Russia and Kazakhstan now included in Biometrics Collection

From 19 November 2018, Australian Biometrics Collection Centres (ABCCs) will commence collecting biometrics from visa applicants who are in Russia or Kazakhstan at the time of making a visa application to enter Australia, unless they are excluded or exempt from doing so under Australian Government policy.

As per Home Affairs’ press release, applicants who lodge their applications from this date will be sent a letter requiring them to attend an ABCC in person to provide their biometrics.  Applicants will need to contact an ABCC to make an appointment and have their biometrics collected.

What is the process of collecting Biometrics:

Biometric collection process involves collection of additional data from a visa applicant.  This data is generally not required as part of an application unless expressly requested to be provided by the Department.

However, if you are a citizen applying for a visa to Australia from Russia or Kazakhstan or any other country specified on the list of applicable countries, the Department will request you to provide the following additional information:

Applicants must have a parent or guardian with them if they are:

Applicants under the age of 5 will only have their photograph taken.  No finger printing is required.

Australian government uses biometrics for the following reasons:

In certain cases, when an applicant arrives to Australia, Australian Border force might take your biometrics again and compare them to your stored biometrics to confirm your identity.

Home Affairs may check your biometrics with other Australian or international agencies to verify:

At present the following visa subclasses are included in the biometrics programme:

100 – Partner

101 – Child

102 – Adoption

114 – Aged Dependent Relative

115 – Remaining Relative

116 – Carer

117 – Orphan Relative

Visitors and Other Temporary visas

400 – Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist)

403 – Temporary Work (International Relations) – Government Agreement, Foreign Government, Domestic Worker (Diplomatic/Consular), and Privileges and Immunities streams

408 – Temporary Activity – Invited Participant, Australian Government endorsed event, exchange, sport, religious worker, domestic worker (executive) and research activity types

417 – Working Holiday

457 – Business (Long Stay)

462 – Work and Holiday

482 – Temporary Skill Shortage

600 – Visitor Visa

601 – Electronic Travel Authority (if not applied for electronically)

602 – Medical Treatment

771 – Transit

Temporary Family visas

300 – Prospective Marriage

309 – Partner (Provisional)

445 – Dependent Child

461 – New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship (Temporary)

Student visas

500 – Student

590 – Student Guardian

Other visas

Applicants for the following subclasses of visa might be required by an officer to provide their personal identifiers after the visa application has been lodged with us:

200 – Refugee

201 – In-country Special Humanitarian

202 – Global Special Humanitarian

203 – Emergency Rescue

204 – Woman at Risk

Australia immigration: New migrants may have to live in rural areas

The Australian government has unveiled a proposal to force new migrants to live outside Sydney and Melbourne.

The policy would aim to ease congestion in Australia’s two biggest cities while boosting regional areas, Population Minister Alan Tudge said on Tuesday.

The government may introduce visa conditions to limit where some migrants live for up to five years, he said.

However, some experts have questioned whether the idea is enforceable and likely to achieve its goals.

Why is Australia having this debate?

Currently, about two-fifths of Australia’s 25 million people live in Sydney and Melbourne.

Though Australia’s population growth rate ranks 77th globally, according to the World Bank, it is high among OECD nations – rising by 1.6% last year.

The growth has been driven largely by migration, with most people settling in Melbourne, Sydney and south-east Queensland, according to the government.

That has contributed to infrastructure and congestion problems, with Melbourne and Sydney each expected to exceed eight million residents by 2030.

What does the government say?

“Settling even a slightly larger number of new migrants to the smaller states and regions can take significant pressure off our big cities,” Mr Tudge said in a speech on Tuesday.

The proposal is not detailed at this stage, but such visas could carry a “geographical requirement… for at least a few years”.

Other incentives would also be offered, Mr Tudge said, in the hope that migrants would remain in regional areas permanently.

Such visa restrictions would not extend to migrants on family reunion or employer-sponsored visas, he said.

The Labor opposition said the idea should be considered, but raised concerns about its lack of detail.

Would restrictions work?

Immigration and population experts told that such measures would not necessarily reduce congestion in cities.

“There is a strong argument for the government to redirect new migrants to the bush… but there needs to be sufficient employment for them, and that’s the big Achilles heel of the whole idea,” Prof Jock Collins from the University of Technology told.

