Partner Visas 10 Little Known Facts

Whilst partner visas may seem straightforward, the applicable legislation is complex and there are many subtleties most applicants will not be aware of.
This article goes through 10 of the lesser known facts about partner visas.

We highlight some of the potential pitfalls and opportunities to make your application quicker and more straightforward.

1. Lodging Before Marriage

For offshore partner visa applications (subclass 309), it is possible to make an application on the basis of an intention to get married. Providing you are married by the time your application is assessed, you should be able to meet visa requirements.
This is not possible if you are lodging an onshore subclass 820 visa. In this case, you must be married prior to lodgement if relying on legal marriage for grant of the visa.

2. Relationship Register – More Complex than it Looks

Many applicants are aware that registering your relationship can enable you to establish a de facto relationship and being granted a partner visa even if you have not lived together for 12 months.
However, the Relationship Register option can be more complex than it seems – for instance:

If you register your relationship, you still need to provide other evidence of your relationship. For instance, if you have no evidence that you are living together, you are unlikely to be successful even if you have registered your relationship
Some states and territories have a residence requirement for one or both parties before the relationship can be registered
It can take 6 weeks or more for states or territories to process relationship registration applications and provide a certificate of registration
Evidence of registration can be provided at any time up to a decision being made.
3. Financial Interdependence

Whilst cohabitation is the most critical factor, financial interdependence is also very important. Many applications are weak in this area and can be delayed or refused due to insufficient documentation. Here are some tips on the financial interdependence requirement:
Details of a joint bank account are often provided, but this is essentially useless unless both partners are actively using it. You may consider having your salaries paid into the accounting and having joint bills paid out of it.
Joint leases are good evidence of financial interdependence. It is not always possible to add your partner to the lease, but you should still be able to add them to the bond
Joint insurance policies – particularly vehicle insurance – are good evidence
4. Statutory Declarations from Friends and Family

When applying for a partner visa, you will be asked to provide two statutory declarations on Department of Immigration form 888. These are critical documents and here are some little known facts:
They must be provided by an Australian citizen, permanent resident or eligible NZ citizen. 888s done by temporary residents or non-residents will not be sufficient
The 888s must be witnessed by a Justice of the Peace or other eligible authority
It is best to provide at least one 888 from the sponsor’s parent. If the sponsor’s parents are not aware of and supportive of the relationship, this can count against you in your application
5. Online Lodgement

Lodging online is generally better than lodging a paper application. For instance, paper applications will require all your documents to be provided as certified copies, whereas colour scanned documents can be provided for online applications. However, you should note the following about online applications:
You should upload all documents as soon as possible after lodgement – if this is not done, it can result in refusal of your application
Maximum limits apply to the size of attachments – these should be compressed to reduce size, whilst still being legible
There is a limit to the number of attachments you can provide – you need to be organised to ensure that you provide enough documents for a successful outcome within this limit
6. Decision-Ready Applications

Previously, Immigration has processed partner visa applications in the order in which they were received.
In the last few months this has been changing. Instead, applications which are considered “decision ready” are allocated and processed more quickly.

As processing times for partner visas can be 18 months or more, this makes a “decision ready” application more important than ever.

A decision ready application would normally include comprehensive documentation on:

Supporting documents on the relationship – including cohabitation, financial interdependence and social interdependence
Health checks
All required police clearances
7. Character for Non Visa Applicants

Most people are aware that any family members aged 16 or over included in the partner visa application will need to provide police clearances.
Many are not aware that others may also need to provide police clearances, including:

The Sponsor: if the sponsor has previous convictions, this can lead to refusal of the visa application.
Non-Migrating Dependents: if you have children who are between 16 and 18, they will be considered dependents and will need to provide police clearances, even if they are not included in your partner visa application
8. Applicants on 457 Visas

If you currently hold a 457 visa, you can be in a difficult situation if you cease employment whilst awaiting the outcome of your partner visa application.
Whilst you will receive a bridging A visa on lodgement of an onshore partner application, this will not come into effect until your 457 visa ceases

Partner visa applications lodged onshore can easily take 18 months to be processed

If your 457 visa has a long time to run, you may remain on your 457 visa for some time. Whilst on a 457 visa, you cannot work for another employer unless they are an approved sponsor and transfer your employment by lodging a 457 nomination

If you cease employment for more than 2-3 months, Immigration would normally look at cancelling your 457 visa. If your 457 visa is cancelled, this would also result in the cancellation of your bridging visa, in which case you will become unlawful

If you depart Australia, you can consider voluntary cancellation of your 457 visa – this may be a good option for some applicants

9. Permanent Partner Stage

When making a partner visa application, you will be lodging a combined application for both a temporary partner visa and a permanent partner visa. Generally, the permanent partner visa can only be considered for grant 2 years after the initial application. Here are some lesser-known facts about the permanent partner stage:
The permanent partner stage can be lodged online, even if you lodged a paper application in some cases
You no longer need to wait for an email from Immigration to lodge the permanent stage. You can lodge an online application for the permanent partner stage as soon as you reach the 2-year mark
Processing of the permanent partner stage is currently taking 12 months or more
10. Citizenship for Partners of Australian Citizens

