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

Occupation Ceilings for 2017-18 Program Year Released

The Department of Immigration has finally released the occupation ceilings for the 2017-18 Program Year.

It appears to be good news for accountants, Software Engineers and Mechanical Engineers with significantly higher ceilings for these occupations.

Results of the 12 July SkillSelect Round have also been released and this gives a good idea of the minimum points required at the moment for an invitation.

Pro Rata Occupations

There have been increases in the occupation ceiling for the following pro rata occupations – it is quite possible that the required points score will reduce compared to the 2016-17 program year:
Accountants: Increased by 2285 places to 4785
Industrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers: Increased by 639 places to 2178
Software and Applications Programmers: Increased by 540 places to 6202
ICT Business and Systems Analysts: Increased by 92 places to 1574
The following occupations had a reduced occupation ceiling – as a result the required points or waiting times may increase:
Computer Network Professionals: Decreased by 108 places to 1318
Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers: Decreased by 86 places to 1327
Ceilings for the following occupations are unchanged at 1000 places:
Electronics Engineers
Other Engineering Professionals
We also have the results of the 12 July SkillSelect Round – we saw required points for pro rata occupations being very high. This is most likely a result of a 3-month backlog of EOIs in the system, and we would expect these to reduce over the next few months:

Occupation Points Weeks
Accountants 75 13
Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers 75 15.1
Electronics Engineer 70 3.9
Industrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers 70 3.7
Other Engineering Professionals 70 14
ICT Business and System Analysts 75 6
Software and Applications Programmers 70 11.4
Computer Network Professionals 70 14.3

Other Occupations

70 points were required for all non-pro rata occupations as well in the 12 July round. Waiting time was 3.7 weeks with this score.
We do not yet have an occupation ceiling for the ICT Security Specialist Occupation – this would appear to be an oversight.

The following occupations have experienced significant decreases in their occupation ceilings – It is possible that some of these occupations might go onto the pro rata list in the 2017-18 year:

Bricklayers and Stonemasons: Decreased by 480 places to 1271
Other Medical Practitioners: Decreased by 315 places to 1000
Metal Fitters and Machinists: Decreased by 1347 places to 5330
Solicitors: Decreased by 993 places to 4161
Engineering Managers: Decreased by 252 places to 1155
Airconditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics: Decreased by 274 places to 1427
Social Workers: Decreased by 221 places to 1562
Special Education Teachers: Decreased by 126 places to 1000
Carpenters and Joiners: Decreased by 750 places to 6968
Medical Laboratory Scientists: Decreased by 115 places to 1487
Chefs: Decreased by 179 places to 2675
Electronics Trades Workers: Decreased by 115 places to 1878

Occupation Ceiling 2016-17 Ceiling 2017-18 Change %
1331 Construction Managers 5289 5400 111 2.10%
1332 Engineering Managers 1407 1155 -252 -17.90%
1341 Child Care Centre Managers 1000 1000 0 0.00%
1342 Health and Welfare Services Managers 1177 1374 197 16.70%
2211 Accountants* 2500 4785 2285 91.40%
2212 Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers* 1413 1327 -86 -6.10%
2241 Actuaries, Mathematicians and Statisticians 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2245 Land Economists and Valuers 1035 1000 -35 -3.40%
2312 Marine Transport Professionals 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2321 Architects and Landscape Architects 1391 1474 83 6.00%
2322 Cartographers and Surveyors 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2331 Chemical and Materials Engineers 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2332 Civil Engineering Professionals 2174 3296 1122 51.60%
2333 Electrical Engineers 1254 1042 -212 -16.90%
2334 Electronics Engineers* 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2335 Industrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers* 1539 2178 639 41.50%
2339 Other Engineering Professionals* 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2341 Agricultural and Forestry Scientists 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2346 Medical Laboratory Scientists 1602 1487 -115 -7.20%
2347 Veterinarians 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2349 Other Natural and Physical Science Professionals 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2411 Early Childhood (Pre-primary School) Teachers 1822 2639 817 44.80%
2414 Secondary School Teachers 8032 7910 -122 -1.50%
2415 Special Education Teachers 1126 1000 -126 -11.20%
2512 Medical Imaging Professionals 1000 1113 113 11.30%
2514 Optometrists and Orthoptists 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2519 Other Health Diagnostic and Promotion Professionals 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2521 Chiropractors and Osteopaths 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2524 Occupational Therapists 1000 1109 109 10.90%
2525 Physiotherapists 1345 1464 119 8.80%
2526 Podiatrists 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2527 Speech Professionals and Audiologists 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2531 General Practitioners and Resident Medical officers 3495 3495 0 0.00%
2533 Internal Medicine Specialists 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2534 Psychiatrists 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2535 Surgeons 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2539 Other Medical Practitioners 1315 1000 -315 -24.00%
2541 Midwives 1017 1090 73 7.20%
2544 Registered Nurses 16346 16741 395 2.40%
2611 ICT Business and Systems Analysts* 1482 1574 92 6.20%
2613 Software and Applications Programmers* 5662 6202 540 9.50%
2631 Computer Network Professionals* 1426 1318 -108 -7.60%
2633 Telecommunications Engineering Professionals 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2711 Barristers 1000 1000 0 0.00%
2713 Solicitors 5154 4161 -993 -19.30%
2723 Psychologists 1532 1750 218 14.20%
2725 Social Workers 1783 1562 -221 -12.40%

