typically not be subject to a significant delay in having their visas enter processing because they will have already completed the state nomination application process and had the relevant form (i.e. Form 1100) submitted to DIAC before they even lodged their visa application.  For these applicants, it should typically take approx. 3 to 4 weeks from lodging their application to be allocated a case officer and enter processing, but we have seen it sometimes take longer.

However, as the second type (i.e. applicants who 'switched' to a subclass 176 application later in the process) had NOT already lodged the state nomination application when they lodged their application to DIAC, there are a number of things that have to happen for these applications to be considered eligible under subclass 176 and for processing by DIAC to continue.

As previously reported, the timeframes in which the states are deliberating has increased, with some (such as Western Australian) taking in excess of 3 months to decide if they wish to approve your state nomination application.

However, after the state has sent you notification that they are willing to sponsor you, there are still a number of other administrative tasks that need to be completed. In order for DIAC to begin or continue processing an application under subclass 176, they will have to wait for all the necessary steps following a successful state nomination to be completed.  

What are the necessary steps and how long should it take for them to be completed?

The steps involved depend somewhat on the state, but there is generally the requirement that a document/declaration be completed by the applicant which indicates that the applicant agrees to certain requirements of the sponsorship (i.e. that they will reside in the sponsoring state for 2 years, that they will transfer a certain amount of money to Australia, that they will participate in settlement surveys conducted by the state following their migration etc.)

Along with this agreement, the applicant (or agent) also needs to provide their DIAC file reference number to the sponsoring state. Only once the state has both this file reference number and an indication that the applicant agrees to the terms of the sponsorship will the state complete a Form 1100 and forward it directly to DIAC.

This is quite a bit of paperwork, and means there are a number of places where there could be delays faced or a clerical error that holds the whole process up.

How do the states differ in processing a state nomination application?

Each state has different rules when it comes to processing a state nomination application. For example, the South Australian government have proactively reacted to their new workload and they are now asking the client  to record the required information in an online portal, which they can then push through to DIAC, making the management of the situation easier and shortening the chain of events, and the time in which it takes for it to be done.

However, some other states still have a more cumbersome process that requires the declaration to be sent to the client, the signed declaration to be sent from the client to the state, the state to complete the Form 1100, and the completed Form 1100 to be sent from the state to DIAC.

These steps can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or months depending on the workload, and as an acknowledgement is not given when a state forwards an applicant's details to DIAC, it is still somewhat shrouded in mystery.

Once DIAC receives the state nomination, can I assume I will be entered into processing within 10 days?

Once DIAC receives a state nomination, they need to record the fact a nomination has been approved on their system, which is another part of the process that takes time, is not mentioned often and is somewhat hidden from the eyes of applicants and/or their migration agents. Recent correspondence with DIAC has revealed the following information:

"If you have obtained state or territory sponsorship your visa application will be processed as a priority. However it  can take up to 2 months from the time sponsorship is approved until it is registered on our system. Once registered on our system your application will be allocated to a case officer for assessment and once conducted they will make contact if they require additional information or documentation."

Essentially, this means that there will be even more of a wait once sponsorship has been approved due to the many layers of administration.  Even once you have been allocated a case officer, it could take a number of weeks from them to contact you, depending on the case officer's individual workload.  For example, we have some clients who were allocated a case officer some months ago, but are still waiting for any sign of progress on their visa.

Is there any way that this can be done quicker?

The best thing to do is give the DIAC case officers and the state a grace period of a few weeks before contacting them. Please understand that DIAC and the states' workloads have been increased hugely in recent months, and having to deal with queries will only lengthen the process for everyone.

As I said before, this is one part of the application process that is largely hidden from the eyes of applicants and migration agents. As it is entirely in the hands of the state and DIAC, there's very little transparency into exactly how long each step takes in any individual case, making it hard for 'outsiders' to determine whether an application is still progressing as it should or if there has been a 'break in the chain' along the way.