You can look at Australian citizenship once you have your permanent residence. Here are some facts about applying for citizenship as a partner visa holder:
Under the current legislation, you will need to have lived in Australia for the last 4 years, with a maximum of 12 months overseas. Time spent on your temporary partner visa can count towards this requirement, meaning that you may only need to hold a permanent partner visa for 12 months to be eligible for citizenship
Proposed changes to the residence requirement for Australian citizenship will mean that you will need to have to hold your permanent visa for 4 years. As it may take 3 years from the date of lodgement to get your permanent partner visa, this may result in a considerable delay in lodging your citizenship compared to current requirements
Partners of Australian citizens may be eligible for a concession when applying for citizenship. They can count time spent outside Australia as a permanent resident towards the Australian residence requirement. However, they still need to have recently lived in Australia and show a close connection to Australia to be eligible

Visa Simplification: Transforming Australia’s Visa System.

The Australian government is seeking views and opinions on Australia’s future visa system through its Policy Consultation Paper – Visa Simplification: Transforming Australia’s Visa System.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is inviting submissions to make Australia’s visa system, more responsive to country’s economic, social and security interests.

“While our visa system has served the nation well, it needs modernising,” the website says.

“Australia’s visa system is in many respects an artefact of a bygone era and is ill suited to this future. The visa system is highly complex, with 99 individual visa types.

“This makes it difficult for visitors and other entrants to navigate and understand, and challenging for the Government to administer. It also affects Australia’s attractiveness as a destination of choice for some travellers.

“Australia needs a visa system that is easier to understand, better suited to the rapidly growing number of visitors, and flexible enough for Australia to remain a competitive destination for temporary visitors and the longer-term entrants Australia needs.”

The key areas of consideration will be reducing the number of visas from 99 at present to approximately 10 visas, the delineation between temporary entry and long-term/permanent residence, the role a period of provisional residence could play in enhancing the integrity of the visa system and easing the burden on taxpayers; and ensuring that the visa system supports Australia as a competitive and attractive destination for temporary and longer-term entrants.

The responses will be used to inform advice to Government on a future design of Australia’s visa system.

The department would like to hear what you think are the most important considerations in building a modern visa system and has released a policy consultation paper to support stakeholders in developing their responses.

They would like to hear about:

What would a system with approximately 10 visas look like?
What factors should we consider when simplifying the visa system?
What should be the key characteristics of a simplified and flexible visa system?
What distinctions should apply to temporary and permanent visas?
What requirements should underpin a migrant’s eligibility for permanent residence?
Should a prospective migrant spend a period of time in Australia before becoming eligible for permanent residence? What factors should be considered?
What role does the visa system play in ensuring Australia remains attractive to the best and brightest temporary and permanent migrants?
Do you think an efficient visa system that is simple to understand and quickly assesses risk will make Australia a more attractive destination? Why?
To what extent should the Government collect biometrics from visa applicants?
You can provide your views to the Department through their online web form. Submissions can be provided until 15 September 2017.
[10:00 AM, 8/2/2017] +61 404 490 111: Priority Processing
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Australian Citizenship Bill Released

Changes to the requirements for Australian citizenship were announced on 20 April 2017. The draft legislation to enact these changes has now been released

Whilst the legislation must still pass Parliament, we can see more clearly how the new rules are likely to be implemented.

This article explains how the new rules will work based on the draft legislation.

Update – 29 June 2017

The Australian Labour Party has announced that it will oppose the Citizenship Bill. Labour has expressed concerns about both the increased residence requirement and the higher English requirement.
The Bill will now require the support of the cross-benches to pass and has been referred to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for further consideration. The Committee is due to report on the Bill on 4 September 2017.

Pending the Bill passing Parliament, we understand that Immigration has put processing of citizenship applications lodged on or after 20 April 2017 on hold.

At this point it is not clear when the proposed changes will come into effect, but we will publish further updates as soon as they are available.

Timing of Changes

Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 has bene introduced to Parliament, but has not yet passed and may be subject to further amendments before it comes into effect.
The Bill indicates following changes will be effective for any applications for citizenship lodged on or after 20 April 2017:

New General Residence Requirement
Competent English Requirement
Pledge of Allegiance Requirements
This means that applications lodged from this date will need to meet the new requirements, even though they were lodged prior to the legislation being passed by Parliament.
The balance of changes listed below would come into effect once the legislation is passed.

General Residence Requirement

The new general residence requirement for citizenship by conferral has been set out in the Bill and is as follows:
You must in general have been present in Australia for a period of 4 years as a permanent resident (this is referred to as the “Residency Period”)
You must not have been unlawful at any stage during the 4 years
If you depart Australia during the 4 years, the total period spent outside Australia must be less than 365 days, and you must maintain your permanent residence during this time

This is in line with expectations based on the announcement of 20 April and effectively means that you must hold your permanent visa for 4 years, rather than 12 months which was previously the case.
New Zealand Citizens and the Residency Requirement

New Zealand Citizens meeting certain criteria will not need to meet the new general residence requirement, but instead can apply under the previous arrangements where up to 3 years of time spent in Australia on a temporary visa can count towards the residence requirement.
The explanatory statement indicates that NZ citizens applying under the new NZ 189 stream will be able to apply under the old general residence rules.

