Panama: New Consular Visa Exemption Eliminates Exemption for EU and Schengen Visa Holders

A new decree replaces the current Consular Visa exemption with a new one only for those holding a valid Australian, Canadian, UK or U.S. multiple-entry visa valid for at least one year from the date of entry and used at least once, for stays up to 30 days initially, renewable twice for 30 days each stay through an in-country process. The previous exemption, allowing EU or Schengen country visa holders to qualify for the exemption as well, has been eliminated.

Australia: Dependent rules restricted

On or after November 19, 2016, children and step-children age 23 and over will no longer be eligible for dependent status unless the child is physically incapacitated for work.

Additionally, other family members, such as parents, will no longer qualify as dependants on the main applicant’s visa application. The restrictions will not impact Humanitarian, Protection or Refugee visas.

Australia: Temporary visa categories to be consolidated and simplified

Further to the Australian government's aim to simplify the visa process, a new temporary visa framework will come into effect November 19, 2016 that will consolidate seven temporary visas into four subclasses and one sponsorship class. Online filing will also be extended to all sponsored temporary visas and all Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist)(subclass 400) visas.

Australia: Oil and gas sector workers now require visa

As a result of a High Court of Australia decision, foreign offshore workers engaged in activities such as the exploration or exploitation of minerals, greenhouse gas and petroleum resources within Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the waters above the Continental Shelf will now require a permanent, Subclass 457 or a Subclass 400 visa to continue working in Australia's offshore resources industry.

Australia: New visa pathway for entrepreneurs

Qualified entrepreneurs with financial backing and successful entrepreneurial activities will be eligible for a new visa pathway in the Business Innovation and Investment Visa program on September 10, 2016.

Australia: Changes to eligibility criteria and benefits for accredited sponsorship

The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) announced a new set of eligibility criteria and benefits for companies holding Accredited Sponsorship status.

Australia: New criteria for subclass 457 visa sponsors and streamlined processing program forthcoming

On July 1, 2016, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection will implement new qualifying criteria for Accredited Sponsors and will reduce the requisite volume of applications that a sponsor must file to qualify for Accredited Sponsor status.  Additionally, a streamlined processing program for eligible subclass 457 Accredited Sponsors will become available on that date.

Australia: New law requires declaration against discriminatory recruitment practices

A new rule requires sponsors submitting subclass 457 visa applications on or after April 19, 2016 or those awaiting approval as of that date to submit a declaration that they will not engage in recruitment practices that discriminate against potential employees on the grounds of immigration status or citizenship.

The addition of the new sponsorship obligation will allow the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to impose fines on sponsors that violate or do not comply with the new rule on or after April 19.

UK: Health Surcharge exemption eliminated for Australian and New Zealand nationals

On or after April 6, 2016, Australian and New Zealand nationals seeking to stay in the United Kingdom for more than six months or renewing their visa in country will be required to pay the immigration health surcharge as part of their visa application.  In April 2015, the UK government introduced an Immigration Health Surcharge to all non-EEA nationals, which at the time exempted Australian and New Zealand nationals who were in the United Kingdom for a year or less.

Australian and New Zealand nationals will still not be charged for emergency treatment.

Australia – Current visa processing times

We have noticed a gradual increase in processing times for decisions to be made by the Australian Department of Immigration so we are sending you the current published processing times to enable you to make the best informed decision about the time frame involved in your expatriate movements to Australia.

Australia – Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia ) Bill 2015

The Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 was passed by Parliament on 3 December 2015.

Australian citizens aged 14 and over can have their Australian citizenship revoked if they are also a citizen or national of another country and participate in specific activities, such as:

  • for serious crimes under the Criminal Code resulting in imprisonment for six years or six years cumulatively
  • and demonstrated the repudiation of allegiance to Australia
  • engaging in international terrorist activities using explosive or lethal devices;
  • engaging in a terrorist act;
  • providing or receiving training connected with preparation for, engagement in, or assistance in a terrorist act;
  • directing, recruiting or financing terrorism or the activities of a terrorist organisation;
  • engaging in foreign incursions and recruitment

Australia: New penalty system for visa payments now in effect

A new criminal and civil penalty regime that was anticipated to come into effect by May 30, 2016 has been introduced earlier than expected and now makes it illegal for a sponsor to be paid by visa applicants for certain immigration events. The laws have also led to changes in nomination and visa criteria to facilitate the practical effect of the new system.

Effective December 14, 2015, visa nominators and applicants must certify whether or not they have engaged in any of the prescribed illegal conduct in relation to each visa application.

Australia: Purchase of housing for 457 visa holders increased from 1st December

From 1 December 2015 there will be a fee for all foreign investment applications, including 457 visa holders who wish to purchase a house in Australia.

For a property where the value is up to AUD $1 million, the 457 visa holder will pay the Australian Government an extra AUD $5000 AUD.  This fee will increase according to the value of the property purchased and the relevant fees are tabled below.


