As we wind down from another tumultuous COVID-19 year, here are some highlights in Australian Immigration news for December 2021.
COVID-19 concessions for subclass 485 visa holders
The COVID-19 pandemic created significant uncertainty for many temporary visa holders. None of which is more apparent than for Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa holders stuck offshore, unable to return to Australia due to international border restrictions.
In response, the Department has announced the introduction of the COVID-19 Temporary Graduate (subclass485) replacement stream. Given the arduous path international students take to create a solid foundation towards Permanent Residence, the news is an incredible relief.
The COVID-19 Temporary Graduate replacement stream acknowledges that many subclass 485 holders have been unable to spend their entire visa period in Australia during the pandemic. Therefore, these visa holders have been severely disadvantaged in terms of accumulating employment experience, with the view of further employment-sponsored options.
The new replacement Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa will be available to applicants who:
- Held a subclass 485 visa which expired anytime after 1 February 2020; and
- Were outside Australia anytime between 1 February 2020 and 15 December 2021
These applicants will be eligible for a second Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa, with applications accepted in mid-2022—more details to follow.
New Code of Conduct for Registered Australian Migration Agents
In response to the 2014 Independent Review of the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, a new Code of Conduct for Registered Migration Agents will commence on 1 March 2022. The Federal Register of Legislation has published the new legislation.
Highlights of the upcoming changes include, Registered Migration Agents (RMAs) must:
- take reasonable steps to ensure statements/ documentation provided by clients in a visa application is correct and not misleading
- not withhold documents/ information from the Department to cause a processing delay
- make clients aware, and agree to, the Agent utilising the assistance of third-party intermediaries
- provide more explicit detail in client service and representation agreements
These clarifications appear reasonable. It will be interesting, though, to see how the OMARA or the Department qualify ‘reasonable steps’ regarding assessing information/documentation provided to the Department.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) changes to application process
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has announced that, as of 31 January 2022, the preferred method of providing supporting documentation to the Tribunal will be through the online services portal.
Irrespective of the change, the Tribunal’s online services portal is a convenient way to provide supporting documents. Once your supporting documents are uploaded via the portal, the system issues an email receipt for your records.
The change comes in addition to AAT application fee increases, effective in July 2021.
‘Decision-ready’ Partner Visa applications
The Department issued a friendly reminder to Partner Visa applicants via its Media and News webpage. Partner visa applicants are encouraged to provide as much supporting documentation as possible for their application at the time of application. Doing so can avoid a potential delay in processing the application.
Whilst this reminder is helpful for all visa applicants, a ‘decision-ready’ application for Partner Visa applications is particularly beneficial, given the extended processing times currently.
As part of the reminder, the Department has noted that Partner Visa applicants may be contacted via phone by a Case Officer during processing. This contact may be outside regular business hours, so applicants should be aware of this.
In my opinion, such contact from the Department may cause complications for applicants. Given the prevalence of visa scams, it may be difficult for visa applicants to decide whether such a call is genuine or not.
With this in mind, the Department gives some valuable advice for Partner Visa applicants:
- Calls may occur outside business hours, but you can still verify whether the caller is genuine by requesting an application file number and/or your application date
- Departmental officers will never ask for credit card details, banking details or ImmiAccount logon information
If you are still unsure whether the caller is genuine, ask the Officer to provide a direct contact number for you to return a call, or if you are using a Registered Migration Agent, request the Officer contact your Agent to verify their identity.
In all cases, though, be polite. A Case Officer should understand any reluctance you may have to speak with an unidentified caller (yes, the call from the Department will be from an anonymous number!)
Photograph by Shayna Douglas on Unsplash
The information provided in this article or anywhere on this website is of a general nature, it does not relate to your specific circumstance. This general information must not be used to form any assessment or opinion on individual visa eligibility. For an individual assessment contact us for a consultation session to confirm if you are eligible for any visa.