An important Christmas reminder

Friday, November 27, 2015
Are you planning an overseas trip for the holidays? If you want to avoid hassles at airport Immigration or don’t want to get stuck overseas due to visa issues, there are a couple of points to consider before you go: 

1. Do you have the right visa to travel? If you are on a Bridging Visa A while awaiting a decision on your visa application you do not have international travel rights. You must apply for a Bridging Visa B with permission to travel and this should be done at least a week or two before you intend to depart.

2. When does your visa expire? Check that there is plenty of time left on your current visa to ensure that you can travel back to Australia. Permanent Residents also need a visa to travel, so check that this is still valid or if you need to apply for a Resident Return Visa.

3. When does your passport expire? Some airlines require passports with at least a few months validity before they will let you travel. If your passport is due to expire soon, check with the airline and then contact your local Embassy or Consulate about passport renewal. If you are an Australian or New Zealand Citizen, it is still a good idea to check when your passport expires to avoid any nasty surprises.

4. Have you renewed your passport recently? Visas are linked electronically to your passport, so if the passport changes you must update the Department of Immigration to ensure your records are correct.

5. Are you a temporary visa holder with a child born in Australia? You must contact the Department of Immigration and provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate and passport so the child can be added to your visa. If you don’t, your child will not have a visa to re-enter Australia.

AMVL clients are welcome to contact their Migration Agent for assistance with Bridging Visas or updating their records. You can also take a look at the Department of Immigration’s website for details on how to contact them and update your records.

Safe travels!

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Immigration’s Cap and Cease – A Cruel Blow

Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Blog by Helen Duncan, Registered Migration Agent (MARN) 0003187 at AMVL Migrations

On the final day of Senator Michaela Cash’s role as Assistant Minister for Immigration, she signed a direction that effectively made thousands of applications for migration to Australia null and void.  The applications were lodged between 2008 and 2010 by skilled people who had family in Australia able to sponsor them.  

The applicants at the time of lodgement met the criteria for approval of the permanent visa but due to too many applicants and not enough places in the migration program, these applications were given the lowest processing priority – category 5. They therefore became known as the Group 5 applicants with Facebook sites set up for them to share their stories with each other and hear of any possible movement with their applications.

The idea was that if positions in the program became available, then their applications would be processed.  For many years these people have therefore lived in the hope of one day being granted a visa to live in Australia. They have put their lives on hold in the anticipation of moving to be nearer to family in Australia, only to have their dreams smashed by the stroke of a pen.

In justifying the cruel decision, the then Assistant Minister claimed that the Group 5’ers had occupations that are not currently in demand on the skilled occupation list (SOL) with the implication that they would therefore be unemployable, a burden on Australian society and people that would not settle in Australia.  It is true that they do not have occupations on the SOL as this list has only around 190 occupations on it, of which 17% are different types of doctors, 8% are different types of nurses and 13% are different types of engineers.  In other words, the range of occupations on the SOL is very limited with almost 40% of the list covering just three professions.

The Group 5’ers however all have occupations on the broader skilled list that is applicable for other types of migration to Australia such as the employer sponsored migration.  From the 40 or so Group 5 applications our company has, all but 2 applicants have an occupation that requires a Bachelor degree qualification including management consultant, primary school teacher, statistician, life scientist and general manager.  The two that do not have a degree level occupation are Cooks, which are nonetheless in demand in many areas of Australia, particularly regional areas.

Most of our Group 5’ers are from the United Kingdom, South Africa or Malaysia and all speak English very well.  They are families who have parents, brothers, sisters, aunts or uncles living in Australia as permanent residents or citizens.  These Australians would have been here to help them settle and find employment and homes.  There is very little likelihood that any of these Group 5’ers would have been a burden as they are educated, have work experience, speak English and have support in Australia.

For me, the most successful migrant is someone who comes to Australia, works hard and stays to make Australia their home, contributing for many years to the growth and diversity of Australia.  Anecdotally I know that many of the people from Europe who did get a permanent visa in recent years as a result of them having an occupation in demand and being young, have in fact returned to Europe now that the GFC effects in places like Ireland and the UK have passed. These are young mobile people who can move easily around the world but eventually return to where their family is.

Being near family is a huge incentive to remain in a country and all the Group 5 had close family in Australia.  Instead the Government is reimbursing them the cost of their visa application which at around $2000 each application, will cost the Government millions of dollars to repay.  This seems crazy to me when processing these applications and having skilled committed people migrate to Australia and start contributing to our economy, could have easily been done.