Why is this happening?

Due to the recent increased scrutiny of overseas citizens purchasing property in Australia without seeking FIRB (Foreign Investment Review Board) approval, it has come to the attention that there has been abuse of the process.

The Australian Government needs money and 457 visa holders are not permitted to vote and so the Australian Government have provided $47.5 million over four years to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to improve compliance and strengthen the enforcement of these rules.


What does this mean for foreign national and employers?

A Fact Sheet provided by FIRB giving full details of the penalties can be found here.

Australia: Regulatory amendments for 457 visa program

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will implement changes to the 457 visa regulations on December 1, 2015 that clarify some 457 visa conditions, namely those concerning mandatory licensing requirements, and strengthen existing policies in relation to 457 visas obtained via work agreements or enterprise agreements. The changes are largely a response to the negotiation and implementation of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).

Australia: Changes to 457 visa program to take effect 1 December 2015

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has announced changes to the 457 program to strengthen work agreement and enterprise agreement requirements, and provide further clarification on existing 457 visa conditions. The changes will take effect from 1 December 2015. 

From 1 December 2015, changes to the 457 visa regulations will be implemented to clarify and strengthen existing policy in relation to work agreements, enterprise agreements and some 457 visa conditions. These changes are largely a response to the negotiation and implementation of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA).

Australia: New medical exam standards to delay visa processing times

Foreign nationals submitting Australian visa applications and those with pending applications where medical examinations have not been undertaken will be subject to new medical examination standards on or after November 20, 2015, according to announced changes by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.  Additionally, the streamlined health examination process for subclass 457 visa applicants will be eliminated on that date. Applicants will likely face longer visa processing times when the new requirements are implemented.

Australia: Changes to health requirements for all Australian visas to take effect on 20 November 2015

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has announced a number of changes to health requirements for Australian visa applications, to take effect from 20 November 2015. As part of the changes, a new health matrix will be issued determining who is required to undertake medical examinations. The changes will also abolish streamlined health processing arrangements for 457 visa applicants which can affect the processing times.

Chinese nationals eligible for work and holiday visa program

Five thousand eligible Chinese passport holders per year between the ages of 18 and 31 will be able to reside and work in Australia for up to twelve months on or after September 21, 2015 under the Work and Holiday visa arrangement, which was finalized in June.  To be eligible for the program, the traveler must hold tertiary qualifications or have successfully completed at least two years of undergraduate university study.

Key Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the Work and Holiday visa, the applicant must:

•    have sufficient funds to support their stay (usually around AUD 5,000) and to purchase a return or onward travel ticket at the end of the stay;

•    have not previously entered Australia on a Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa;

•    not intend to bring a dependent child in Australia;

•    have functional English skills as determined by a language test or by completing specified English language classes;

•    meet character and health requirements; and

•    be a genuine visitor, as determined by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Although the agreement does not currently allow Australian nationals to travel to China on a working holiday, this is under consideration.

What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals

Eligible Chinese nationals should benefit from the introduction of the Work and Holiday visa as it will allow for an opportunity to live and work in Australia when company sponsorship may not be an option.

Australian border staff strike to delay travel and visa processing services

A strike by Immigration and Border Protection staff scheduled for September 16–18 and 21-23, is likely to delay immigration clearance at entry ports and visa processing service centres.

Travellers should check the Department on Immigration and Border Protection website for updates regarding the strike.

What This Means for Foreign Nationals

International travellers are advised to arrive at their travel ports early and proceed straight to immigration and customs clearance after checking in.

Streamlined subclass 457 visa processing for trusted sponsors in Australia

As part of the ongoing reform of the subclass 457 program, and based on the recommendations submitted to the Australian government by stakeholders, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has announced that it plans to implement a streamlined subclass 457 visa application process for trusted sponsors. It is anticipated that these changes will come into effect in late 2015.

The stakeholders recommended a tiered processing framework in which low-risk applications from low-risk sponsors qualify for status as an Accredited Sponsor to receive streamlined processing and reduced documentary requirements.

Qualification Criteria of an Accredited Sponsor

The criteria for qualifying as an Accredited Sponsor will be amended to place the primary focus on a long history of sound compliance instead of a combination of other factors such as volume of applications and quotas of Australian staff relative to subclass 457 holders. This will increase the number of qualifying sponsors and serve as a further incentive to ensure compliance with the subclass 457 visa program.

Factors that are currently assessed at the time of each nomination application - such as occupations and salary bands that the sponsor uses and whether the visa applicant is an intra-company transfer - will instead be assessed at a pre approval stage.

What This Means for Employers

Employers qualifying for Accredited Sponsor status should benefit from a faster and easier application process. Interested employers should contact their immigration professional to discuss the eligibility criteria.


Courtesy of Fragomen.