Therefore, the balance should always be to give the states and DIAC time to carry out what they need to BUT ensuring that you (or your agent) follow it up within a reasonable period of time, just in case something fell down along the way and you are waiting patiently for something that will never come because of an error or omission.

It's frustrating for us and our clients, but as we've seen before, there really are no fixed timeframes when it comes to the Australian migration process and all that you can do is keep abreast of the changes, read materials you are sent thoroughly, and ask questions where you need to.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau

 

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Unravelling state sponsorship: What are the real costs of migrating on an Australian skilled sponsored visa?

by Lauren 08/06/2009 16:00:00

We've blogged previously on the changes to Australian skilled migration and specifically how the Skilled Regional Sponsored visa (subclass 475) and the Skilled Sponsored visa (subclass 176) have become a more attractive proposition to potential migrants, due to these state sponsored visa subclasses receiving 'Priority 1'  visa processing status.

However, we've not really touched on the criteria of the state sponsorship lists, or the all-important question of what financial demands an Australian State or Territory will ask an applicant to meet before they are deemed eligible for sponsorship.

To put it briefly, some states have clear and interpretable rules, and others do not. As a result, this often makes it difficult to anticipate exactly what funds an applicant must hold for them to receive sponsorship by a specific state.

For example, South Australia, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have clear financial criteria for an applicant and their dependants, stating exactly what the financial requirements are for the primary applicant and any dependants they might have.

Other states’ financial criteria are vaguer, with both Western Australia and Queensland asking just that applicants hold "sufficient funds" to settle in the state. Victoria takes this even further and doesn't specify any financial criteria, giving the applicant absolutely no indication as to what requirements might be made. 

This comes in stark contrast to most other aspects of the Australian migration process, which are tightly legislated and bound by regulations that are supported by (mostly) clear policy. That's not to say that lodging an Australian visa is a clear-cut process, but the answers to most questions regarding visa policy can generally be found if you know where to look. 

This issue becomes especially pertinent as the state sponsored skilled visa subclasses are becoming increasingly favoured by Australian visa applicants due to other subclasses such as the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 175), family sponsored Skilled Sponsored visa (subclass 176) and family sponsored Skilled Regional Sponsored (subclass 475) visa subclasses currently taking an indefinite time to process (unless the applicant is listed on the Critical Skills List).

Without all states making a more transparent explanation of all sponsorship criteria available, it makes it very difficult for skilled sponsored visa applicants to fully assess their chances of success from the very beginning of the process, even as more and more applicants are forced to take this pathway.

As a migration consultancy that is registered with the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA), we are obliged to outline the risks and likelihood of success as best we can before taking on a client. Thankfully, our years of experience in successfully lodging state sponsored visas means we have some hands-on experience with each state's specific requirements, but not every agency or applicant will have the same resources to understand the almost hidden financial criteria that can come with applying for sponsorship.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Australian visa application charges set to rise by 20 per cent

by Tony 04/06/2009 14:36:00

One of the changes announced in the Australian Government’s 2009/2010 budget statements is that the Government will increase a number of Australian visa application charges by 20 per cent.

Changes in visa application charges are not unusual; these charges are reviewed by the Australian Government on July 1 every year in order to include the increase by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  This typically results in skilled Australian visa application charges increasing by between AU$40 to AU$60 on an annual basis in recent years.

However, due to the global financial crisis and a change in economic circumstances they have now made the announcement that a number of visa application charges will instead see a 20 per cent increase. While there has been no confirmation from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) as to exactly which visa classes will be affected, we are predicting that the increase will apply to the skilled visa application charges.

A 20 per cent increase would result in the skilled visa application fee going from AU$2,105 to approx. AU$2,525; a substantial amount more than the typical price increase, should it take effect.

A concrete decision as to which visa application charges the price increase will apply to should be expected from the government shortly, but until we have more information, we are going to be advising all our clients to lodge and pay for their visa application BEFORE July 1, 2009 (if possible).

- Tony Coates is a Migration Caseworker for the Australian Visa Bureau

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.