CLIENT ALERT: WELCOME TO 2018
From the team at Gilton Valeo, we would like to wish you a very warm welcome to 2018 and what will be a very interesting time across the immigration landscape. We hope that you spent the holidays happy and safe.
2017 was a major year for Australian immigration, with some of the most significant changes in decades. In the aftermath of these changes, many questions still remain unanswered as we await the changes to be implemented and further clarity to be provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (now known as Department of Home Affairs).
In welcoming 2018 we will be breaking down what’s in store for the rest of the year.
DEPARTMENT OF HOME AFFAIRS
On 18 July 2017, the Australian Government announced that they would establish a new Home Affairs portfolio that will bring together Australia’s immigration, border protection, federal law enforcement, criminal justice, domestic security agencies and emergency management into a single portfolio. This Home Affairs comprises of:
- a central department to oversee policy and strategic planning (to be known as the Department of Home Affairs)
- the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP)
- the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)
- the Australian Federal Police (AFP)
- the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and
- the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)
On 20 December 2017, the Home Affairs portfolio, including the Department of Home Affairs, was formally established.
What does this mean for immigration?
While this does not directly affect current visa holders and visa applicants, it does demonstrate the Government’s commitment to centralising and improving the sharing of information across the different government departments and agencies. This is reflective of other recent changes made by the Government such as attempting to increase the exclusion period under the PIC 4020 provisions and the expected collection of Tax File Numbers for 457 visa holders from January 2018 to ensure that visa holders are not being paid less than their nominated salary.
Therefore, in light of this, it is increasingly important that visa applicants disclose all relevant information to their migration agents and ensure that all information and documents provided to government departments and agencies are accurate and complete.
Interestingly, this does remind one of the US Department of Homeland Security and the far reaching powers of that department. Whilst there are genuine needs for security to improved, the unfortunate consequence of a blanket power could mean means that we may see overarching powers available to search, detain and investigate for even the most trivial of reasons.
SAME – SEX MARRIAGE
In December 2017 Australian Parliament legalised same – sex marriage under the Gay Marriage Bill which alters the definition of marriage to: the union of two people to the exclusion of all others.
On the long-awaited day of 9 January 2018, same-sex couples will finally be able to legalise their union under Australian laws.
What does this mean for immigration?
Dependents to a same-sex couple no longer need to apply for a dependent visa on the basis of being in a de facto relationship which generally requires more onerous documentation to evidence their relationship.
For example, to be included as a dependent on a Subclass 457 visa, married couples only needed to provide a marriage certificate (legally recognised in Australia) whereas de-facto couples had to provide evidence that they had been living in a de-facto relationship for at least 6 months prior to lodging the application.
We are still waiting for this to be implemented into policy and for further clarity from the Department of Immigration. However, it is expected that same – sex couples will now be eligible to apply on the basis of being ‘legally married to each other” provided that their marriage was legalised in Australia or overseas (and legally recognised in Australia).
With this momentum of change, we are hopeful that the Department of Immigration will embrace this policy approach and make it much more streamlined for same-sex couples to obtain visas and fulfil their personal and professional ambitions in Australia.
IMPENDING PARTNER VISA CHANGES
On a related topic, partner visas, in 2016 the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 (Cth) was placed before the senate. The most prominent change the Bill will introduce is a separate assessment of the sponsor. This means that partner visa applications will undergo a two – step process as the sponsorship assessment will be separate to the visa application process.
In summary of the Bill:
- Sponsors will need to be approved before visa applications are made;
- Legal obligations would be imposed on approved sponsors in relation to the provision of health and welfare;
- Where sponsors fail to meet these obligations, sanctions may be imposed; and
- In certain circumstances, sponsors can be barred from sponsorship.
However, the Bill has not been enacted. Rather, the actioning of such proposed changes has been deferred to 2018 – this year. In relay of this information, to those contemplating or in the early initial stages of preparing for a partner visa, we suggest that you take advantage of the deferral for however long it may last for now and lodge your partner visa application as soon as you are eligible.
TEMPORARY SPONSORED PARENT VISA
In the 2017-18 federal budget, a new temporary sponsored parent visa was announced to allow Australians to sponsor their parents to stay in Australia for up to five (5) years.
This much anticipated visa was expected to be available from November 2017, but has been delayed due to the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 not yet passed by the Senate.
