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DIAC announce processing update for Australian visa applications stuck in 'category 5'

by Matt 25/11/2011 18:14:00
Applications for skilled migration to Australia are currently categorised into one of three priority groups, each with an associated processing timeframe set as per a Directive drawn up by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. The application will sit in that priority group until it is allocated to a case officer, who will begin assessment of the information and documents provided.

The three Australia visa priority groups sit behind two faster employer-sponsored streams, so the skilled migration groups are subsequently labelled groups 3, 4 and 5. According to the existing Priority Processing Directive drawn up in July 2011, the timeframes for processing of general skilled migration visas are currently as follows:

PROCESSING CATEGORY

FINALISATION WITHIN:

Category 3 (sponsored as part of a State Migration Plan)

12 months (low risk countries)

Category 4 (occupations in high demand)

18 months

Category 5 (all other applications)

Once all other applications have been finalised.

Applicants who find their applications allocated to category 5 have not been given a specific timeframe by which they can expect their application to be finalised, and are instead at the mercy of the categories above them. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has now released fresh information that may help to put the timeframe into some context for those waiting.

Although DIAC's site confirms that no category 5 applications are currently being allocated to case officers, fresh statistics have been announced indicating that there are currently 42,631 applications in category 5 which have yet to be assessed. Of these applications, 64% were lodged from within Australia, and DIAC have announced that they will be processing these first (starting with applications that have been in the queue the longest).

DIAC have confirmed that processing of category 5 is likely to occur within the current migration program year, which runs until 30 June 2012, starting with onshore applications made prior to September 2007 before moving to offshore applications made at the same time. This should give a degree of comfort to applicants who continue to wait in hope for news of progress in their allocated priority group.

DIAC has been careful to note that processing of applications in category 5 will continue to depend on the number of applications received in higher priority groups, and is subject to any changes made to the Processing Direction.

Consequently, although this is a positive sign that DIAC is aware of the ever-growing period of time applicants in this category have had to wait and are indicating that things may start to move in the coming months, offshore applicants who with applications lodged after September 2007 may continue to face a significant wait before case officers are allocated.

Applicants who submitted their application prior to 1 July 2010 may have an option to apply for state sponsorship and subsequently move into priority group 3. Visa Bureau clients should approach their caseworkers with any concerns or to discuss this in greater detail.

- Matt Parker is a 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.

New Zealand election 2011: What are the parties' New Zealand immigration policies?

by Andy 22/11/2011 14:21:00
New Zealand is set to vote in a general election on Saturday 26 November and while most polls have the incumbent National Party under Prime Minister John Key safely ahead, in a democracy as robust as NZ's anything could happen.
Naturally, the various parties have slightly different approaches to immigration issues and are making different pledges to the Kiwi electorate in this key policy area.

But regardless of which party occupies the Beehive after the election, some changes to the immigration system or the direction of immigration and/or New Zealand visa policy are probable.

Visa Bureau has summarised the main immigration policies put forward by the parties contesting this election so that you can be aware of any changes before they happen.



         

Act New Zealand

Act New Zealand is a breakaway group from the National Party and a support partner in the current minority Government. They are a centre-right party that, like the National Party, are focused on economic growth and therefore the economic benefits of migration.

The Act Party proposes the following in its 2011 election immigration policy platform:

  • To lower administrative barriers to entering New Zealand so as to make migration a more attractive option;
  • To ensure immigration "does not become a drain on the welfare state";
  • To ensure migrant intake is focused primarily on "productive workers who will enrich our society and economy, create jobs through entrepreneurship, links to home countries, and demand for goods and services"; and
  • To improve general economic performance through reducing government spending and overregulation which will in turn make immigration to NZ more attractive.


         

The Green Party

The Green Party's roots are in environmental politics but they are also strong supporters of immigration. The Greens propose an immigration system that is heavily focused on human rights and humanitarian paths to migration as well as economic.

