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DIAC announce new priority processing opportunity for Australia visa applicants

by Lauren 18/02/2011 17:00:00

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) recently released some important information in regards to carrying out health and character checks prior to being assigned to a case officer that may have an impact on priority processing for a number of Australia visa applicants.

The DIAC release can be located here, but the most important aspect of it is that all priority group 2 applicants should consider initiating health and character checks now, despite having no indication that a case officer has yet been assigned to their case. Priority group 2 applicants are applicants who have obtained state sponsorship and whose occupation currently features on the State Migration Plan for that state.

Additionally, they have given the same encouragement to priority group 3 applicants (i.e. applicants that have an occupation featuring on schedule 3 of the Skilled Occupation List) who lodged a visa application between 15 January, 2009 and 30 June, 2010.

What are the benefits of applying for health and character checks now?

DIAC have stated the following as a reason for why applicants might wish to apply for health and character checks now:

"Initiating all necessary health and character clearances now is likely to enable an application to be considered in a quicker timeframe once it is allocated to a case officer. It may mean that a decision can be made when first considered, without a case officer needing to request any further documentation, as considerable delays can be encountered in requesting and receiving information."

However, it is important to understand that providing these clearances does not guarantee immediate processing of an application.

Why might there be negative implications of initiating health and character checks now?

DIAC have also provided the following details as to why applicants might not want to apply for health and character checks at this time:

"In undertaking these clearances now, an applicant should be mindful that processing arrangements may change over time and that any such changes may impact on the validity of a clearance and the order of assessment of applications. An applicant may be required to repeat a clearance at their cost in the event of a change to the current application allocation arrangements."

Health and character checks have a 12 month validity period, and must be current at the time the case officer makes a decision on the visa, which is why there is the possibility that you will have to repeat the police and character checks, should a decision not be made on your visa within that timeframe.

Additionally, the date which you obtained police clearances and undertake medicals dictates your initial entry date to Australia. You must enter Australia within 12 months of the earlier date recorded for your police and character checks, regardless of when the visa is granted. The initial entry date cannot be changed under any circumstances, so if the visa grant is delayed you may be left with a particularly short period in which to organise for you (and any family members) to activate your visa through a trip to Australia.

What does Visa Bureau advise?

We are advising a number of our clients to take advantage of this opportunity and initiate their health and character checks now.  However, if you do NOT hold a state sponsorship where it has been confirmed that your occupation will feature on your sponsoring state’s State Migration Plan and you lodged your visa application AFTER July 2009, we advise that you hold off on undertaking the medicals and police checks for now.

The reason for this is that applications for priority group 3 applicants is set to progress in date order, and as we monitor the rate at which these cases are being allocated, we will be able to give you an indication as to when DIAC will be approaching your lodgement date. As a result, you will still benefit from a more efficient processing timescale from DIAC and you will have a significant period in which to make your first entry to Australia following the visa grant.

- 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.

Queensland flood and cyclone reconstruction: Australia visa information

by Stephanie 08/02/2011 15:03:00

Reconstruction in Queensland after the record-
breaking Cyclone Yasi could take considerable time.

The business of reconstructing the areas of Queensland affected by the devastating floods or by Cyclone Yasi has begun in earnest.

Significant flooding occurred in many areas of Queensland during late December 2010 and early January 2011, with three quarters of the state declared a disaster zone. The state was hit yet again with another natural disaster, when a large cyclone struck Far North Queensland last week.

Yesterday, the Queensland Government formally expanded its disaster reconstruction authority established after January's floods to oversee the state's rebuilding after the cyclone devastation.

The Australian Government has also moved to fast track certain Australia Visa categories for workers needed in the recovery, and released information relating to how Australian Working Holiday Visa holders to get involved and use their volunteer or paid work to secure a second visa.

Information for Australia Working Holiday makers wanting to help

Australian Working Holiday Visa holders may choose to volunteer their time to help with the clean up and rebuild following the flood crisis, and they may also seek paid work related to this rebuilding effort.

If the clean up work falls within the definition of "specified work", which includes work in the construction industry such as demolition work or erecting new fences and is conducted in an eligible regional Australia postcode, the work may count towards the 88 days of specified work required in order to be eligible for a second Working Holiday visa.

The specified work need not be paid work as volunteer work also counts towards the specified work requirement.

However, it is important for working holiday makers to remember that metropolitan Brisbane is not included in the Australian immigration definition of regional Australia.

It is unlikely that this will change in the near future, as the government has concerns that if the second WHV regional postcode definition was expanded to include non-regional areas such as metropolitan Brisbane, working holiday visa holders would choose to work in metropolitan areas at the expense of regional Australia. Any review of the definition of regional Australia would have to be undertaken carefully and in consultation with state and territory governments. For a full list of eligible regional postcodes visit the Australian Working Holiday Visas frequently asked questions page.

The following types of work fall under the definition of specified work and may assist with flood cleanup activities in regional Australia:

  • Demolition of buildings;
  • Trench digging;
  • Land clearing and earth moving;
  • Residential and non-residential construction or renovation/repair, including of roads, footpaths, bridges, parking lots, railways, dams, irrigation systems, sewage and storm water drainage systems.

Fast-tracked applications for Australian 457 Visas 

Australian 457 Visas for reconstruction jobs in flood or cyclone affected areas will now be fast-tracked by the Australian Government, providing quick access to skilled overseas labour where there is a local shortage.

The 457 Visa is an employer sponsored visa, which means in order to qualify an employee must have an Australian employer who is willing to sponsor them. There are also other requirements an employee must meet, including having an eligible nominated occupation and English language proficiency.

Under this Australia visa, a wide variety of skilled construction and engineering occupations are available for sponsorship, and employers can sponsor skilled workers for up to four years with no limit on the number of workers they sponsor.

The Australian Immigration department will give these visas priority processing at each stage of the application process and once all the application steps are completed the visa will be processed within five working days.

If your Australian Visa is about to expire 

Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) officers are currently visiting areas in Queensland affected by the recent cyclone,  including Tully and Innisfail,  to provide support to temporary visa holders who may be concerned about their immigration status.

“If people in the affected areas hold a visa which is about to expire, or work for a business which has been affected, the department urges them to contact DIAC as soon as possible to discuss their options,” a departmental spokesman said.

- Stephanie Bradley is Content and Communications 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.