English Requirement

The Bill indicates that you will need to demonstrate Competent English – this would require at least 6 in each band of IELTS or equivalent. Evidence of Competent English would need to be provided at lodgement for all applicants aged 16 years or over. Failure to provide this would result in the application being considered invalid. The Explanatory Statement indicates that test results up to 3 years old can be used.
The Bill mentions that exemptions may be set out in a legislative instrument – we do not yet have the draft instrument, but the Explanatory Statement mentions the following possibilities:

Passport holders of the UK, Ireland, Canada, USA or NZ
Specified English language studies at a recognised Australian education provider
Applicants with a permanent or enduring physical or mental incapacity
Applicants aged 60 or over
Applicants with hearing, speech or sight impairment
Pledge of Allegiance

The previous Pledge of Commitment will be renamed as the Pledge of Allegiance. To become a citizen, the Pledge of Allegiance is required for citizenship by conferral for all applicants aged 16 or over.
This will also apply to the following ways of acquiring citizenship which currently do not require a Pledge of Commitment:

Citizenship by Descent – children born overseas to Australian citizen parents
Adopted children (Hague Convention or bilateral agreement)
People resuming Australian Citizenship
Children born to a former Australian citizen
People obtaining citizenship due to being stateless or born in Papua during certain periods of time
Automatic Acquisition of Citizenship by Children Born in Australia on 10th Birthday

Currently, children born in Australia and who are usually resident in Australia acquire Australian citizenship by operation of law on their 10th birthday.
The Bill introduces significant limitations on this, and the child will be ineligible for citizenship in the following circumstances:

Children who are unlawful at any stage
Children who depart Australia and do not have a visa to return to Australia
If the child’s parent becomes unlawful prior to the birth of the child
If the child’s parent has diplomatic status in Australia
Strengthened Character Requirements

The Bill gives the Minister more power to do the following where there are character concerns:
Refuse Citizenship applications
Delay processing of citizenship applications by deferring the date for the Pledge of Allegiance – this delay could be up to 2 years
Cancelling approval of citizenship prior to the Pledge of Allegiance being taken
Cancelling approval after the Pledge of Allegiance

Children under 18 will now need to meet the character requirement. Children 16 years or over will need to undergo police checks. Where there are known issues, Immigration may look into character for applicants aged under 16 years as well.
A citizenship application cannot be approved where a person is:

Subject to pending proceedings for an offence
Serving a term in prison
On parole
Confined in a mental health facility by court order
Subject to home detention or residential program for mental health or drug rehabilitation

A 2-year bar eligibility bar for Australian citizenship applies after serving a serious prison term or 10 years for repeat offenders.
The Minister has the power to personally make a decision on character grounds which is non-reviewable, and the substitute a decision in favour of applicants at the AAT on character grounds.

2-Year Bar where Citizenship Refused

A 2-year bar can apply where a citizenship application is refused on grounds other than meeting the residence requirement. If your applications is refused for instance on character grounds, you will not be able to apply again for a period of 2 years.
Revocation of Australian Citizenship for Fraud or Misrepresentation

Where incorrect information is provided, this can result revocation of Australian citizenship. This can relate to:
The application for Australian citizenship
Entry to Australia – presumably this might include information on incoming passenger cards
Previous visa applications

The fraud or misrepresentation may have been done by a third party, and includes concealing relevant information. Any fraud or misrepresentation which has occurred up to 10 years prior to the revocation can be considered.

Changes to Australian Citizenship

The Australian Government has announced changes to Australian citizenship requirements which are effective 20 April 2017.

The changes will require:

That applicants hold their Australian permanent residence for longer
Formal English language testing
A revised Citizenship test
Evidence that applicants show that they have integrated into Australian society
This article explains the changes and gives guidance for people affected by the changes.
Changes to General Residence Requirement

Applicants for citizenship by conferral would generally need to show that they meet the “General Residence” requirement.
This would mean showing that they have been present in Australia for at least:

The last 4 years, on any temporary, permanent or bridging visa, with a maximum of 12 months overseas; and
The last 12 months, on a permanent visa, with a maximum of 3 months overseas
Previously, it was possible to count time spent in Australia on a temporary visa or bridging visa towards the 4-year requirement in (1) above.
The announced changes would require that applicants hold a permanent visa for 4 years before applying. This would potentially require applicants to wait a further 3 years before applying for Australian citizenship.

Who Will Be Most Affected?

