It’s been a long time coming, but the second half of 2019 saw key anticipated visa programs finally come into being – most notably, the new Skilled Regional visas. Even as permanent migration in Australia continues to stagnate, the huge uptick in temporary visas shows that workers with specific skills are still very much in demand.
In this edition, we summarise key things you’ll need to know heading into the new year: the where, what and how of regional visas; the Global Talent Independent Program; the ongoing debate over the alleged ‘privatisation’ of the visa system; and of course, our signature practical tips for approaching visa applications, including a timely reminder for why factual accuracy is so important.
Abacus Visa will be closed from 23 December 2019 and return to office on 6 January 2019. We hope you have a wonderful rest over the Christmas holidays!
Linda McCreath Principal Lawyer & Managing Director Abacus Visa Immigration Lawyers MARN: 0104387
Most locations outside of major cities (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) count as designated regional areas.
A new definition of ‘regional Australia’ came into effect on 16 November 2019. Most notably, Perth and Gold Coast are no longer classified as major cities, meaning skilled migrants and international students can seek opportunities under the regional visa program in those locations.
Regional visas offer certain benefits over other visas, reflecting the Australian government’s desire to attract more workers to less populated areas of the country. For instance:
Incentives for migrants to stay in regional areas longer term, including, if eligible, the option to apply for permanent residence without a second nomination stage, through the Subclass 191 visa (which commences 16 November 2022)
Lower cost to employers, with a one-off Skilled Australian Fund (SAF) levy payable for the Subclass 494 nomination (as opposed to the Subclass 482, which requires payments for each year of stay)
More points available to Subclass 491 visa applicants
Broader range of occupations available than non-regional pathways
Access to Medicare (for visa holders)
How much will it cost?
Current application fees for the regional visas include:
Base application charge
Additional applicant charge (aged +18)
Additional applicant charged (aged -18)
Can I apply for the new regional visas onshore (ie. in Australia)?
Yes. Work rights will automatically be attached to any Bridging Visa A granted to onshore applicants for either of the regional visas.
Older regional visas now closed
With the introduction of the new visas, the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) (Subclass 187) visa Direct Entry stream and Skilled Regional (Provisional) (Subclass 489) visa closed to applications from 16 November 2019.
Look out for different state and regional requirements
Already, Business & Skilled Migration Queensland (BMSQ) have announced a special pathway for small business owners, while NSW Business & Skilled Migration have flagged that applications for regional nominations will open in January 2020. We’ll be keeping an eye out for our clients as each state releases their respective visa program details.
Global Talent Independent Program: A bid to attract highly skilled migrants in key industries
Although launched to less fanfare than the Skilled Regional visas, the Global Talent Independent Program (GTIP) was yet another initiative rolled out in November that aims to attract highly skilled migrants by offering fast-tracked permanent residency. Candidates for the program are those likely to earn more than $149,000 per year, and who work in one of seven key industry sectors.
The industry sectors include AgTech, FinTech, MedTech, Cyber Security, Energy and Mining, Space and Advanced Manufacturing, and Quantum Information/Advanced Digital/ Data Science and ICT. Application is via a referral either from a Global Talent Officer, or an organisation or individual with a ‘national reputation’ in the same field as the candidate. A total of 5,000 places have been allocated in the 2019-20 migration program, primary and secondary applicants inclusive.
Visa applicants beaware: Department flags rise in incomplete applications
In a recent Skilled Visa newsletter, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) warned of an increase in permanent employer sponsored visa applications with the wrong visa subclasses, streams or ANZSCO codes entered in the nomination or associated visa application.
Tip: As we always tell our clients – in the world of visa applications, it pays to sweat the small stuff. The factual accuracy of each detail that goes into completing an application can impact whether or not it succeeds or fails, and how long it takes to process.
At Abacus Visa, we always advocate for ‘complete applications’ ie. applications where all required checks (eg. police and health checks) have been carried out and all necessary information provided. This ensures priority processing and results in application being processed faster.
Is Australia's visa system being privatised?
An ongoing Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee's Inquiry is looking at, amongst other things, the potential impact of outsourcing parts of the Australia's visa and citizenship programs to private companies. The term ‘privatisation’ is kicking up a storm, with the Labor opposition raising the possibility of more expensive visas, greater risk of worker exploitation, and data security concerns if the outsourcing goes ahead.
Meanwhile, the Coalition government has denied that it is attempting to ‘privatise’ visa decisions, painting the decision to hold a $1 billion tender process for a new online system to process visa applications as one that will improve the efficiency of the system.
The reporting date for the inquiry is set for sometime in February 2020.
Applications for a student visa will be refused if the DHA has reason to believe the applicant intends to stay in Australia permanently. In Choo (Migration)  AATA 1556, the visa applicant had previously applied for a Residence visa (but failed), had already spent five years in Australia studying various courses, and could not prove that the educational course he wanted to undertake – a patisserie course – was relevant or necessary for him to obtain employment in Malaysia.
It can be worth appealing an adverse decision on a points-tested visa if you can produce extra evidence that supports your application. In Samuel (Migration)  AATA 1079, The visa applicant was refused a Skilled Independent (Permanent) visa due to not meeting the points test. However, on appeal, they were able to show the AAT that the overseas work experience they had was in an occupation very similar to their nominated occupation, and for a longer period of time. As a result, they were awarded 10 points (compared to the previous 5), and was able to satisfy the points test. The case was remitted back to the DHA for reconsideration.
Quick update on Subclass 482 and 186 visa programs
Processing times for the Temporary Skill Shortage visa (Subclass 482) have improved, with 75% of applications in the short-term stream being processed in 35 days, and 75% of applications in the medium-term stream taking only 28 days. Applications for the Employer Nomination scheme visa (Subclass 186) are taking slightly longer, with most applications being processed in 5 to 6 months.
A number of factors impact individual processing times, but the two that applicants have most control over are one, whether you have lodged a ‘complete application’, including all necessary supporting documents, and two, how quickly any requests for additional information are responded to. It always helps to keep this in mind when going through the visa application process, as does having a professional to guide you through what is and isn’t relevant to your application.
DISCLAIMER: No material on this website, including but not limited to documents, articles, general comments, responses and other communications should be interpreted as relevant or accurate legal advice for any individual or specific situation. The information is of a general nature and cannot substitute for professional legal advice. Such advice is only provided by our firm following the acceptance by a client of our written agreement, and the payment of the required fees.