Changes to the migration program in 2015/16

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Blog by Helen Duncan, Registered Migration Agent (MARN) 0003187 at AMVL Migrations

The Australian Federal Government budget for 2015/16 was announced a few weeks ago and as well as containing changes for Australians, there were also some important announcements affecting people from overseas who want to come to Australia.

Of significance, it was announced that the permanent non-humanitarian migration program will remain unchanged at 190,000 places, which is great news.  This will include approximately 128,550 places for skilled migration (which is no change from the current year) and 57,400 places for family migration (which is a slightly lower level from the current year program of 61000 places).  However the Government announced that in addition at least 3,485 places will be provided for Child category migrants.

It is assumed that this quarantining of places for Child visas will result in these visas being processed a bit faster than they are currently (which is around 12 months).  The slight lowering of the family migration places however will not alleviate the delays in partner visa processing so these applicants will continue to have to wait more than 12 months for a visa decision.  It is a pity that while partners pay the highest price for their visa applications, they are not given enough places in the program to be processed as quickly as the skilled intake.  In our experience partners are often highly skilled people who contribute to the Australian economy in many ways and should be given the same priorities.

It is good news as well that the Humanitarian intake would remain steady over the next financial year, remaining at 13,750 places in 2016/17 then increase to 16,250 places in 2017/18 and 18,750 places in 2018-19.

As in previous years, the budget brings increases in visa fees and this budget is no different.  Most fee increases are not extreme, with the exception of offshore partner and fiancé applications that will increase to the level of the onshore partner visas ($6,865).  Also increasing significantly is the application fee for the Significant Investor Visa (SIV) from $4,675 to $7,010 for the main applicant.

Other important announcements affecting people wanting to come to Australia included the announcement that young people on Working Holiday Visas are to be taxed as a non-resident for tax purposes. This means they will be taxed at 32.5% from their first dollar of income up to $80,000.   This comes soon after an ABC Television Four Corners report highlighted the abuse by some employers paying working holiday makers significantly less than their Australian co-workers.  It seems that the Government has problems with employers not treating overseas workers the same as an Australian, but it’s alright for them to do this, as now working holiday makers will be paying more tax than the Australian working next to them.

The Budget forecasted that international student migration will increase from 88,200 in 2014 to 139,300 in 2017-18, following the introduction of new visa streamlining measures and post-study work arrangements.  This is certainly good news for the education sector.

Lastly it has also been announced that Lawyers will not need to be registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA), to offer migration advice.  Lawyers are already required to be registered through the various state legal societies and this was considered to be sufficient to protect the consumer.  In our experience OMARA has provided better protection than the legal societies, and certainly all the migration agents at AMVL Migrations will continue to be registered with OMARA so you can be sure that we adhere to the highest standards when giving migration advice. 

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Visa pathways after graduation

Thursday, May 07, 2015
Blog by Thomas Wingfield, Registered Migration Agent (MARN) 1387926 at AMVL Migrations

Graduation can be an exciting time for students. An important issue for many international students is finding out which visa they can apply for when they have completed their studies. 

A graduate visa is a great way to transition from a student visa to a work visa. There are now two different graduate visas: 

The post- study work stream (subclass 485) visa.  
The graduate work stream (subclass 485) visa. 

To be eligible for a post - study work stream visa a student must have studied full time in Australia in a CRICOS registered course for a minimum of 2 years. This study must have lead to the completion of an Australian bachelor degree, master degree or Phd. It is fine to use more than one completed degree at this level to satisfy the 2 year Australian study requirement. An important criterion for this visa is that the applicant’s first ever Australian student visa must have been applied for and granted on or after 5 November 2011. The post - study work stream visa is valid for 2 years if the student completed a bachelor degree or a master degree by coursework, 3 years if the student completed a masters degree by research, and 4 years if the student completed a Phd. 

The graduate work stream visa may be available if a student has completed an Australian CRICOS registered qualification, or qualifications, related to an occupation on the skilled occupation list (SOL), which required at least 2 years of full time study in Australia. Importantly each qualification used to satisfy the 2 year Australian study requirement must be closely related to the applicant’s nominated occupation. Graduating students often choose this visa if they held an Australian student visa before 5 November 2011 or they want to apply for a graduate visa on the basis of a trade qualification, diploma or advanced diploma. An applicant will need to apply for a skills assessment before they can apply for this visa. The graduate work stream visa is valid for 18 months once granted.  

In addition to graduate visas, in some circumstances a student may be eligible to apply for a permanent skilled (GSM) visa once they finish their studies. 

Employer sponsored visas, partner visas, skilled regional visas and working holiday visas may also be available to graduating students. Please note that this is a brief overview of the visas which may be available to graduating students. I would encourage graduating students who are interested in applying for a visa to speak to a migration agent about their situation and the visa eligibility criteria. 

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The SIV changes and beyond – what are the options?

Friday, April 17, 2015
Blog by Helen Duncan, Registered Migration Agent (MARN) 0003187 at AMVL Migrations

About 6 months ago I wrote a blog that looked at how well the Significant Investor Visa (SIV) was doing.  At the time the visa was almost 2 years old so a good time to see if it was meeting milestones and if any intervention was needed.

In that article I mentioned some of the possible changes following a review of the SIV and that 1 July 2015 was a suggested date for the implementation.  Well it looks like 1 July will be the date when the SIV gets a makeover.  The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has just announced that it will temporarily suspend all invitations for SIV applications from 24 April to 30 June 2015 in preparation for the changes to the legislation.  This will not affect any applicants that have already received an invitation to apply for a SIV (provided they submit an application before 1 July) or any applications currently being processed – these will be processed under current legislation and requirements.

Most of the state and territory governments have also announced a suspension in the acceptance of SIV applications for nomination.  The suspensions will happen over the next few days as the states and territories have different time lines for assessing nominations.  So in other words, if a person is not ready to lodge a complete application for state or territory nomination now, it is too late.  They will need to wait until after 1 July 2015.

Obviously any new applications will need to meet the new legislation but what this is, we don’t quite know as yet.  In February 2015, Austrade produced a document with draft complying investment options.  In this document it was suggested that at least half of the $5 million required to be granted the SIV be put in mandatory investments including venture capital funds and funds investing in small/micro cap companies.  The remainder could be put into other managed funds though with specific requirements including restrictions on investment funds containing residential property.

Austrade has not released the outcome of the review process so it is not known how much of the draft document will make it into legislation.  It is also not known exactly what role the state or territory governments will have in directing where the complying investment goes.  So watch this space!

In the interim however it is worth looking at what other options there are for investor visas, as these can be forgotten in the frenzy around the SIVs.

The Business Talent (subclass 132) visa is the only business category visa that is a permanent residence visa upfront (so no need for a provisional visa first).  There are two streams – the significant business history stream and the venture capital entrepreneur stream.  For the first stream, the applicant needs to have had involvement in a significant business (turnover of at least $3 million) and have assets to invest in a business in Australia of which they will have management responsibilities.  The venture capital stream is for applicants who have secured venture capital funding of at least $1 million from an Australian company to start up or expand a business in Australia or commercialise a product.

The investor provisional visa is for applicants who have had a successful business or investor history and who have net assets of at least $2.25 million.  The applicant is required to put $1.5 million into state government bonds for 4 years and live in Australia for at least 2 or those 4 years, to be eligible for a permanent visa at the end of the 4 years.  While in Australia they can work or study if they want, so it is a very flexible resident requirement.

If you want to know more about the options for these investor visas please contact our team of qualified registered migration agents.

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