It is quite common for people to spend a significant amount of time in Australia on temporary or bridging visas ahead of obtaining permanent residence. Examples would include:
International students who complete studies in Australia ahead of applying for General Skilled Migration
457 visa holders who work for their employer in Australia for several years, then apply for permanent residence through the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS)
Partner visa applicants who first obtain a temporary partner visa, then qualify for a permanent partner visa 2 years after lodging their initial partner visa application
Are There Exceptions to the Residence Requirement?

There are concessions to the general residence requirement currently in the Citizenship Act – these include:
Partners of Australian citizens – in this case time spent outside Australia can be counted towards the residence requirement, providing you hold a permanent visa at the time
Significant hardship – time spent in Australia on a temporary visa can be considered towards the requirement for holding a permanent visa, if otherwise significant hardship would result

You can also apply under the Special Residence pathway – this would generally require that you are supported by an Australian sporting agency, have completed defence service or need to travel regularly due to your employment. For the employment pathway, only certain types of work can be considered, including:
a member of the crew of a ship or aircraft;
work on a resources installation or a sea installation;
CEO or Executive Manager of an S&P/ASX All Australian 200 listed company;
Scientists employed by a university, CSIRO or medial research institute
Medical specialists internationally renowned in their field
Writer or person engaged in the visual or performing arts and who is the holder of, or has held, a Distinguished Talent Visa.
When do the Changes come into Effect?

The Department of Immigration citizenship eligibility page has been updated and indicates that the residence requirements come into effect as of 20 April 2017.
However, it also notes that the legislation to bring the changes into effect has not yet been passed by Parliament. The Government has indicated that the legislation will be put to Parliament by the end of 2017, and it is possible that it will take some time for the legislation to be passed.

If the legislation is not passed by Parliament, then the previous rules would continue to be in effect.

If the legislation is passed by Parliament, it is likely to be retrospective and affect applications lodged on or after 20 April 2017. Pending applications which don’t meet the 4-year permanent residence requirement are likely to be put on hold and processed once the legislation is passed.

What are my Options if I’m Affected by the Changes?

Option 1 – Lodge Now

If you meet the previous General Residence requirement for Australian citizenship, you have the option of still proceeding with lodgement. The online lodgement system is not currently available, so you would need to lodge a paper application.
If the legislation is not passed, your application might then be successful.

If the legislation is passed, your application is likely to be refused. This would not affect your the permanent visa you hold. You would lose the application fee of $285, but would not have any other adverse consequences.

Another possibility would be that the legislation is passed, but does not come into effect retrospectively. In this case, there would be an advantage to lodging ahead of the legislation being introduced to Parliament.

If considering this option, we would recommend you do this without delay as it’s possible Immigration will stop accepting paper applications to close this application pathway.

Option 2 – Wait Until Legislative Process is Completed

As the legislation is not yet passed, you could wait until it is clear whether the legislation will come into effect or not.
At the moment, it is not clear that the Government has the numbers in the lower house to pass the legislation.

Even if it is passed, it may need to be amended to get it through Parliament.

This option gives the greatest certainty, but requires you to keep a close eye on developments.

Option 3 – Apply Based on one of the Concessions to the Residence Requirement

This may be possible if you can show significant hardship or that you are required to travel due to your employment.
Option 4 – Wait Until You Meet the 4-Year Permanent Residence Requirement

This may require you to wait up to an additional 3 years, during which time you may need to spent the majority of your time in Australia.
Changes to English Requirement

Applicants will need to show Competent English when applying for Australian citizenship going forward – this will require many applicants to do an English test. English testing was not previously required.
Competent English would require a score of 6 in each band of IELTS, or one of the alternative tests of English.

Passport holders from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and New Zealand are usually exempt from English language testing in demonstrating competent English – we would expect this to also apply to the citizenship requirement.

English tests are usually valid for 3 years – we would hope that applicants who have previously done an English test for their permanent residence application would be exempt for English language testing.

Integration Requirement

According to the discussion paper, applicants will need to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community by providing documentation on their integration into Australian society.
This is likely to include providing evidence that you are:

Working, are actively looking for work or seeking to educate yourself
Actively involved in community or voluntary organisations
Properly paying your taxes
Ensuring your children are attending school

If there is evidence of the following, your application might be refused:
Criminal records
Breaching social security laws
Family Violence including any AVOs
Involvement in gangs and organised crime
Applicants previously needed to show that they were of good character, but the changes give Immigration more discretion to refuse applicants who are not sufficiently integrated into Australian society.
Citizenship Test

A new citizenship test will be developed which tests Australian values more thoroughly.
Applicants will be able to attempt the test a maximum of 3 times. If a person is found to be cheating on the test, this will result in an automatic fail.

The current citizenship test has a low faiure rate. The most important aspect of this change will be to reinforce Australian values and make the importance of integration into the Australian community more clear.

Can I Do Anything to Prevent the Change Happening?

There is a discussion paper on the proposed changes to Australian citizenship.
If you are going to be affected, we would recommend that you make a submission to Submissions close on 1 June 2017.

Strengthening the integrity of Australian citizenship

Joint Media Release with the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister – Strengthening the integrity of Australian citizenship

The Turnbull Government will strengthen Australian citizenship by putting Australian values at the heart of citizenship processes and requirements.

