Australian Immigration increase fees
Australian officials have announced the news that charges for Partner Visa applications have gone up since the start of January. The increase is substantial and represents a 50 per cent upturn since the New Year, compared with the prices in 2014. According to the Australian government, the rise in cost will be associated with two types of visas. These are the Permanent Partner Visa which falls into the combined subclasses of 309/100 and 820/801. In addition, the Prospective Marriage Visa with subclass 300 will also be affected. The government department responsible for the price hike, the Department for Immigration and Border Protection, was keen to stress, however, that the new charges will only take effect with any visa applications that were lodged on January 1 this year, or after it. As a result, anyone who had already applied in 2014 under either visa programme - whatever the relevant subclass - will not be affected by the increase or need to pay more to 'top up' their application.
Known as the Partner Visa Application Charge, or VAC, the increased costs which have been put in place this year cannot be easily quantified. This is because the charges actually levied under VAC already vary depending on personal circumstances. According to the Department for Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), they are not able to provide prospective applicants with an estimate of their charges because of the degree of circumstantial variation involved. However, their website does offer a handy visa pricing estimator which will give would-be immigrants to the country a fair idea of the costs involved of applying for visas for the spouses or fiancées.
DIBP said that the charge increases were not introduced this year in order to put people off bringing their husbands and wives with them when they choose to settle in Australia. Instead they said, “the decision was made by the Federal Government in order to finance whole-of-government policy priorities.” They claim that the measure is simply one of a number of other fiscal decisions made by the government in its 'Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook'. However, the revenue raising measure may mean that some talented people choose to think about other destinations to immigrate to, especially those with partners who do not possess the same high level of in-demand employment skills that they do. According to DIBP, applicants who simply cannot afford to pay the new level of fees can consider applying for a visa under another stream. “We advise the skilled stream, which generally has quicker processing times,” the government department stated. “By visiting our Skill Select area on the website, it should be possible to see whether there is a skilled visa option suited to you,” the announcement continued.
Asked whether the VAC fee can be waived under exceptional circumstances, the department responded accordingly. “We cannot offer any financial assistance to people applying for visas,” it said. However, DIBP did go on to offer the advice that prospective applicants may consider seeking assistance from friends or family members. Failing that, it suggested that securing funds from a financial institution might be possible. “The VAC is a significant cost for many couples to bear,” a DIBP spokesman conceded. “However, it is a legislative requirement that the mandatory visa application fee is paid for so that application is valid.” According to DIBP, this means that no initial assessment of a visa application will even be made prior to the appropriate charges having been paid in full. “Furthermore,” the DIBP continued, “there is no provision to reduce or to waive the VAC, nor is their provision of any kind to pay the charges in instalments.”
In a further announcement made by the same government department, another visa class is likely to be changed in the near future. According to DIBP officials, access to work in Australia under the Temporary Work (Entertainment) visa - known commonly as subclass 420 - will be under review until February 23. This is because the Department and the Ministry for the Arts, under the Attorney-General’s department, have decided to undertake a review of visas the affect entertainers and musicians wanting to work and reside in the country.
The DIBP stated that the review is in place to reflect the Australian government's ongoing commitment to lower the cost of unnecessary or inefficient regulations which can be burden on individuals and businesses operating in the field of entertainment. It is expected that some of the regulations surrounding visa subclass 420 will be dropped, thus making it easier for musicians, actors and comedians to enter the country and work.