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Permanent Residents: Not so 'permanent' anymore

Friday, October 30, 2015
Blog by Louisa Deans, Registered Migration Agent (MARN) 1574187 at AMVL Migrations

In my opinion, being of ‘good character’ is entirely subjective and vague in nature. Believe it or not, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (‘The Department’) now require a Permanent Resident to be of ‘good character’ indefinitely. Unlike Australian Citizens, they are not afforded the luxury to make a bad decision and test their ‘good character’. 

All Permanent Resident visas in Australia are subject to mandatory cancellation under character grounds in certain circumstances. To put it in simple terms; this is a legal instrument that Australia has relied upon to ‘protect’ Australian borders whereby the Department now cancels Permanent visas if the holder has been sentenced to jail for a period of over 12 months and enters jail for at least some period (even if they do not actually spend the full 12 months in prison). I should preface this by saying I have no qualms with the notion of this regime, in circumstances where a serious offence has been committed. I do, however, have an issue with the liberal implementation behind mandatory cancellation and what the Department has deemed a ‘serious offence’. 

If the Permanent Resident has committed a crime which attracts a 12 month penalty, this is considered a ‘serious offence’. The Permanent Resident is afforded a short period of time to apply for revocation (appeal) on this decision, however the author is aware that there have been exceptionally limited circumstances where revocation is granted. Permanent Residents are spending more than 6 months in Immigration detention, awaiting a decision on their revocation appeal at a significant cost to the taxpayer. 

The notion of double punishment in Australia is entirely un-constitutional. However, I cannot help but draw similarities. The Department is essentially inflicting their own punishment on top of the punishment afforded by the Courts. Due to the broad nature of mandatory cancellation, thousands are being affected. One would assume that a Permanent Resident should be afforded the same opportunities as any other Australian citizen. The Department are essentially punishing the foreigner twice for the same crime and holding them in Immigration Detention.
One of the biggest problems with mandatory cancellation is that the provisions do not account for Refugees/stateless persons. These people have been declared refugees and accepted into our borders. They may live their life in Australia for several years and then have their visa mandatorily cancelled. How can you possibly send a refugee (who has been officially declared a Refugee and granted a Humanitarian or Protection visa) home when there is no home country? Instead, the Department have chosen to keep them in Detention indefinitely. 

It is important to note that all Permanent Residents have to pass the ‘character test’ when applying for their visa. As such, they were of ‘good character’ by Department standards at some stage in their life. Should a foreigner be punished down the track because they didn’t end up being exactly what ‘we’ thought? This mandatory cancellation regime seems to be based on the principle that we expect foreigners to be ‘perfect’ when they arrive to Australia and if that doesn’t work out, we simply do not want them anymore. In my opinion, this is entirely archaic and superficial. 

Another problem with the mandatory cancellation regime surrounds immigrants who have come to Australia as a child and have resided in Australia for many years, only to have their Permanent Resident visa cancelled for a crime which attracts a penalty of over 12 months imprisonment. As the individual has been living in Australia for many years, they really have no ‘home country’ to return to; their family, belongings and life are here. Many do not speak the native language and are not familiar with the customs and norms. Can you imagine being taken from your family and friends and placed in a country where you know no one and do not speak the language? 

As a consequence of mandatory cancellation, the former visa holder is placed in Immigration detention while any appeals are heard and finalised or until they are removed from Australia. However, there are many circumstances (particularly humanitarian cases) where the former visa holder has no ‘home’ to return to and faces indefinite detention. At times, the Australian media reports on suicide in immigration detention centres. Is it really surprising that there is an increase in media reports of suicide attempts and mental illness in Immigration detention centres when people are faced with the prospect of living in immigration detention for an unknown length of time? This author is aware of several cases in the last two months where suicide attempts have been made due to the mandatory cancellation regime.

It is my position that the Department should abolish mandatory cancellation of Permanent Resident visas for those who receive at least a 12 month prison sentence. In addition, cancellation consideration should only apply to those with a minimum three year sentence, opposed to the current 12 months sentence in place. This ensures that the system only affects those with more serious offences. I believe the Department should implement a system whereby the Permanent Resident receives a letter advising them of the cancellation risk and is afforded the opportunity to respond before being placed in Immigration detention. 

Given the high number of non-serious offenders currently in Immigration detention and the lack of appeal decisions being made, it is evident that the mandatory cancellation regime has been costly, ineffective and impracticable, and should be re-evaluated immediately. It is time for the Department to be realistic and implement policies that are practical; instead of a cowboy approach of cancelling first and asking questions later. A decision affecting someone’s entire life and future should not be made by a system generating mandatory cancellation letters.  

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