Our reforms will ensure applicants are competent in English, have been a permanent resident for at least four years and commit to embracing Australian values.

Australia is an immigration nation. We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. More than 130,000 people from around 210 countries are invited to become Australian citizens each year. We welcome the contribution, opportunities and energy they bring to our community.

Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia.

Citizenship is at the heart of our national identity. It is the foundation of our democracy. We must ensure that our citizenship program is conducted in our national interest. The reforms will include:

  • Requiring all applicants to pass a stand-alone English test, involving reading, writing, listening and speaking;
  • Requiring applicants to have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least four years (instead of one year at present);
  • Strengthening the citizenship test itself with new and more meaningful questions that assess an applicant’s understanding of – and commitment to – our shared values and responsibilities;
  • Requiring applicants to show the steps they have taken to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community. Examples would include evidence of employment, membership of community organisations and school enrolment for all eligible children.
  • Limiting the number of times an applicant can fail the citizenship test to three (at present there is no limit to the number of times an applicant can fail the test);
  • Introducing an automatic fail for applicants who cheat during the citizenship test.

In our democracy, the most important title is “Australian citizen”. Citizenship brings with it great privileges and responsibilities and so deserves respect and commitment from those who seek it, as well as those who are granted it.

Those who choose to become Australian citizens are making a solemn commitment to our democracy, to our way of life. And that commitment, made by 5 million since 1949, has helped secure and enrich our nation.

English language proficiency is essential for economic participation. It promotes integration into the Australian community and social cohesion. Relevant exemptions will apply, such as for permanent or enduring incapacity and for those under 16 years of age.

Any conduct that is inconsistent with Australian values will be considered as part of this process. For example, criminal activity, including violence against women and children, involvement in gangs or organised crime, is thoroughly inconsistent with Australian values.

These changes have been informed by the feedback received from the National Consultation on Citizenship, conducted by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and the Hon Philip Ruddock MP in 2015 and the 2016 Productivity Commission Report Migrant Intake into Australia.

The new requirements will apply to all new applications for Australian citizenship.

See: Index of Media Releases


Last update: Thursday, 20 April 2017

457 Visa to be Abolished – Replaced by Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa from March 2018

The 457 Visa is to be abolished from March 2018, and replaced by a new temporary work visa called the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa.

This initiative was announced on Facebook by Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Some information on the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa are now available on the Department of Immigration website.

Changes to the occupations list for 457 visas will come into effect from 19 April 2017 – with some sources suggesting that up to 200 occupations will be removed from the approved list.

The changes will also impact on people applying for permanent residence through the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) visa.

New Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa

There is some information on the requirements for the new temporary work visa replacing the 457 visa.
The main points are as follows:

Occupations List

From 19 April 2017, a shorter list of occupations will be allowed for the 457 visa – some sources suggest that up to 200 occupations will be cut.
We would expect that the shorter list would also apply to the new TSS visa.

A change to the approved list for 457 visas could also impact on the ENS direct entry visa, the Occupational Trainee Stream of the Training Subclass 407 visa, and state nominated General Skilled visas (ie the Skilled Nominated Subclass 190 and Skilled Regional Provisional Subclass 489 visa).

Work Experience

A minimum of 2 years of work experience will be required to meet the requirement for the visa. The skill level for a 457 visa can currently be met without any work experience, providing the applicant has relevant qualifications.
This change will impact significantly on those without work experience in the occupation – particularly international students completing studies in Australia.

Labour Market Testing

Labour Market Testing would require employers to show that they have advertised the position to be filled and show that a local is not available to fill the position.
Currently, Labour Market Testing is only required when nominating trade occupations, nursing or engineering occupations for a 457 visa. The announcement indicates that Labour Market Testing will be required in all cases when applying for a TSS visa, except when exempted by international trade agreements.

If Labour Market Testing is required in most cases when applying for a TSS visa, this could significantly delay lodgement of the visa application – particularly important when filling an urgently required role or where the applicant’s visa is expiring.

Visa Period

There will be 2 streams for the TSS visa – a short-term stream of 2-years and a medium-term stream of 4-years.
The short-term stream can only be renewed only once.

The medium-term stream is likely to have higher requirements (eg English language ability, shorter occupations list) and can be renewed or may also lead to a permanent visa.