Prof Peter McDonald, a demographer at the University of Melbourne, said the issue extended beyond migration.

“In Australia, the population growth has run ahead of infrastructure – we have been slow to put in the appropriate systems such as public transport networks that are needed for large cities.”

However, said Prof Collins, research showed that migrants had thrived in smaller communities with strong employment.

“Most of them have really liked living there in the bush, and said they had a warm welcome,” he said.

Australia is getting the new Prime Minister

Australia’s ruling Liberal Party voted in a new leader, Scott Morrison, who now became prime minister. Morrison, who was the country’s treasurer and previously a hardline immigration minister, replaces Malcolm Turnbull.

Australia’s top job has changed hands six times in the last decade with not one prime minister completing a full term. The most recent handovers involved less blood-letting and more internal party politics.

The attack on Turnbull came over his energy policy. He had proposed reducing carbon emissions, per the Paris climate agreement, but other members of the conservative ruling coalition pushed him to drop the requirement, ultimately calling his leadership into question.

Part of why Australian leadership has changed so often has to do with party rules. Until recently, both parties allowed elected members of parliament to overturn the party leader. As a result, former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd swapped places with Julia Gillard twice in just over three years.

When Rudd returned to power in 2013, the Labor Party instituted rules requiring the wider party membership to vote on leadership changes, making it harder for elected members to surprise the general public.

Turnbull is leaving Morrison and the Liberal party with a parting gift: he says he will resign from his seat in parliament, opening up a by-election that could hand the seat to the opposition Labor party.

Scott Morrison, said his “new generation team” would “begin the process of healing.”

“I know this team can deliver the economy we need, the safety we need, and the togetherness we need,” he said.

The appointments include newcomers as well as holdovers.

The most significant changes in the cabinet involve Australia’s relationship to the world. Julie Bishop, 62, the widely respected foreign minister under Mr. Turnbull, resigned before Mr. Morrison’s announcement.

Mr. Morrison replaced her with Marise Payne, 54, who most recently served as defense minister.

Alan Tudge, 47, becomes the minister for cities, urban infrastructure and population, a position the new prime minister described as “the minister for ‘congestion busting,’” as Australia seeks to manage the impact of population growth in its cities.

The energy and environment portfolios are also being reorganized. They were managed by a single ministry, under Josh Frydenberg, who has been promoted and is now Mr. Morrison’s deputy.

Angus Taylor, 51, becomes energy minister, and Melissa Price, 54, environment minister.

Population growth inquiry up for discussion after Liberal senator airs concerns about infrastructure

Australia’s population is set to hit 25 million in August, and Liberal senator Dean Smith wants to start a discussion about how infrastructure is going to keep up with demand.

The West Australian senator has suggested a parliamentary committee could be the way to go in figuring out how to deal with Australia’s needs as the population grows faster than expected.
“Population issues are broader than immigration issues, but wherever you go across the country you can see different sorts of population challenges,” he told the local media.
“In regional communities you might see lack of population-growth opportunities, in our biggest cities you can see some of the real challenges of congestion and infrastructure deficits.”

Original forecasts predicted the nation would not hit the 25 million figure until 2042. Just seven years ago, the date was revised to 2027.
“So if the future projections around population growth are inaccurate … then how is that impacting on the infrastructure decisions, employment-opportunity decisions that we might be making as a country?” Senator Smith said.

As well as looking at how best to plan essential services and infrastructure, Senator Smith wants to examine the annual migration intake.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has agreed to talk to the WA senator about the idea of launching a parliamentary committee, but said the Government’s migration program was already tightly controlled.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton recently acknowledged the current cap of 190,000 people per year was regularly discussed within Government, while backbencher Tony Abbott and One Nation senator Pauline Hanson have both pushed for lowering that figure.

Last financial year, the number of permanent migrants coming into Australia fell to 163,000.
“We have worked very hard to restore integrity to the migration program … we’ve listened to the Australian public,” Mr Dutton said today.
Senator Smith said he supported a “moderate” drop in net overseas migration.
“I think the moderation is important because we need to give ourselves some time to breathe, pause and reflect to make sure the predictions are the best they can be. And if they’re not, let’s correct that,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he would discuss Senator Smith’s idea with his Labor colleagues but warned against the challenges presented by population growth being blamed solely on immigrants.
Senator Smith conceded there were problems with how people were currently discussing the issue of migration, but said there was a need for a measured, respectful debate.
“The critical point here is to maintain public confidence and public endorsement in our population-growth benefits. It’s important because we want to maintain social cohesion.”
Smith wants to see regions benefit from population growth.

