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Australian visa capping: Our response

by Tom 21/06/2010 09:56:00

The Visa Capping Bill could allow
DIAC to cap and terminate any
visa application at any time.
 

A hot topic of discussion amongst Australian visa applicants and migration agents alike has been the Migration Amendment (Visa Capping) Bill 2010. This controversial bill has flown under the radar of most media outlets, but has the potential to be the most unfair and destructive item of legislation ever introduced to the Australian migration system.

You can see more details for yourself by clicking here, but to give a brief explanation, the bill proposes to provide the government with a tool for the post-lodgement management of the current backlog of migration applications. As a result, DIAC will be allowed to cap and terminate an application at any time, regardless of when an applicant has lodged their application.

To elaborate, DIAC could choose to cap the number of visas issued in a given year to applicants with 'specified characteristics'. To explain this term, I'll refer you to the following passage from the bill's proposal:

"Characteristics that may be specified include the occupation nominated by the applicant, or the time at which the applicant made their application. The characteristics will be objective, and relate to information that is provided to the department when an application for a visa is made."

Therefore, DIAC could choose to cap the visas for applicants with the 'specified characteristic' of any given nominated occupation on the Australian SOL (Skilled Occupation List). As a result, all outstanding visa applications with the same characteristics (i.e. the same nominated occupation) would then be terminated. This also makes it very easy for DIAC to close off skilled migration to any occupation of their choosing, as a termination will result in an automatic termination of all further visa applications by migrants who share the same 'specified characteristics', at least until the start of the next financial year.

While any applicants who have had their applications terminated will be refunded the pre-paid visa application charge, this won't cover the costs of skills assessments, medical examinations, language tests and any other associated costs, not to mention the emotional damage of forcing an applicant out of the migration process with no prior warning.

Additionally, unlike a visa refusal, it is not possible to challenge a visa termination before the Migration Review Tribunal or any court. This is because DIAC will have technically not made a decision, and without a decision there is nothing to review or contest.

The most frustrating part of the proposed bill is how it has the potential to punish the people who have followed the rules and jumped through all the hoops that DIAC have set up in the last couple of years, only for the potential to be removed from the process entirely with no prior warning. 

It's always been understood that there are no 'sure things' when it comes to the Australian migration process, but it was at least possible for visa applicants to understand what the eligibility requirements were and have a good idea of their chances of success. However, should the Visa Capping Bill be passed, the opposite will be the case, with it practically impossible for any applicant to know whether they'll be able to have their visa application finalised or if they'll simply be cast aside by the Australian government.

- Tom Blackett 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.

"Leave your guns at the door": South Australia comments on immigration changes

by Lauren 18/06/2010 17:30:00

South Australia recently held a
seminar at the Australian High
Commission
 

For South Australia's manager of General Skilled Migration (GSM), Ann Johnson, to open a seminar by requesting that everyone  "leave your guns at the door" is a fairly strong indication of the current mindset held by the many frustrated migration agents in attendance. It's also a reminder that it's not the Australian States and Territories who are responsible for the many changes made by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).

The seminar on 3 June, 2010 was the first we've attended since the suspension of the General Skilled Migration (GSM) program, so we were hoping that Ann Johnson might be able to provide some further information regarding the Australian immigration; specifically the State Migration Plans. As a reminder, the GSM program has been closed for the time being, with a scheduled reopening date of 1 July, 2010. Upon its reopening, Australian skilled visa applicants will be subject to a number of changes to visa legislation, including a much tighter Australian Skilled Occupation List (SOL).

As only applicants with a nominated occupation on the SOL will be able to proceed with an independent visa application, we've been trying to find more information on how the State Migration Plans will work, as these will be the new mechanisms to allow visa applicants to be sponsored by an Australian State or Territory under the GSM program and will be crucial to a large proportion of applicants in the future.

While the State Migration Plans are still only expected to be detailed and introduced on 1 July, 2010 at the earliest, we hoped that we might be privy to some more details as to how they will be structured and just how many additional occupations we can expect to feature on these replacements for the old sponsorship lists.