Police Clearances

Police clearances will be required for the TSS visa. Depending on the country of residence, these can take several months to come through. Police clearances are not required for 457 visas, unless the applicant has a criminal record.
Permanent Employer Sponsored Visas

Changes have also been outlined for permanent employer sponsored visas – this would potentially affect both the ENS and RSMS visas. It is not yet clear when these changes would come into effect – most likely this would be March 2018.
Likely changes include:

Work Experience: 3 years of work experience will be required to apply for permanent employer sponsored visas in general.
Transition from 457: for the ENS and RSMS Temporary Residence Transition stream, applicants must currently show that they have worked for their employer on a 457 visa for 2 years. 3 years of work for the employer on a TSS will be required going forward
Age: applicants for permanent employer sponsored visas will need to be under 45 when applying. Currently, it is possible to apply for ENS and RSMS up to the age of 50, and a few concessions exist to waive the age requirement. This change would have a significant impact on older applicants.
Regional Concessions

The announcement indicates that certain concessions will be retained for regional employers. These may include:
Occupations List for Temporary and Permanent Employer Sponsored Visas: a wider range of occupations may be possible for both the 457/TSS and RSMS visas for regional employers.
Age Exemptions for Permanent Employer Sponsored Visas: age waivers are currently possible for the ENS and RSMS visa for certain occupations – this includes medical practitioners, academics and staff at Government scientific agencies. These concessions will be retained for regional employers, and might also be expanded

SkillSelect and State Nomination Update April 2017

More popular occupations filled or are almost full for the 2016-17 program year in the last SkillSelect invitation round.

There are also updates for South Australia and Western Australia state nomination criteria.

This article explains the most recent changes.

SkillSelect Update – March 2017

The results of the 29 March SkillSelect round have been published.
The occupational group ICT Business and System Analysts is now full. Accountants and Software and Analyst Programmers are over 99% full, with most other pro-rata occupations likely to be filled by the end of April.

Once these occupations are full, no further invitations can be issued for the Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visa or Skilled Regional (Provisional) Subclass 489 family sponsored stream until 1 July 2017 when the program re-opens.

This will most likely result in a backlog of EOIs in these occupations. Unless occupational ceilings are increased, we can expect minimum points or waiting times for invitations to increase when the program reopens.

New occupational ceilings are due to be published in July 2017, and will be important in understanding how many points will be required in pro rata occupations going forward.

Occupation/Subclass Points Required Waiting Time Invitations – 15 Mar Running Total Target Places Remaining % Filled
Accountants 70 22 weeks 196 2492 2500 8 99.70%
Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers 70 13 weeks 110 1375 1413 38 97.30%
ICT Business and System Analysts 70 Next round 42 1482 1482 0 100%
Software and Applications Programmers 65 3 weeks 450 5648 5662 14 99.80%
Electronics Engineer 60 15 weeks 58 937 1000 63 93.70%
ndustrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers 65 19 weeks 34 1501 1539 38 97.50%
Other Engineering Professionals 65 12 weeks 0 1018 1000 0 101.80%
Computer Network Professionals 65 8 weeks 0 1482 1426 0 103.90%

State Nomination Update – South Australia

South Australia has announced that its high points scorer pathway will now requires 85 points, rather than 80 which was previously the case. The high points scorer pathway allows applicants to apply for SA state nomination if their occupation is on the Supplementary List or with “Special Conditions Apply” classification.
The high points scorer change will come into effect on 19 April 2017 – applications lodged prior to this date will not be affected, so please contact us if you would like assistance with applying prior to the cut-off date.

Certain occupations are no longer be eligible for the high points scorer or chain migration exemptions – this includes the following occupations:

221111 Accountant (General)
223111 Human Resource Adviser
225113 Marketing Specialist
225412 Sales Representative (Medical and Pharmaceutical Products)
242111 University Lecturer
242112 University Tutor
251511 Hospital Pharmacist
251513 Retail Pharmacist
This change came into effect on 5 April 2017. The chain migration exemption also allows applicants with relatives in South Australia to apply for SA state nomination in occupations which are on the Supplementary List or with “Special Conditions Apply” classification.
State Nomination Update – Western Australia

Western Australia suspended its state nomination program in March 2017 pending review of the WASMOL.
The WA program is now re-opened but is open only to certain medical practitioners and sonographers.

A revised list is due to be released in late May 2017.


SkillSelect Update – Pro Rata Occupations Likely to be Full by April 2017

Results for the 15 March SkillSelect invitation round have been published.

Two occupations have reached their occupation ceiling and most other pro rata occupations are likely to be filled by the end of April.

Our article analyses the results and gives an indication of what to expect in the next few rounds.

Occupations Filled in 15 March Round

The following occupation groups reached their occupation ceiling in the 15 March round:
Other Engineering Professionals
Computer Network Professionals
In fact, more invitations were issued than were available in the occupation ceiling in these occupations.
Occupations Likely to be Filled in the Next Few Rounds

Looking at the current invitation rate for pro rata occupations and the number of remaining places, we can forecast when each occupation is likely to be filled:
29 March Round

ICT Business and System Analysts
12 April Round

Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers
Software and Applications Programmers
26 April Round

Electronics Engineer
Industrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers
Consequences of Occupations Filling Early

Once an occupation is filled, no further invitations can be issued in that occupation for the Skilled Independent Subclass 189 or Skilled Regional Provisional Subclass 489 (family stream) until the program reopens on 1 July 2017.
If no invitations are issued in pro rata occupations between April 2017 and July 2017, this will create a significant backlog of applicants who have lodged EOIs through SkillSelect.

