Immigration law has seen a lot of changes in the last year, some good but generally more that have lead to less options, more costs and tougher requirements, and policy has definitely become less friendly. Now immigration is all under the banner of Home Affairs, and ex-policeman now Immigration Minister Dutton has also combined ASIO under the same umbrella, which I believe gives an insight into how the portfolio policy will be shaped (suspicious and negative). Also while the economy is still sluggish, or struggling as in WA, this will also add to the pressures on immigration.
For those that made the briefing in April last year I suggested people planning any visas to act quickly as change would come, and within 2 weeks we had the abolishment of the 457 Working Visa. Since then there has been a raft of other changes.
If I were a betting man I would expect the trend to continue. Given the political climate and the coalition losing middle ground to One Nation, especially in the Senate, deals to pass key legislation will be done and a stance to show the public a strong position. We have already seen some strict policy and attempted new legislation introduced, specifically relating to Citizenship and PIC 4020 (fraud etc), which were defeated in the Senate.
To avoid further defeats the government tried to lodge legislation that was unpopular with positive reforms, however this was also unsuccessful. So we can expect a turbulent year ahead for Immigration law.
There is good news for students and parents, with generally easier requirements for students on proof of funding and a simpler process, however they need to prove they are genuine and temporary entrants. This will make it harder to convert to permanent residency in the future, but not impossible.
The 457 final changes come into effect in March 2018, and this has had a negative impact on a number of industries and people now forced to leave Australia. Work visas will generally be harder to get, and the occupations are being tightened and more strict criteria imposed. Particular impacts for Thai’s are the area of massage and cooking, which has attracted more regulation.
A change in the policy has been overall quite negative, and in some cases even unpleasant. The Citizenship suggestions which were going to lead to a 4 year qualifying period were very unpopular, and while it was defeated in the Senate the government has said it will re-introduce them. The policy around work visas, sponsorship and position nominations at times has been harsh and inconsistent, leading to fear of refusal and as such a lack of applications. Also given the retrospective nature of the changes it left a lot of people annoyed and out if pocket.
On the Partner visa front, changes which hopefully will lead to faster processing have been introduced, in particular where a Migration Agent lodges an application. While the change is negative in that it allows for easier refusal of an application, the positive is it will save time in review and force more complete applications to be lodged, which should speed up the process overall.
On the family visa front, which is approximately one third of the visa allocation each year, I expect to see means or other asset testing be introduced, and even English language testing. We have already seen increases in qualification times from temporary to permanent residency, and this has significant flow on effects to citizenship and social security options. Also as of July 2018 Sponsorship applications will be lodged first before Partner visa applications can proceed.
There is some positive news though. Parent visas are under review and they are looking at a few different options, and I think a good solution would be a temporary visa, I am sure it will be expensive and require private health care but at least it get the Applicant’s parents into Australia.
Finally, on the Visitor Visa front policy seems to have been getting stricter and the focus seems to be on reducing overstays. Applications that normally would have been easy are now getting more difficult, and recently processing times have become a lot longer. Whether this is just a short seasonal adjustment will soon be seen.
So for the year ahead, I would again repeat last years advice, if you are planning anything immigration based the sooner you lodge the better, as the landscape is changing and generally not for the better. At least at the moment we know the playing field and the rules, the likelihood id by year it it will look very different. And if Citizenship is an option I would be loading this immediately!
Simon Wetherell, Managing Director at SW Consulting (Asia) Co Ltd
Originally from Perth, Australia, Simon qualified with an LLB (Hons) in Law and a Diploma in Legal Ed. from Bond University, and started his legal career at Clayton Utz in Sydney, before moving to the prestigious UK Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance.
Simon is the Managing Director of SW Consulting (Asia) Co., Ltd which focuses on new business set up, accounting, and Australian Migration & Visa Services for anyone that wants to visit, live or study in Australia.