In this election, the Greens have put forward immigration policies including:

  • Increasing New Zealand's annual refugee intake from 750 to 1000;
  • Enhancing government resources for refugee resettlement programs;
  • Abolish the current "lottery" system for refugee family reunification and introduce a "fair process with published priorities and standards";
  • Prioritise skilled workers that will aid a "sustainable society and economy";
  • Ensure temporary migrants are given equal pay and conditions as co-workers with different visa status;
  • Ensure that immigration levels are reviewed regularly and based on net population change, environmental factors and international humanitarian obligations; and
  • Begin preparations for "climate change refugees".


         

The Labour Party

The Labour Party is the main opposition party in New Zealand currently holding 42 of the 122 seats in the Parliament's House of Representatives and was previously in Government from 1999 to 2008.

Labour has made a suite of immigration pledges this election, both threatening to repeal policies of the National Government and introduce new policies if elected. Policy ideas include:

  • A review of the Skilled Migrant Category to ensure best practice;
  • Flexible arrangements for migrants on business and investor New Zealand visas;
  • Increase opportunities for young foreign entrepreneurs to emigrate to New Zealand including the possibility of visa extensions for international students;
  • Reverse the changes to the visa system for temporary entertainment workers introduced by the Key Government and set to come into affect in March 2012;
  • Strengthen mental health services for refugees;
  • Review the refugee family reunification program;
  • Support options for refugees to enrol in tertiary education;
  • Introduce a specialist Immigration Ombudsman within the Office of the Ombudsman, to investigate system issues, complaints and immigration detention issues;
  • Establish a Residence Review Panel to assist the Immigration Minister on residency policy issues.

         

The Mana Party

The Mana Party is contesting a general election for the first time in 2011 and was formed by Hone Harawira MP after his expulsion from the Maori Party. The Mana Party has not released a cohesive immigration policy as of yet but recently Mana candidate for the seat of Makukau East John Minto made comments accusing the current system of "pervasive racism" against New Zealanders of Pacific Islander origin.


         

The Maori Party 

Formed by former Labour Minister Tariana Turia in 2004 following her resignation over the foreshore and seabed controversy - a dispute over traditional indigenous ownership of natural resources - the Maori Party is committed to keeping New Zealand's laws compliant with the Treaty of Waitangi. It is currently a support partner in the National minority government.

The Maori Party does not have an official stance on New Zealand immigration issues such as visas or intake levels but has proposed a policy to make New Zealand citizenship conditional on completion of a course in the history of the treaty. "To complete globally it is important that new citizens share our understanding of history," says the Maori Party's election policy document.


         

The National Party 

Should the National Party be re-elected we are likely to see a continuation of the immigration policies implemented and prioritised since coming to power in 2008. The Nats' immigration policy document explains that "immigration plays a crucial part in National's plan to build a brighter future".

The party says that if re-elected it will continue to expand and develop its current immigration policies such as the Silver Fern Visa program, residency application process for religious workers, overhaul of processes at Immigration New Zealand and changes to the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

But the Nats have also flagged some new immigration policies and priorities to be implemented if John Key's team secures a second term, including:

  • Attracting more business migrants and investment capital;
  • Import skilled labour to assist with the post-earthquake rebuild of Christchurch; and
  • Implement a whole-of-government single-agency approach to refugees and asylum seekers.

         

United Future 

Like the Act and Maori parties, United Future has in the last Parliament entered a confidence and supply agreement with National, making it a support partner in the minority government. Immigration and population is one of the key policy interests of this party, formed in 2002 from an amalgamation of centrist and Christian democrat parties. In this election it has proposed policies including:

  • A 10-year population strategy to identify and minimise the impact of demographic changes;
  • Devise and implement comprehensive immigrant settlement programs to provide immigrants with language, social services and job placement support;
  • Establish a Business Development Agency to help migrants set up businesses;
  • Encourage "all migrants to consider themselves as New Zealanders";
  • Establish a retirement NZ visa to allow parents of permanent residents and citizens to be sponsored for migration;
  • Establish a specific employment-finding agency for refugees;
  • Create a mentor system for new migrants to help them adjust to life in New Zealand.


These various policy platforms highlight the differing views on the direction of immigration policy in New Zealand politics. Whoever forms the next government, and the amount of seats and therefore bargaining power and policy attention that each of these parties receive at this election, will impact on the opportunities for emigration to New Zealand and what you can expect when you arrive.