Unless there are increases in the occupation ceilings for the pro rata occupations, we can expect either the minimum score to be higher for pro rata occupations or for the waiting time to increase for an invitation.

Recommendations for Applicants in Pro Rata Occupations

It is getting more competitive for applicants in pro rata occupations looking to apply for the Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visa.
People in this situation could consider:

Increasing Points Score – this improvise your priority when it comes to SkillSelect
Considering skills assessment in other skilled occupations – in some cases, this could be based on qualifications and work experience you already have, or looking at further studies in a different field
State Nomination – occupation ceilings do not apply to state nominated visas, and this also streamlines the invitation process
Alternative visa types – for instance you might eligible for employer sponsorship or sponsorship by a family member
If you would like full advice on your migration options, please book a consultation with one of our advisors. We will go through your situation in detail, and look at all your migration options. This would include advice on requirements for the most likely skilled occupations, ways to increase your points score, state nomination options as well as likely migration pathways.

Data Table
Below is the current status of pro rata occupations in SkillSelect.
Occupation/Subclass Points Required Waiting Time Invitations – 15 Mar Running Total Target Places Remaining Rounds Left
Accountants 70 22 weeks 196 2296 2500 204 1
Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers 70 13 weeks 110 1265 1413 148 1.3
ICT Business and System Analysts 65 31 weeks 120 1440 1482 42 0.4
Software and Applications Programmers 65 4 weeks 450 5198 5662 464 1
Electronics Engineer 60 14 weeks 58 879 1000 121 2.1
ndustrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers 65 17 weeks 34 1467 1539 72 2.1
Other Engineering Professionals 65 10 weeks 56 1018 1000 0 0
Computer Network Professionals 65 6 weeks 100 1482 1426 0 0


SkillSelect and State Nomination March 2017

The situation remains difficult for pro-rata occupations, but this may change as the number of invitations being issued is well below planning levels.

A few states have restricted their state nomination programs, but state nomination remains a very effective way to improve your eligibility for migration to Australia.

Non-Pro Rata Occupations

For most occupations, 60 point is sufficient to obtain an invitation for either the 189 or 489 subclass, and applicants can expect an invitation next invitation rounds.
The reason for this is that the total number of invitations being issued for both 189 and 489 subclasses is nowhere near sufficient to hit the targets being set by the Department of Immigration.

The current planning level for the 189 subclass is 2,000 invitations per round – giving a total of 48,000 for the program year. Even though we are now 3 quarters through the 2016-17 financial year, only 23,021 invitations have been issued for 189 visas, or 48% of the total planning level.

Similarly for the 489 family sponsored subclass, the planning level is currently 200 per round, or an annual total of 4,800, but only 1,082 invitations have been issued – a lowly 23% of the total. The reason for the shortfall is that applicants in pro rata occupations (see below) are currently very unlikely to receive invitations for 489 family sponsored visas – the 189 program has priority for these occupations.

Pro Rata Occupations

The situation is quite different for occupations which are on the “pro rata” list. These are occupations where more eligible EOIs (Expressions of Interest) are being lodged than there are places available in the occupational ceiling.
The maximum number of invitations for such occupations is limited each round, resulting in a higher minimum points for an invitation or a longer waiting time for invitation.

Accountants and Auditors are the most difficult occupations – they currently require 70 points for an invitation, and waiting times for an invitation are quite long even with this score (3-6 months).

All IT SOL occupations are on the pro rata list as well and require 65 points for an invitation. ICT Business and System Analysts are currently waiting 31 weeks for an invitation with 65 points, but the situation is much better for Computer Network Professionals (6 weeks) and Software and Applications Programmers (4 weeks).

There are a number of engineering specialisations on the pro rata list – most require 65 points for an invitation, but electronics engineers have oscillated between 60 and 65 points in the last few months. Some of these occupations were added fairly late in the program year and are currently very close to being filled – Other Engineering Professionals are 96% filled and Industrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers are 93% filled.

The 1 March round was interesting in that double the usual number of pro-rata invitations were issued – this suggests that the program is low on numbers and that Immigration is seeking to fill more places.

If the higher number of pro-rata occupations continues, it would mean that the occupational ceilings for pro rata occupations may be met well before the end of the program year. As a result, points and/or waiting times may reduce in the short term, but there may be a period of a month or two where invitations are not issued in some occupations.

State Nomination Update

A number of states and territories have tightened up their state nomination requirements for 190 and 489 visas.
For instance, Western Australia has this week announced that it has suspended 190 and 489 nominations pending a review of the WASMOL. This may be a consequence of the recent state election in WA.

ACT recently suspended state nominations for offshore applicants – nomination is now only available for those living in the ACT.

Victoria previously sponsored IT professionals quite actively but has suspended these occupations until the new financial year.

Despite these changes, state nomination remains a very effective way to improve your eligibility for skilled migration. Figures from February show that there are a significant number of state nominations being issued (1,578 for the month in total), with NSW, South Australia and Victoria still very active in sponsoring for General Skilled Migration.

