With Australian immigration policy remaining a hot topic on the agenda of the government, businesses and community groups alike, the Australian government has once again released numerous changes to the Australian Immigration framework.

These changes include:

  1. The announcement of grandfathering provisions for 457 to ENS / RSMS;
  2. Online lodgement of subclass 600 visa applications for Indonesian citizens;
  3. Regional postcode updates in Western Australia;
  4. Integrity amendments to PIC4020;
  5. Identity amendments;
  6. Changes to Resident Return visas;
  7. Community protection amendments;
  8. Health debt arrangements.

Grandfathering provisions for 457 to ENS / RSMS announced

The immigration department has finally announced some good news!

People who held, or had applied for, a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017 will be able to access certain existing provisions under the Temporary Residence Transition stream:

  • Occupation requirements remain the same (i.e. there are no restrictions as long as the nominee continues to work in the same position for the same employer as approved for their subclass 457 visa);
  • The age requirement will remain at less than 50 years of age; and
  • The work experience requirement will remain as two out of the three years on a subclass 457, prior to nomination remaining at two years.

Please note that you will still be required to meet any other additional subclass 186 and subclass 187 eligibility criteria that will be in place at the time of lodgement, including English language requirements and salary arrangements. For example, you may need to meet the upcoming introduction of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) to subclass 186 and 187 applications from March 2018.

Further clarity has been added to other provisions:

  • Work experience: At least three years’ work experience relevant to the particular occupation will be required;
  • Training requirement: The contribution to the Skilling Australians Fund will come into effect from March 2018 (subject to being passed by parliament). The contribution will be paid in full at the time of nomination and is set at $3,000 for businesses with turnovers of less than $10 million dollars, and $5,000 for other businesses.
What will this mean for me?

These transitionary provisions have been long-awaited and finally provide some clarity in respect to PR options available to those who have been affected by the April 2017 announcements. If you are an affected visa holder who falls within this category, feel free to reach out to us for PR eligibility advice.

Changes to Visitor visa application arrangements – Indonesia

Effective 18 November 2017, Indonesian passport holders can now lodge their Subclass 600 visa applications in the Tourist, Business and Sponsored Family Streams online. These applicants are no longer required to apply through an approved agent.

What will this mean for me?

This is part of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s on-going mission to streamline the visa application process and improve their processing times. This would be well-received by both the Australian business community and Indonesian passport holders alike.

Regional Australia – updates to postcodes

Changes to postcodes have only been made in Western Australia. Postcodes in all other states and territories remain unchanged.

This Instrument excludes Perth metropolitan area and specifies that the following postcodes only are regional:

  • 6041 to 6044
  • 6083 to 6084
  • 6121 to 6126
  • 6200 to 6799

This Instrument commences on 17 November 2017.

What will this mean for me?

This is quite significant as the entire state of Western Australia including Perth was previously considered as “Regional Australia”. With this change, applicants will no longer be eligible for a Subclass 187 visa if their employer and/or nominated position is located in the Perth Metropolitan area. For employers, this may be a big factor in the attractiveness of a position to potential employees/applicants.

However please note that there is no legislative requirement for the applicant to live in the place where the nominated position is located. Under policy, the Department of Immigration will assess whether it is reasonable for the applicant to travel from their place of residence to the location of the nominated position.

Integrity amendments

Effective 18 November 2017, PIC 4020 which relates to bogus documents, has been amended to broaden the powers to refuse a visa based on bogus or fraudulent documents.

Currently, applications may be refused based on bogus or fraudulent documents submitted for the current visa application or visas that the applicant held in the previous 12 months. This has now been expanded to include all previous visa applications in the last 10 years, even if the previous visa was not granted or was withdrawn before a decision was made.

What will this mean for me?

Applicants need to be very careful about all information and documents that they provide as it may affect their future visa applications. Applicants also need to reflect on all documents and information they may have provided to the immigration department in the past 10 years regardless of the application outcome. This information must be disclosed to us so that we can best assess how it can affect your current visa status or future visa applications.

Identity amendments

Effective 18 November 2017, a new condition 8304 has been inserted. This condition states that visa holders must use the same name to identify themselves in all official Australian identity documents.

What will this mean for me?

Applicants must ensure that they use the same name on all official Australian identity documents. If your name does change, you must as soon practical, notify the relevant Australian government bodies to ensure that it does not affect your current visa status or future visa applications.

Resident Return Visas

Under the amended regulations effective 18 November 2017, applicants whose last visa has been cancelled or is under consideration for cancellation, will be prevented from applying or being granted a Resident Return Visa.

What will this mean for me?

If your last visa has been cancelled or is under consideration for cancellation and you wish to re-enter Australia, please contact us for further advice before departing Australia, as you may not be able to re-enter after departure.

Community protection amendments

Condition 8303 has been expanded from “activities that endanger or threaten any individual” to “activities disruptive to, or violence threatening harm to, the Australian community or a group within the Australian community.”

In addition, condition 8524 stating that visa holders must not engage in criminal conduct, will be imposed on a wider range of visas including bridging visas.

What will this mean for me?

With the more general wording, it allows the immigration department greater scope to apply a wider interpretation and make an adverse decision against you. For example, in today’s digital age, there is a risk that comments made on social media and web forums can be interpreted as ‘disruptive to’ or threatening to the Australian community. Therefore, applicants need to be very careful about their conduct and activities to ensure that it may not affect their current visa status or future visa applications.

Health debts arrangements

For applications made on or after 18 November 2017, several visa subclasses including 188, 400, 417, 457, 485 and 600 will be subject to condition 8602. This new condition states that the visa holder ‘must not have an outstanding public health debt’.

What will this mean for me?

We are still awaiting further clarity from the immigration department, however, this will essentially affect applicants who have any outstanding public health debt from receiving health care in Australia. As such, it is important for you to disclose any medical conditions and medical treatment to us so that we can assess how it may affect your current visa status or future visa applications.

Key takeaways

With the continual increase and flow of people into Australia, the immigration department appears to be increasing their scrutiny by introducing tougher requirements and focusing on obscure sections of law. It is now more important than even for visa applicants and holders to ensure they disclose all relevant information.

Any Questions?

As specialised immigration professionals, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of Australian immigration, this enables a high level of discretion leading to a varied spectrum of outcomes.

Naturally if you have any questions or would like to discuss how these changes may affect you or your business, please do not hesitate to contact our office.