One of Senator Smith’s biggest concerns is with where population growth is happening.
“We know that the population story across our country has not been uniform. The great bulk of our population growth is actually happening in our major cities,” he said.
Senator Smith said he would like to see regional areas benefit from population growth, without issues like congestion and crowding.
“As a senator from Perth, I’m interested to make sure that we get the benefits of population growth without having to pay the high price that perhaps Melbourne and Sydney commuters are having to pay,” he said. “I want to make sure that other cities are immune from some of the negative consequences of unbridled population growth that has been poorly predicted and poorly planned for.”
In New South Wales, a state-government-sponsored marketing program has seen nearly 4,000 people relocate to its biggest regional cities since 2010.

Evocities chairman Kevin Mack said governments needed to get on board to redistribute the growing population more efficiently.
“The challenge is for the Government to [answer]: ‘How do we provide attraction for people to move to the regions?’,” he told AM.
“We need affordable housing, we need a whole raft of infrastructure in the regions to cater for that demand and ultimately, unless you have the infrastructure to cater for the demand, you can’t service the industries.”

Australia’s migration rates the lowest they’ve been in 10 years

National migration rate hasn’t been this low since 2007 and it’s all to do with Peter Dutton waging war on “fraudulent” claims.

Australia’s migration rate is the lowest it’s been in 10 years, largely due to Peter Dutton and the way the Department of Home Affairs has cracked down on “fraudulent” migrants.
In the past financial year, the nation’s migration rate has dropped by 10 per cent with 21,000 less people being allowed into Australia.
Speaking on the media show the last week, the Home Affairs Minister said the drop was about “restoring integrity to our border”.
“Looking more closely at the applications that are made. Making sure that we’re bringing the best migrants possible into our country,” Mr. Dutton said.
Mr. Dutton said the people who were being rejected the most were those making “fraudulent claims”, admitting some people trying to gain access to Australia were “overstating their qualifications” with false documents.
The nation’s immigration intake hasn’t been this low since John Howard was prime minister.
The 2017/18 intake plummeted to 162,417 and there has been a 46 per cent increase in visa refusals, while skilled migrant numbers dropped by more than 12,000, and the family stream was cut by 15 per cent to 47,732.
“I want to make sure we scrutinize each application so we’re getting the best possible migrants,” Mr. Dutton said. “People who are going to work. Not be on welfare. People who will integrate into our community.”
Mr. Dutton said one area the Department of Home Affairs was specifically cracking down on was false relationships and accused the Labor government of “ticking and flicking” through applications to meet the annual target of 190,000 migrants.
“We want to make sure particularly that people coming through the spousal program that they are in legitimate relationships,” he said.
Senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese agreed with Mr. Dutton, telling that the government had toughened up the system.
“Of course it’s a good result if there’s more integrity in the system,” Mr. Albanese said.
Despite the drastic drop, Mr. Dutton agrees that Australia’s migration system is still “pretty generous”. “We’re a destination for many people. 65 million people in the world that are displaced.
“Our country is built on migration. We’ve had wonderful people who have come to our country over a long period of time. We have a lot to protect. Lot of values that those migrants believe in strongly. Ultimately apart from our indigenous population all of us are from migrant stock. We want to make sure we get the best people into our country so we can protect our values. As you say we’ve been listening to concerns that Australians have had.”
Australia’s deportation rates are also on the rise after the Migration Act was amended in 2014 that enforces all migrants pass and maintain a “character test” to stay here.
The amendment gave Mr. Dutton the powers to expel anyone he deems a risk to Australian society and has resulted in thousands of deportations since December 2014 when the law was changed.

New visa pilot to attract the best of global talent to Australia

Highly skilled workers from around the world will have a new visa pathway into Australia as a part of the Government’s new Global Talent Scheme pilot program.

From 1 July all businesses will be able to sponsor highly skilled and specialised workers who will help to grow their businesses and create more jobs.