Visa subclass ACT NSW NT Qld SA Tas. Vic. WA Total
Skilled – Nominated (subclass 190) visa 34 420 15 74 141 46 234 17 981
Skilled – Regional (Provisional) (subclass 489) visa 0 32 5 6 93 70 0 0 206
Business Innovation and Investment (subclass 188) visa 0 50 0 40 14 2 199 14 319
Business Talent (Permanent) (subclass 132) visa 0 8 0 19 28 0 4 13 72
Total 34 510 20 139 276 118 437 44 1578

SkillSelect Source Data

The table below summarises the current situation for the Skilled Independent Subclass 189 and Skilled Regional Provisional (Family Sponsored) subclass 489.

Occupation/Subclass Points Required Waiting Time 42781 42795 Running Total Target % Filled
189 – Most Occupations 60 Next round 1253 1832 23021 48000 48% filled
Accountants 70 22 weeks 98 196 2100 2500 84% filled
Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers 70 12 weeks 55 110 1155 1413 82% filled
ICT Business and System Analysts 65 31 weeks 60 120 1320 1482 89% filled
Software and Applications Programmers 65 4 weeks 225 450 4748 5662 84% filled
Electronics Engineer 60 14 weeks 29 58 821 1000 82% filled
Industrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers 65 16 weeks 17 34 1433 1539 93% filled
Other Engineering Professionals 65 11 weeks 28 56 962 1000 96% filled
Computer Network Professionals 65 6 weeks 50 100 1382 1426 97% filled
Skilled Regional Provisional
Subclass 489
60 Next round 27 32 1082 4800 23% filled


Maintaining Permanent Residence in Australia

Many people do not realise that when they are granted their permanent residence they receive a travel facility which is only valid for 5 years.

To maintain your Australian permanent resident status, you must either meet a residence requirement in Australia or show that you have close ties to Australia.

This article goes through the requirements to extend your permanent resident status.

Travel Facility on a Permanent Visa

Whilst your permanent visa will allow you to remain in Australia indefinitely, the travel facility is only valid for a period of 5 years.
If you wish to continue traveling to and from Australia after the initial 5-year facility, you must either:

Obtain a Resident Return Visa (RRV); or
Apply for Australian Citizenship
Australian citizenship is the preferred option as it will entitle you to always re-enter Australia. As an Australian citizen, you could also obtain an Australian passport.
To qualify for Australian Citizenship, you must meet strict residence requirements. If you don’t meet these, then the Resident Return Visa (RRV) would be the next best option.

5-Year Resident Return Visa (RRV)

This option would require you to show that you have spent at least 2 of the last 5 years physically present in Australia.
Ensuring that you spend at least 2 years in Australia out of each 5 year period is the best way to maintain your permanent residence in Australia. This way, you will obtain a 5-year travel facility and are not subject to any discretionary requirements (eg close ties to Australia or compelling reasons for absence).

12-Month Resident Return Visa (RRV)

If you cannot meet the 2 of the last 5 year residence requirement, the best option would be a 12-month Resident Return Visa.
Close Ties of Benefit to Australia

For the 12-month RRV, you will need to demonstrate substantial business, cultural, employment or personal ties of benefit to Australia. This would typically be:
Close family members in Australia
A job offer or ownership of a business in Australia
Evidence that you have established residence here – for instance leased accommodation, enrolled children in school or moved the bulk of your assets to Australia
Absence from Australia – Compelling Reasons

If you have been absent from Australia for more than 5 years, you will need to show that you have compelling reasons for this absence. The case of Lorenzo Paduano v Minister for Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs & Migration Review Tribunal [2005] FCA 211 (10 March 2005) turned on the matter of “compelling reasons for absence from Australia”. The correct question to ask when looking at this issue is: ‘Were the reasons for the absence compelling in that they were forceful?’
In particular:

The applicant is the one who must have been ‘compelled’ by the reasons for absence
Applicants do not need to demonstrate an involuntary element, involving circumstances beyond a person’s control or involving physical or legal necessity
Compelling is to be interpreted broadly – forceful reasons for an absence may involve moral necessity or other circumstances which are convincing by reason of their forcefulness
Examples of Compelling Reasons for Absence

Seven examples of “compelling reasons for absence” are given in the Department of Immigration Procedures Advice Manual. These are:
Severe illness or death of an overseas family member
Work or study commitments
Living overseas with an Australian citizen partner
Complex or lengthy medical treatment preventing travel
Legal proceedings such as sale of property, custody, or contractual obligations
Natural disasters or political uprising preventing travel
Significant personal events for example waiting up to 12 months for a child to complete their education
Whilst the Procedures Advice Manual acknowledges that the applicant does not need to show that the circumstances were beyond their control, more weight would be placed on situations where this is the case.

RRVs for Members of the Family Unit

If you are eligible for an RRV, members of your family unit can also apply for RRVs. This would include your spouse and any dependent children.
The duration of the family unit members’ RRVs would generally be 12 months even if you have a 5-year RRV. If your RRV is expiring sooner than this, then your family unit members’ RRVs will expire on the same date as yours.