- Aleks Vickovich is Online Editor for the New Zealand 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.

Sri Lanka opens for business with the ETA visa

by Aleksandar 10/11/2011 14:30:00

 
To meet the increasing demand
for tourism to Sri Lanka, its
government has launched a
trial of an ETA visa.  

In May 2009 the civil war that plagued Sri Lanka for 26 years came to an ubrupt end with the defeat of the Tamil Tiger insurgency by the Sri Lankan army. As the country turns to reconciliation and stability, people around the world are taking notice.
Sri Lanka is back and open for business!

Situated off the south-eastern coast of India, Sri Lanka is an island of whitesand beaches, tranquil tea fields, wild elephants and buddhist temples. It is a land where ancient traditions and spiritualities meet modern test cricket and a burdgeoning film industry.

Now that the country has reverted to a peaceful situation, Sri Lanka offers unlimited tourism and business opportunities. The Sri Lankan Government is starting to catch on and has recently launched a trial of a Sri Lanka Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) visa, which from January 1 2012 all short-stay visitors to Sri Lanka will be required to possess.

That means if you're thinking of heading to Sri Lanka for the English Cricket Team's tour in March 2012, the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in September 2012, or are planning to visit Sri Lanka for business or pleasure anytime after January 1 2012, you will need an ETA visa.

Luckily the Sri Lankan Department of Immigration and Emigration (DoIE) has released detailed information about applying for an ETA visa, and Visa Bureau is here to make the process as easy as possible!

Visitors will have a choice of three ETA visa options, depending on their length of stay and purpose of travel:

  • ETA for Tourist purpose with double entry for 30 (Thirty) days;
  • ETA for Business purpose with multiple entry for 30 (Thirty) days; and
  • ETA for Transit for 07 (seven) days.

The simplest and quickest way to apply for an ETA Visa is to make an application to DoIE online.  

But applications will also be accepted by a third party on an applicant's behalf, including a registered agent or Sri Lanka Overseas Mission. Visitors may also apply for an ETA visa at the point of entry into Sri Lanka, where they will be expected to make on-site payment of visa fees.

ETA visa fees range between US$25 and $75 depending on the purpose of travel and length of stay. Extensions will be granted in some cases but must be applied for formally.

- Aleks Vickovich is Online Editor for the Worldwide 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 Immigration Report 2011: Student, tourist and working holiday visas

by Aleksandar 08/11/2011 18:07:00

Offshore student visa applications
to Australia are down in 2010-11

In 2010-11 the Department of Immigration and Citizenship issued 3,543,883 temporary visitor visas, including a 3% increase in total offshore visitor Australia visa grants.

Visa compliance by holders of Working Holiday and ETA visas is up to 99 per cent, up from 95.3 per cent in 2009-10. The report said this increase is largely due to its own actions. The report states the following:

"In 2010-11 the department used a range of tools to minimise the potential for non-genuine visitors to enter or remain in Australia or to contravene their visa conditions."

"These tools include the no further stay condition, security bonds, sponsor sanctions and Safeguards profiles".

In fairness, as well as these positive outcomes that are in line with the Government's underlying temporary immigration goals, there were also a number of setbacks in 2010-11, particularly with regard to its lucrative international student market.

Demand for a student Australia visa has fallen sharply, with the department awarding 126,186 student visa grants over the year, down from 158,240 in 2009-10, representing a 20.3 per cent decrease. Similarly, student visa finalisations fell 26.6 per cent to 143,127.

The department attributes the decline to a number of factors beyond its control, such as "the strength of the Australian dollar over this period, increased marketing activity by competitor countries, college closures creating uncertainty about the stability of Australian education providers, and the decoupling of education and general skilled migration".

The demand can also be attributed to a substantial decline in the number of Indian students, with enrolments down 36.5 per cent. The official response to the diminishing Indian demand contained in the annual report is that it is "the result of a high concentration of students with the vocational education and training (VET) sector which was most affected by measures to de-couple study in Australia from permanent residence".

But while factors may have played a part, the drop in Indian demand is also undeniably related to a negative perception of Australia that has persisted in Indian politics and its media over the past year following a spate of violent and possibly racially-motivated attacks against Indian students in 2010.

