A Sad Farewell to Family Visas

Thursday, May 22, 2014
Blog by Philip Duncan, Registered Migration Agent (MARN) 0427769 and Director at AMVL Migrations.

Last Wednesday’s budget announcement by the Federal government, has generated a lot of discussion and protest. What has had little media attention however is the government’s plan to close new applications to a number of family visas. Details of when and how this will happen are little to none, all that we know is that it will be “very soon” and that it applies to many parent visas, remaining relatives, aged dependents and carers.

Mainstream family visas have always included parents, children and partners who can be sponsored by Australian citizens or permanent residents in certain circumstances. There have also been visas to cater for compassionate circumstances, such as where a relative was required to come to Australia to care for an elderly family member. But family and parent options are now set to shrink even further.

Once these changes take effect, the only options for sponsoring parents in the future will be the Contributory Parent subclasses, affectionately known to us as the “fast, expensive” Parent visa. Contributory Parents pay visa application charges of close to $50,000 per person and there is also a 10 year Bond of $10,000 for the main applicants.

Contributory Parents will still need to meet the ‘Balance of Family’ test which requires them to show that at least half of their children are permanent residents or citizens of Australia, as well as meeting the health and character requirements that apply to most permanent visas. However it appears that the current options for a ‘non-contributory’ parent visa (what we call the “cheap, slow” Parent visa because it takes 15 years or more to process) will no longer be available. Even with the extraordinarily slow processing, this has been an attractive option for parents of more modest means who could not afford the contributory option.

“Remaining Relative” has also been a great compassionate option where a relative finds themselves the last family member not in Australia. It avoided the situation where a whole family had migrated, but one family member was effectively ‘orphaned’ overseas, unable to meet the requirements of any other visa. That visa subclass will also be closed to new applicants following the changes.

Partners and children will still be able to join their families in Australia, as long as they meet the strict requirements. But for other family members, things are about to get a whole lot harder. It remains to be seen as to whether any of these visa subclasses will be replaced and we can only hope to see new alternatives for families who wish to join their loved ones to live in Australia.

Applicants who have already lodged their visa applications (and those who are able to lodge before the cutoff) will apparently have their applications processed. But other families will be out of luck.

If you wish to lodge a visa from one of these ceasing categories, we recommend that you do so immediately. We have a great team of Registered Migration Agents who can provide you with prompt, professional assistance. Contact us for more information.

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Facts should mean more than speculation in 457 visa review

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Blog by Philip Duncan, Registered Migration Agent (MARN) 0427769 and Director at AMVL Migrations.

Changes to the 457 system rarely happen without comment, and the recently proposed review of 457s is bound to generate a lot from the interested parties. Debate over the 457 visa between unions, the government and business has often obscured the facts and rational debate is often lost amongst the noise.

Even minor recent changes have provoked significant opposition. On February 14 this year the government removed enforcement of caps on the number of overseas workers that could be sponsored under a standard business sponsorship. This change provoked opposition from unions who labeled the change as “reopening a rort for employers” who could abuse the system by sponsoring unlimited number of overseas workers. 

In reality, recruiting, employing and sponsoring foreign workers is not an easy process for employers. There is a three-stage process of sponsorship approval, nomination of position approval and visa application approval, each with significant cost – none of which an employer would voluntarily spend time  and money on if an Australian worker was available and willing to do the job. In the vast majority of cases, companies are hiring foreign workers because they need their skills, essential skills that they were unable to source here in Australia.

President of the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA), Angela Chan FMIA last week put the 457 visa debate in to perspective when she told SBS that “as of January this year, there were some 12 million workers in Australia. The 457 program last year attracted around one per cent of the entire work force”. 

The union perspective is that there is a fixed number of jobs in the economy, and every job occupied by a foreigner is a job an Australian doesn’t have. But the economy doesn't work that way. Profitable businesses can create jobs, but a restaurant without a chef employs no-one. A broken down truck without a mechanic goes nowhere. A boat without a crew catches nothing. Overseas workers contribute to wealth and prosperity where the process is properly managed, and that’s what the discussion should be about.

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Student visa changes will continue

Thursday, March 13, 2014
Blog by Philip Duncan, Registered Migration Agent (MARN) 0427769 and Director at AMVL Migrations.

The numbers of students coming to Australia are back on the rise, after the slump induced by previous visa processing changes and poor exchange rates.

Overall, total student visa grants increased by 11.5per cent in the December quarter. Total student visa lodgements increased by 13.5per cent with offshore student visa lodgements increasing by 20 percent. Higher Education visas accounted for more than half of those lodgements, as you’d expect – these are the visas which currently benefit from streamlined visa processing (SVP).

At the beginning of 2014 there were more than a quarter of a million international student visa holders in Australia. About a third of these were from China or India.

Student visa changes announced on 29 October 2013 were intended to further improve the situation by extending streamlined visa processing to a broader range of education providers, and reducing ‘assessment levels’ to three, as well as reducing financial evidence for assessment level 3 (AL3) students from 18 to 12 months—provided funds are from a close relative of the student visa applicant.

If these proposed changes pass through the legislative process, many students will be able to apply for a student visa with less money in the bank. Simplifying the assessment level framework should further benefit students from countries such as China and India and should also assist vocational education and training students.

Changing courses
Many students who entered Australia under streamlined visa processing (SVP) arrangements, and changed to a non-streamlined education provider were recently shocked to receive a letter from Immigration threatening to cancel their student visa. After a strong response from teaching institutions and students, Immigration were forced to back down on their threat for students who had already changed course before Immigration announced their so called ‘education campaign’ (on January 14th).

Immigration continue to consider such a change of provider (from SVP institutions to non-SVP institutions) a breach of visa condition, so consider your position carefully and get some advice before making such a change.

More broadly if you have not completed six months of the highest qualification course in which your visa was granted, you need a release letter before you can change your education provider.  If you are refused a release letter you should be able to access an internal appeal process with your education provider.

For further information or assistance with an Australia visa, contact Philip Duncan and our team of Registered Migration Agents at AMVL Migrations.

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