The pilot will run for 12 months and provide businesses with a streamlined process to sponsor overseas workers with cutting edge skills, where there are no suitable Australians available to fill the vacancies.

The Government has been consulting with industry, the start-up sector and tertiary institution leaders, who informed the initial design of the scheme and will provide additional advice during the pilot.

The scheme includes two streams – one for established businesses and one for start-ups.

All businesses sponsoring workers to Australia under the scheme will need to demonstrate that they have been unable to source suitable individuals in the Australian labour market.

Australia’s immigration rate to fall again as work visa approvals drop

There may be as many as 25,000 fewer migrants in 2017-18 than planned

Australia’s migrant intake will be substantially down this financial year – possibly 25,000 below the 190,000 planned figure – led by reductions in the number of skilled and sponsored working visas.

The migration program has been at 190,000 since 2012-13 but dropped to 183,000 last financial year and will fall further again this year.

Figures disclosed at Senate estimates and visa statistics reveal the number of visas granted in 2017-18 is likely to be 165,000 – the lowest level in seven years.

To 30 April this year the Australian government had granted 138,086 permanent visas divided broadly into two-thirds skilled, one-third family (and excluding humanitarian visas, which sit outside the migration program figure).

“It’s probably down on where we were this time last year,” a first assistant secretary for the Department of Home Affairs department, Christine Dacey, told estimates last month.

Extrapolated to the full year ending 30 June, it appears likely about 165,000 migration visas will be granted.

The figures obtained for the first six months of the 2017-18 financial year show a 15% drop in the number of permanent visas granted, from 92,477 to 78,190.

Comparing the first six months of the 2016-17 financial year with the first six months of the 2017-18 year, the figures show substantial falls across most visa categories, but most particularly among skilled independent and employer-sponsored work visas.

The number of employer-sponsored visas fell from 22,843 to 16,047, driven largely by changes to the 457 visa regime.

Skilled independent visas officially fell from 24,289 to 20,989. This large headline fall masks a significant change in the makeup of the program. A deal struck between Canberra and Wellington now enables some New Zealanders who have lived and worked in Australia for five years to apply for permanent residency, and a pathway to citizenship.

These are likely to displace thousands of other skilled migrants who might otherwise have been granted a permanent visa in the migration intake. Figures released in April show more than 9,000 New Zealanders have applied to take up this option.

Fewer migrants were sponsored by states, territories and regions, while business innovation and investment visas (for people starting a business in Australia) were largely unchanged.

Media reports have suggested that cabinet this year discussed lowering the planned migration figure by 20,000 but that it was rejected. Ministers have variously denied that the figure was debated, or stated that debate over the size of Australia’s migration program was part of regular discussions within government.

The home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, has said the government already had, and would reduce migrant numbers “where we believe it’s in our national interest”, citing traffic gridlock and unaffordable housing in cities. But he also said he supported immigration at its current levels.

While issues around choked roads, strains on schools, hospitals and other infrastructure, and house prices are politically sensitive for the government, migration adds an estimated 1% to Australia’s gross domestic product every year, Treasury modelling indicates, because it counters Australia’s ageing population (migrants tend to be younger than the average Australian).

Over the past two decades the country of origin for most migrants to Australia has shifted from places like the UK and South Africa, to China and India.

A 2016 Productivity Commission report predicted the population would reach 40 million by 2060, and argued the future size of Australia would be largely determined by the country’s migration policies.

“In the absence of a formal population policy, Australia’s immigration policy is its de facto population policy. As such, immigration has broad-ranging and enduring implications for the economy, society and the environment.”

Family visa applications processing taking up to 50 years

Limited places and a very high demand for some family visas have ballooned the waiting periods up to half a century.

Indian migrant Puneet Mittal has always wanted his parents to live with his family in Australia. This year he applied for a permanent visa under the Non-Contributory Parent visa for his parents. But it won’t be before 2048 that a decision on their visa applications is made.

Mr Mittal’s father is in his late sixties and mother is in early sixties. They have been given bridging visas and can stay in Australia, but can’t access Medicare benefit until their applications are decided.

Mr Mittal says the three-decade waiting period is “comical”.