If passed, this visa is expected to include the following:
- The sponsors must:
– be a biological, adoptive, or a step-child of their parent. A step-parent can only apply if they are still in a married/de facto relationship with a biological parent of the sponsoring Australian child;
– provide valid evidence of their identity;
– be an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen;
– be 18 years or older;
– have lived in Australia for at least four years;
– meet a household income requirement;
– meet character requirements; and
– accept legal liability for any outstanding public health debt their sponsored parent accrues.
- Only one set of parents per household (that is maximum two people) can be sponsored for this visa at a time.
- The sponsored parents must meet identity, health and character requirements and not have any outstanding public health debt in Australia.
- The sponsored parents will be required to hold and maintain health insurance, from an Australian provider, valid for their intended period of stay in Australia.
- The visa will be granted for 3 years or 5 years and can be renewed for a maximum stay of 10 years in total.
- The visa application charge is expected to cost $5,000 for a 3 year visa and $10,000 for a 5-year-visa.
- The sponsored parents will not be allowed to work, however they may assist with family childcare, undertake incidental, unpaid volunteer activities or undertake short term, informal study on this visa.
This visa would be a much-welcomed addition to the Australian Immigration Framework as it provides a quicker and cheaper alternative to the existing Permanent Parent visas, for Australians to sponsor their parents to stay in Australia. With the rising costs of childcare, it would provide significant relief to Australian families who can bring their parents to look after their children and allow Australian mothers to continue to pursue their professional and educational goals.
We are hopeful that we can relay the good news of this new temporary sponsored parent visa to you soon!
Another two months and it will be March 2018 – the month from which the beloved 457, which has served the Australian economy since the early 1990’s, will cease to operate.
Considering its long-standing history in Australia and the array of skilled individuals the visa has brought since its conception, it will be a sad moment.
Those currently on a 457 visa or may be granted one prior to March will not be adversely affected by the abolishment in March. The visa will operate under the standard rules and procedures until the prescribed expiry date. Once expired, you will no longer be able to reapply for another 457. The same rules apply for all secondary applicants.
The current 457 program will be abolished and replaced with the Temporary Skills Shortage Visa (TSS). The TSS is split into two distinct stream:
- Short-Term: Up to 2 years, can only renewed once, with no pathway to permanent residency.
- Medium-Term: Up to 4 years with a possible pathway to permanent residency after three years subject to meeting all other eligibility criteria.
Both streams will be guided by the following eligibility criteria:
- Occupation lists;
- Onshore renewals;
- Minimum English language levels;
- Market rate minimum salary not less than the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT);
- At least two years’ relevant work experience;
- Mandatory labour market testing (with exemptions);
- Mandatory criminal history checks;
- A requirement to pay a contribution to the Skilling Australians Fund; and
- A non – discriminatory workforce test to ensure employers are not actively discriminating against Australian workers.
June 2017 saw the introduction of the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and other Measures) Bill 2017 into Parliament. These changes, which were to be effective 1 July 2018, included:
- General residence requirements will be increased. Applicants will need to have a minimum of four years permanent residence immediately prior to their application for citizenship with no more than one year spent outside Australia during that period;
- Applicants must complete a separate English language test, demonstrating English language listening, speaking, reading and writing skills at the minimum required level before applying for citizenship by conferral;
- Applicants are required to undertake to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community;
- There is the addition of a strengthened Australian values statement to include reference to allegiance to Australia. This will be extended to applicants aged 16 years and over for all streams of citizenship by application, including citizenship by descent, adoption and resumption;
- Applicants must complete a test with the addition of new test questions about Australian values and the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship;
- Applicants must demonstrate their integration into the Australian community.
However, the Australian Government was unable to get enough numbers in the Senate to pass the Bill by the deadline, and as a result the proposed legislation was struck from the Senate notice paper. The Government has indicated that they intend to re-draft the legislation and reintroduce the Bill in the near future.
What does this mean for you?
If you apply before 1 July 2018, your citizenship application will be assessed against the current eligibility criteria which has lower residence requirements and no English test. If you apply on or after 1 July 2018, subject to the passage of legislation, the application will be assessed against the new requirements. As such, if you intend to apply for Australian Citizenship, we highly recommend that you do so as soon as possible to take advantage of the delay in the new Citizenship changes being passed.
THE START OF THE YEAR
Gilton Valeo is ready for the New Year. Challenges are always welcome, and we are excited to work in the face of major change in the Australian Immigration sphere, some positive and some not so much so. We will continue to keep you updated throughout the year as we receive further news and clarity from the Government. Once again, Happy New Year and grateful for having you for 2018.