Unfortunately, there's little 'insider information' that I can report on, but it was still useful to have certain items confirmed or clarified. The main points that we received were:

  • The State Migration Plan's list of occupations can include additional occupations to what appears on the SOL;
  • As the list of occupations that will feature on the State Migration Plan needs to be approved by the Minister, the Cabinet and then DIAC, it's unlikely that it will be ready "until at least July";
  • Each occupation will have an attached 'planning level', but this number will not be disclosed and no indication will be given as to when the planning level is close to being reached for each occupation.
  • Ann Johnson said that the process for changing the State Migration Plan list of occupations is that while they will revise it every month, they will only change it every quarter, for the benefit of applicants.
  • Applicants who had previously been approved under South Australia's former state sponsorship method may need to reapply before they are approved under the new State Migration Plan (assuming their occupation is transferrable from the previous sponsorship list to an occupation on the new one);
  • No more than 100 'off-list' applicants can apply for sponsorship where they do NOT have an occupation on the State Migration Plan's list of occupations, with this being a reduction from 500 'off-list' applicants from the previous financial year (though Ann Johnson did say that South Australia "didn't get anywhere near to 100" in this last year). 

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager of 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.

UK immigration change: Partners must pass English test before being granted a UK Visa

by Marissa 11/06/2010 15:03:00

Migrants must now pass an English
test before they can join
their partners in the UK.

The UK Government has announced that compulsory English language tests will be introduced from autumn 2010 for non-EU migrants applying for a UK Visa to come to the UK to join or marry their settled partner.

The changes mean partners will need to demonstrate they have a basic command of English before leaving their homeland, around the level of a five- to seven-year-old, which will allow them to cope with everyday life in the UK. The new test will assess a person's ability to introduce themselves, ask simple directions, and understand what is said by someone speaking slowly.

While a seemingly uncontroversial UK immigration requirement for new migrants, it also seems an unnecessary law given that the UK already requires migrants to speak English. Partners who have completed the initial two-year period of temporary residence still need to pass the “Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK” test before obtaining permanent residence.

Additionally, the new law doesn’t apply to EU citizens – otherwise the most likely group of people affected. The Home Office has acknowledged the people most likely to be adversely affected are those coming from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh where English is not spoken in rural areas, or by poor or uneducated people.

I am sure there will be certain applicants who will struggle to pass the tests, which could mean long delays before they can join their partners here – if ever in some cases. Even for those who do pass, having to sit the test will mean an extra step and fee to pay, as well as the time and trouble involved.

The Home Office estimates the new law will lead to a drop of around 10 per cent in UK Visa applications, and unfortunately, this may be at the expense of genuine relationships.

What do the changes mean?

 

From autumn 2010, non-EU migrants wishing to join their partners in the UK as a partner will need to demonstrate basic English at A1 level, the same level required for skilled workers admitted under Tier 2 of the points-based system.

A partner will need to provide evidence with their UK Family Visa application that they have passed an English language test with one of UK Border Agency’s approved test providers.

The new rules will apply to anyone applying as the husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner, same-sex partner, fiance(e) or prospective civil partner of a UK citizen or a person settled in this country. The tests will be compulsory for people applying from within the UK as well as UK visa applicants from overseas.

Migrants applying for partner visas must also meet other requirements, including  being able to show a relationship is genuine,  and the ability to support themselves financially.

Partners who wish to apply to settle permanently in the UK after completing the initial two-year temporary residence will still need to pass  the “Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK” test .

- Marissa Murdock is Casework Department Manager for the UK 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 increased from 1st July 2010

by Lauren 09/06/2010 13:45:00

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship have announced the annual review of Australian Visa application charges, with the cost of most visas to be increased by less than 10 per cent after 1 July. The largest increase, at 10.5 per cent, will be added to the fee for a second contributory parent visa.

The annual review of Australian visa application fees, made as part of the release of the Federal Budget, typically see fees increase in accordance with changes in the Australian Consumer Price Index. You can read the full Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) ammendments to migration fees and regulations here.

The new visa application fees for some common skilled and family visas will be as follows:

  VISA TYPE
NEW FEE (AUD)

  Skilled - Independent (subclass 175)

$2,575

  Skilled - Sponsored (subclass 176)

$2,575

  Skilled - Regional Sponsored (subclass 475)

$2,575

  Spouse (including de facto couples) (subclass 309/100)

$1,735

  Prospective Marriage (subclass 300)

$1,735

  Contributory Parent – Migrant (subclass 143)

1st VAC $1,735
2nd VAC $37,965

 

 - 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.