Training Benchmark Changes for Employer Sponsors from 1 July 2017

To be approved as a Standard Business Sponsor for the 457 Program employers must show they have met one of the two training benchmarks.
The training benchmarks are also relevant when applying for permanent residence under the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS).

Important changes were introduced to the training benchmarks on 1 July 2017 – this article explains how the changes will impact employers.

Benchmark A – Payments to a Training Fund

This involves paying 2% of payroll to an industry training fund. From July 2017 payments may be made to one of the following:
Industry training fund
Fund managed by recognised Industry Body
Scholarship fund operated by Australian TAFE or University

The following types of expenditure are now not eligible:
Funds operated by RTOs or private individuals
Funds paying commissions or offering refunds if application fails
The main impact of this change is that the previous practice of private education providers accepting payments for Benchmark A will be discontinued. Many of these providers would pay commissions to migration agents referring clients.
Benchmark B – Expenditure on Training Australians in the Business

This involves spending 1% of payroll on training Australians in the business. From July 2017 payments may include:
Formal courses of study + associated costs (eg travel)
RTOs delivering face-to-face training which contributes to formal qualification
eLearning or training software
Apprentices, trainees or recent graduates
Training officers – must be sole role
Attending conferences for CPD

The following types of expenditure are now not eligible:
On-the-job training – previously, structured on-the-job training could be counted in some circumstances
Training not relevant to business’ industry – it is not clear how closely related the training must be to the industry
Training of principals or family members – previously, training of family members could be counted providing it was also made available to other employees
Induction training
Salaries of staff attending training
Membership fees – previously allowable
Books, journals or magazine subscriptions – previously allowable
Conferences for purposes other than CPD
Hiring a booth at trade show, conference or expo

It appears that payment of external providers to deliver training for Australian employees, is excluded unless it leads to a formal qualification. This would form the bulk of the training expenditure of most businesses and so many will need to restructure their training to comply with the new Benchmark B.
Calculation of Payroll

As a general rule, payroll includes:
wages and salaries as per state payroll legislation, and
payments made to contractors or subcontractors if the work completed is related to services or products provided by sponsor
If the employer does not have a payroll they would count Directors’ salaries, fees and drawings, or the profit of the business.
Timing of Training Activities

Payroll and training expenditure must be for the same period.
Previously, businesses operating for 12 months or more were required to demonstrate this expenditure in the 12 month period prior to lodgement. From July 2017, this expenditure may be for the 12 months prior to lodgement, or previous full financial year – this should help employers to gather relevant information and documentation.

Start-up businesses operating for less than 12 months will be required to show they have an auditable plan to meet these benchmarks.

Summary of 457, 186 and 187 changes.