“By the time my parents’ applications are processed, they will not be in good health as they are now and may not be considered medically fit for the visa grant,” he tells SBS Punjabi.

“I am pretty sure, they are not going to get a permanent residency. I just applied for the visa so that they are saved the hassle of reapplying for the visa repeatedly.”

The Department of Home Affairs has recently published the current processing timeframe for some family visas. While applications for parent visas are likely to take approximately 30 years, the timeframe for processing Aged Dependent Relative and Remaining Relative visa applications is “up to 50 years”, according to the Department’s website.

These applications are assessed in order of lodgement and are placed in a queue accordingly.

Once the cap for a particular year has been met, the remaining assessed applications are queued for processing in the subsequent year.

According to the information released by the Department of Home Affairs on migration planning levels, it will grant a maximum of 1500 parent visas, 7,175 contributory parent visas and 500 other family visas including Remaining Relative and Aged Dependent Relative visas. The cap of 500 on other family visas is down from last year’s 900.

Because the annual migration planning allows only a small number of visas under the parent category while the demand is increasing, a huge queue has now built up which will take decades to clear.

Government considers forcing regional migrants to stay rural

Australia has several visas designed to bring skilled migrants to the bush – but many leave for the cities once they secure a permanent place.

The Turnbull government is considering changes to regional skilled visas to “bind” migrants to rural areas even after they secure a permanent place in Australia, multiculturalism minister Alan Tudge has revealed.

The minister said many migrants who were specifically sponsored for regional jobs were later quitting those jobs and moving to the cities, perpetuating skills shortages in regional towns.

“If they’ve come in on the basis of being employed in a regional area, then we think it’s not an unreasonable expectation that they stay in that area for a certain amount of time,” Mr Tudge told reporters in Melbourne.

“We’re looking at ways that we can effectively bind people to the regions if they’ve got a sponsorship to go to those locations.”

Australia has a handful of visas specifically on offer to those who want to work in a regional area, including the Skilled Regional (887) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (187).

Last year, out of the 184,000 migrants given permanent places in Australia, there were nearly 12,000 regional visas granted under those schemes.

Those visas require the applicant to work in a regional area for a number of years or to be sponsored by a regional employer – but they do not force the migrant to stay in a rural area once the visa conditions have been satisfied.

Mr Tudge said the government was looking at the issue but there was no specific plan on how to “bind” the migrants long-term.

The head of the Home Affairs department, Michael Pezzullo, told a Senate committee there could be “legal” challenges in restricting long-term freedom of movement, but said it would not be a “fatal flaw or concern”.

Nationals MP and assistant minister for families David Gillespie said it was “very frustrating” for companies who sponsored regional migrants when they later “hightailed it” to the cities.

Regional employers often felt “shortchanged” when they paid for a migrant’s airfares, only for them to leave the area a short time later.

“We do have freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of movement,” Dr Gillespie told media on Tuesday.

“But it leaves a sour taste if someone sponsors someone to come here on the basis that they’re going to work in a regional centre and then they skip town at the first opportunity.”

Dr Gillespie would not comment on the government’s legal options but raised the example of overseas doctors, who often came on visas that linked their Medicare billing to a regional centre for up to 10 years.

Australia permanently closes the Investor Retirement visa for new applicants

The visa, started in 2005, allowed people to live and work in Australia for up to four years. The government says it no longer aligns with Australia’s economic priorities.

The Department of Home Affairs has ceased accepting new applications for the Investor Retirement (Class UY) visa from today.

The government says the Subclass 405 (Investor Retirement) visa that allowed visa holders to live and work in Australia with their partner, no longer aligns with Australia’s economic priorities.

The closure of the visa was announced in the Federal Budget on May 8.

The Department will not accept any new applications for Investor Retirement (Class UY) visa made on or after 1 June 2018. Those already on this visa may apply to renew the visa.

The change also does not apply to applications that have already been made, but not yet decided.

This Investor Retirement visa allowed people over the age of 55 years with no dependent children and designated investment of $75,000 in Australia and an annual income of $65,000 to live and work in Australia for up to four years.

The visa, first offered in 2005, also encouraged retirees to settle in regional areas where the required investment was $500,000 and the required annual income $50,000.

The government says the economic benefits of this visa at the time when it started do not align with Australia’s current economic priorities.