Tourism Australia has launched a campaign in conjunction with the Australian immigration department to try and repair the Australian national image in India. This is likely to remain a key challenge and area of priority for DIAC in the coming year.

- Aleks Vickovich 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.

Australian Immigration Report 2011: Skilled Migration

by Aleksandar 08/11/2011 18:06:00


The Australian skilled migration intake has
increased in 2010-11 but fallen short of its
departmental planning level.

Of the total Australian immigration intake in 2010-11, 113,725 places were allocated to the Skill Stream, indicating a 5.6 per cent increase from 2009-10 and making up 67.5 per cent of total Migration program grants.

The rise in skilled migrant visa grants suggests a return to business as usual after a deliberate drop in numbers in 2009-10 due to the global recession, as was commented on by Australian Visa Bureau Managing Director Guy Bradley:

"The percentage increase revealed in the Annual Report 2010-11 suggests that the decrease in visa grants in 2009-10 was a temporary aberration based on global economic circumstances rather than a change in long-term immigration policy direction.

"It seems the Australian Government’s commitment to skilled migration remains strong".

The report explains that skilled migration is a key priority for the Australian Government as Australia visa holders of this kind are more likely to "contribute to the Australian economy through their skills, qualifications, entrepreneurialism and future employment potential". 

However, the number of granted visas actually fell just short of the 113,850 departmental planning level 2010-11, meaning that 125 prospective skilled migrants missed out on a visa despite the stipulated quota and high demand.

 

The report also found that the department has achieved its objective in boosting the state-specific and regional migration (SSRM) programs, which attempt to alleviate skills shortages in the regions by offering location-specific visas to skilled foreign workers.

"The SSRM programs continue to be a priority for the government and these programs accounted for 32.9 per cent of the Skill Stream of the 2010-11 Migration Program," the report states.

"A total of 37,410 visas were granted under the SSRM programs in 2010-11, representing an increase of more than 2.3 per cent over the previous year".

Most Australian states and territories saw a significant increase in the receipt of SSRM visa grants in 2010-11, including the Australian Capital Territory (up 48.5%), Tasmania (up 22.8%) and New South Wales (up 14.3%). Only South Australia saw a decline in regional skilled migration, down 21.8% to 7460.

These figures show firstly that the Government is interested in extracting maximum economic benefit from its skilled migration program, tailoring the system to patch up any skills shortage tears in the immigration quilt.

Secondly, this move towards regional targeted migration is the product of the Government's more general commitment to regional Australia and its current political siuation. The current Labor Government does not hold a majority in the Parliament and is reliant on the votes of 1 Green MP and 4 Independents, 3 of which are from rural and regional seats, which has meant regional issues like skills shortages have attracted much more attention over the last year.

Whatever the reasons, it is likely the move towards location-targeted migration will continue, as will many opportunities for skilled workers to emigrate to Australia.

Read Part Two of our Australian Immigration Report 2011 blog series on Student, Tourist and Working Holiday Visas.

- Aleks Vickovich 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.

Australian Immigration Report 2011: The Year That Was

by Aleksandar 08/11/2011 18:04:00

As the perennially hot topics of boat arrivals and mandatory detention of asylum seekers continued to dominate news coverage of Australian immigration issues in 2010-11, many of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's other policies, programs and achievements were often swept under the carpet of national political discourse. While DIAC makes full acknowledgement of the challenges it faces in the difficult area of humanitarian migration, the department gives its Migration Program an overall positive assessment in its Annual Report 2010-11.

In his review, DIAC Secretary Andrew Metcalfe highlighted his department's successes over the past financial year:

"During 2010-11 we made significant improvements to our programs supported by engagement with our partners and the evidence of our research and evaluation programs."

The report states that the department's policy direction and implementation has been consistent with its "social and economic aims" in 2010-11.

Australia recorded a total migration intake of 168,700 over the year, a figure unchanged from 2009-10. When you look more closely at the figures, the Australian immigration priorities become clear.

The following blogs summarise some of the reports key findings and offers some Australian Visa Bureau analysis.

- Aleks Vickovich 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.