Summary of 457, 186 and 187 changes.
Any 457 sponsorship, nomination or visa applications that are NOT listed in the relevant Instrument IMMI 17/040 (check any notes against your occupation) and NOT decided by 18th April 2017 will no longer be able to be approved. Refund of DIBP application fees may be available.
Any new 457 applications lodged from 19 April 2017 onwards will have to have their occupation on the STSOL or MLTSSL occupation lists.
If you are granted a 457 visa after 18 April 2017 off the STSOL list, it can only be granted for 2 years. There will be one (only) further extension allowed after that for another 2 years. You will not be allowed to apply for a permanent 186/187 visa under that occupation if it is on the STSOL.
If you are granted a 457 visa after 18 April 2017 off the MLTSSL list, it can be granted for 4 years. You will be able to be apply for a permanent 186/187 visa after 3 years on a 457 visa if that company decides to nominate you.
From March 2018 the new TSS visa will have replaced the 457 visa. You will need to have 2 years work experience before applying and your occupation will have to be on the STSOL or MLTSSL lists. If you are on the STSOL list you will also have to show you only want to stay in Australia temporarily.
From March 2018 you need to have your occupation on the MLTSSL occupation list to apply for company/employer sponsored permanent residence. You will also need to commit to working for the company for 3 years, have an IELTS of 6+ and be under 45 years of age.
Some consequences of this:
1.Occupations such as cook and restaurant manager are on the STSOL list. While you can still be sponsored for 2 years by a restaurant on the 457 visa and gain another 2 year extension, you can no longer apply for a permanent visa unless it is added to the MLTSSL list for you being in a designated regional area.
2. Retail manager is still available in regional areas for the 187 visa at the moment. But from March 2018 this will not be the case, as this occupation is not on the MLTSSL list.
3. Most student graduates will not be eligible for temporary or permanent company sponsorship after March 2018 as you require at least 2 years FULL-TIME WORK EXPERIENCE first.
The Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration confirmed that existing 457 visa holders (as of 18 April 2017) will still be able to apply for a Permanent visa and will not be affected by these changes. (See News.com.au article)
Timeline of future 457 changes are:
from 19 April 2017 – 216 occupations removed and 59 others restricted, 24 occupations restricted to regional Australia, Occupational lists renamed, validity period for occupations on STSOL 2 years.
from 01 July 2017 – English salary exemption $96,400 to be removed, training benchmarks to be changed, mandatory penal clearance certificates.
before 31 December 2017 – collection of TFN for 457 visa holders for ATO data matching, publication of sanctioned sponsors.
from March 2018 – 457 visa abolished and replaced with TSS visa which will comprise the Short-Term(2 years) and Medium-Term stream(4 years).
Timeline of future 186/187 changes are:
from 19 April 2017 – CSOL condensed, 216 occupations removed, 24 occupations restricted to regional Australia, Occupational lists renamed as STSOL and MLTSSL.
from 01 July 2017 – review of STSOL and MLTSSL, IELTS 6 required in each component, changes in age (DE stream 45 years old, no change to TRT).
before 31 December 2017 – collection of TFN for 457 visa holders for ATO data matching, publication of sanctioned sponsors.
from March 2018 – the MLTSSL will apply to ENS/RSMS with additional regional occupations, Market salary rate will apply and meet TSMIT, eligibility period for PR extended from 2 to 3 years, at least 3 years’ work experience required, under 45 years of age, contribution towards training fund.

 

Entrepreneur Visa to be Introduced

The Australian Government has introduced an “Entrepreneur Visa” to attract talented, innovative people to establish entrepreneurial ventures in Australia.

The new Entrepreneur visa will be available from 10 September 2016 and will be a part of theBusiness Innovation and Investment Programme subclass 188 visa.

Entrepreneurs will require $200,000 in funding from a nominated third party to develop and commercialise innovative ideas in Australia.

Applicants must first be nominated by an Australian State or Territory Government and be invited through the SkillSelect Expression of Interest System for the visa

The Entrepreneur Visa will be 4 years in duration. Providing the visa holder successfully establishes an entrepreneurial venture in Australia there will be permanent residency pathway available onto a subclass 888 visa.

Main Criteria

The main requirements will be as follows:

  • Under 55 years old, unless “exceptional economic benefit” is demonstrated
  • Competent English Language Ability (ie 6 in each band of IELTS or equivalent)
  • Agreement in place for at least $200,000 to grow a venture in Australia
  • Hold at least 30% interest in that venture
  • Be sponsored by a state or territory government

Acceptable Business Activities

The proposed venture would need to be either:

  • Commercialisation of a product or service in Australia; or
  • Development of an enterprise or business in Australia

Certain activities which are not considered sufficiently innovative will be excluded. This will be defined by legislative instrument and might include:

  • Purchase of an existing business or franchise
  • Real estate activities
  • Labour hire activities

Eligible funding

To apply for the Entrepreneur Visa, you will need to have an agreement for at least $200,000 in funding from one or more of the following sources:

  • Commonwealth agencies
  • State and territory governments
  • Publicly funded research organisations
  • Investors registered as Venture Capital Limited Partnerships or Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnerships

The funding agreement must involve the transfer of at least 10% of the funds within 12 months of commencing the activity in Australia.

The new Entrepreneur Visa will be a great pathway for applicants seeking to start innovative ventures in Australia. Unlike the other Subclass 188 streams, there is no requirement to show a minimum amount of personal net assets or significant business background.

Additional Points for PhD and Masters by Research Students

5 additional points for completion of a PhD or Masters by Research in Australia will be available from 10 September.

Item 6D7A1 provides an extra 5 points for applicant’s who have met the requirement of a specialist educational award.

  • The following fields of education qualifications are proposed to be accepted under this new measure and are defined by the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS):
    • Biological Sciences
    • Chemical Sciences
    • Earth Sciences
    • Mathematical Sciences
    • Natural and Physical Sciences
    • Other Natural and Physical Sciences
    • Physics and Astronomy
    • Computer Science
    • Information Systems
    • Information Technology
    • Other Information Technology
    • Aerospace Engineering and Technology
    • Civil Engineering
    • Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Technology

     

    This Instrument commences on 10 September 2016.

SOL 1 Jul 2016

he Minister of Immigration and Border Protection has announced the new Skilled Occupation List (SOL) which will come into effect 1 July 2016.

The good news is that Accountants, IT and most of the Engineering occupations remain on the new SOL list.

There have been no changes to the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List (CSOL) which applies to employer and state sponsored visas.

Occupations Removed from the SOL

There are 9 occupations removed from the Skilled Occupation List, they are as follows:
Mining Engineers ANZSCO 233611
Petroleum Engineers ANZSCO 233612
Metallurgist ANZSCO 234912
Environmental Health Officer ANZSCO 251311
Occupational Health and Safety Adviser ANZSCO 251312
Dental Hygienist ANZSCO 411211
Dental Prosthetist ANZSCO 411212
Dental Technician ANZSCO 411213
Dental Therapist ANZSCO 411214
Occupations Added to the SOL

The following occupation have been added to the Skilled Occupation list:
Orthotists and Prosthetists ANZSCO 251912
Audiologists ANZSCO 252711

Occupation ceiling values for the 2016-17 programme year

The Occupational Ceilings for the 2016-17 financial year have been announced. The Occupational Ceilings are the maximum number of invitations that can be issued for  skill visas

The occupational ceilings give a good idea of whether the waiting time or minimum pass mark will increase for the new program year. A summary of the changes by Occupational Category is below:

Accountants and Auditors

There is good news for accountants and auditors with a significant increase in the occupational ceiling.

The ceiling for Accountants has increased by 89% to 4,777 places – this was the biggest increase in percentage terms for 2016-17. The ceiling for auditors has increased by 41% to 1,413 places.

IT Professionals

Most of the IT occupations were also filled in the 2015-16 program year, and also faced higher minimum scores for an invitation for most of the year.

The news is somewhat mixed for IT professionals in the 2016-17 program year:

  • Computer Network Professionals: ceiling reduced by 28% to 1,426 places. The minimum invitation score for this occupation was 60 for most of the 2015-16 year. We expect this minimum score to increase to above 60 for 2016-17.
  • Software and Applications Programmers: ceiling increased by 6% to 5,662 places. The minimum score for this occupation was 65 points for much of the year – we expect this to stay about the same or possibly reduce for 2016-17.
  • ICT Business and Systems Analysts: ceiling reduced by 4% to 1,482 places. For this occupation, we saw minimum scores of 65-70 points required for an invitation – we expect this to continue for 2016-17.

Engineers

Engineers will face occupational ceiling reductions for most occupations, but this is unlikely to have any significant impact on engineers applying for skilled migration:

  • Engineering Managers: increase of 39% to 1,407 places. As the occupation was only 3% filled in 2015-16, this is unlikely to have any impact
  • Civil Engineering Professionals: 27% decrease to 2,174 places. This occupation was only 45% filled in 2015-16, so this is unlikely to have any impact
  • Electrical Engineers: 2% increase to 1,254 places. This occupation was only 45% filled in 2015-16, so minimal impact
  • Electronics Engineers: no change – remains at 1,000 places
  • Industrial, Mechanical and Production Engineers: 14% reduction to 1,539 places. This occupation was filled in 2015-16, so we may see an increase in minimum points score for an invitation
  • Mining Engineers: Eliminated from SOL for 2016-17
  • Telecommunications Engineering Professionals: No change – 1,000 places
  • Other Engineering Professionals: No change – 1,000 places

Medical Practitioners

Most specialisations will remain largely unchanged for the 2016-17 program year. However, the category of Other Medical Practitioners will increase by 32% to 1,315 places. This was by far the most popular category within this occupational group so will ensure that sufficient places will be available for the 2016-17 year.

SOL Changes

The following occupations have been removed from the SOL:

Urban and Regional Planner 232611
Dental Specialist 252311
Dentist 252312

These occupations have been on the SOL for a significant amount of time and will greatly impact those in these specialisations. However, they may still be eligible for state or employer sponsored options as the occupations remain on the CSOL.
To the relief of many international students, the accounting occupations remain on the Skilled Occupations List and have not been removed.

The following occupations have been added to the SOL:

Panelbeater 324111
Cabinetmaker 394111