The main points from the meeting between MIA President team and Home Affairs recently
The MIA president team recently met with the Department of Home Affairs to discuss the latest information on TSS, Partner visa，Parent visa, New Regional Skilled, etc. The following are the main points.
This meeting occurred within the Caretaker Period prior to the Election, and the Department was not at liberty to discuss some issues we wanted raised due to Caretaker provisions.
Triage System for Access to the Department
This current Board has been vigorous in pushing the Department to introduce a triage system for policy and case related issues, particularly around decisions which involve administrative and jurisdictional error. We envisage that such a model would allow for a point of contact in the Department, which is accessible to MIA Staff, and would allow for quick action when necessary. We have provided a draft of a potential triage model before the Department to consider. While supportive of the idea in principle, they have raised concerns around the non-budgeted cost of implementing a formal scheme and concerns around access and equity.
Matters involving administrative/jurisdiction error referred by MIA Professional Support Team Members will continue to be resolved. Members are also encouraged to continue to refer matters to the relevant policy areas within the Department, the Agents Gateway and the General Feedback Unit.
Where members contact the Department directly, and receive an answer on policy interpretation, we would be grateful if you could report the outcome back to Professional Support so it can be added to the database, and so they can continue to provide accurate and timely feedback to member enquires.
The MIA will continue to push for a better and more equitable solution for members.
We raised with the Department the fact that members are reporting they are receiving emails from training organisations which state that Training benchmarks obligations remain in place.
The Department acknowledged that this is a problem and it they will include a statement on training benchmark obligations in the next Skilled Newsletter.
We get the impression that the Department would prefer to see an end to the entire Training Benchmark issue. Unfortunately, this is a matter for the Government to consider.
Skilling Australians Fund Levy
We note that there has been a lot of feedback from members about the SAF. However, due to the Caretaker conventions, little discussion occurred on this issue, which rests firmly with the Government.
This issue and refunds remain firmly on our agenda and will be raised with the Department at every opportunity.
The approval rates have stabilised to around 92%. Processing times are generally around a couple of days to several weeks, depending upon whether the employer is accredited or ‘known’ to the Department.
There remain about 700-800 cases awaiting processing. Some of these will probably still take time to resolve given the complexities involved – health and character concerns, for example.
Decision maker Staff
The Department currently has a staff of 2,500 visa and citizenship decision makers.
An additional 100 processing staff have been hired to assist in the backlog of over 250,000 citizenship applications.
Members will have noticed that recently lodged ENS/RSMS applications are being processed faster than those lodged some time ago. The Department confirms there are two processing teams managing this caseload. A specialist team has been setup in Melbourne to process newer applications.
The Department indicated that they are now processing decision ready, low risk ENS/RSMS cases as a priority as a means of increasing efficiency.
We did raise the issue of case officers applying current MR5.19 requirements with the older caseload lodged before LMT became a requirement for RSMS Direct Entry nominations. The Department will investigate this further.
RSMS applications under processing – 24,000
ENS applications under processing – 30,000
Sponsored Parent (Temporary) visa (subclass 870)
At the date of the meeting, 400 sponsorship applications had been submitted. While it is surprising that the figure is relatively low; it was felt that perhaps people might be holding off and waiting for the election results; as Labour had undertaken to relax the Temporary Parent Visa should they be elected.
We raised our concerns about the lack of detailed regulations and policy not being released in a timely manner prior to commencement of the sponsorship; and pointed out there were flaws within the online application.
The Department was intending to commence processing applications within 2 weeks of sponsorships being available (around the 3rd week in May).
The Department fully expects that the Subclass 870 visa may be used as an interim measure by parents waiting for the processing of their 173/143 applications. 870 visa applicants will not be refused on GTE grounds where 173/143 applications have been lodged.
We raised concerns that visitor visas are being refused where applicants have also lodged 300/309/100 visa applications; despite policy direction. The MIA will address this aspect by way of a separate written submission.
Should you have a similar case, we would ask you to please provide the TRN, nationality of applicant and office which made the decision, to MIA Professional Support, so we can provide this feedback to the Department.
Sponsorship arrangements to be rolled out to Partner and other Family Visas
It is intended that the new Sponsorship Legislation will in time be rolled out across other classes of family visas. At this stage, NO arrangements are in place to introduce the new sponsorship arrangements for partner visas.
We pointed out the 6-month provision within the enabling legislation. The Assistant Secretary, Skilled & Family Visa Program Branch stated that, regarding Partner Visas, the 6 months would commence when other regulations had been tabled for the new Partner Visas. Given the Caretaker conventions, there was no indication of when any future partner visa legislation would be drafted and introduced to Parliament.
We have received more recent advice on this matter, and it appears that there is still no implementation date for the Partner Visa changes at present.
We were also advised that Policy Instructions would be released before the implementation date of the new Partner Visa.
Current Partner visas
1st Stage – 82,000 applications are in the pipeline.
2nd Stage – 156,000 applications are in the pipeline.
Applications now ready for 2nd stage processing – 35,000.
The Department confirmed that they are doing everything possible to facilitate the smooth transition to permanent residency, given the long processing times of the partner visas.
The Migration program planning levels for 2019-20 for partner stream is 39,799 visas. We will leave it to members to do their own math.
Retirement Visas – Transition Pathway from 405 and 410 to 103 and 804.
These are being processed with 6 weeks to 3 months.
OMARA Code of Conduct Review
As the bill to regulate lawyers from being registered migration agents lapsed when Parliament was prorogued, OMARA will now push ahead to introduce regulations amending Migration Agents Code of Conduct. They had previously planned to introduce the new Code of Conduct in conjunction with the deregulation legislation.
We were advised that further consultations need to occur including with lawyer agents.
The MIA will keep members informed as further developments occur.
16 November 2019 changes to Skilled Migration
Some aspects of the impending 16 November changes were discussed. We provided feedback that we felt the communication of the upcoming changes had been very good, as we now have access to draft legislation and explanatory notes, as well as the Skills Newsletter.
The Department undertook to provide policy instructions by 16 October 2019.
The MIA takes this opportunity to remind members to review our notices and to familiarise themselves with the impending changes. CPD sessions, webinars and member network meetings will be rolled out around Australia in due course.
At this stage we do not know if the pass mark of 65 points will change with the amendments to Schedule 6D. Our view is that this is not all that significant as the Department can adjust the indicate ‘pass mark’ within skill select to manage the Skilled Migration Program with Expressions of Interest lapsing two years from time of lodgement.
In relation to the new regional visas, priority processing will be given to employment offers from accredited sponsors, then to approved sponsors and lastly to unknown businesses.
Employers activity within the regional visas will be monitored.
The Department advised that very few people had claimed regional study points. The changes to this qualification will apply regardless of when the regional study was completed – meaning that possibly people who cannot now claim points for regional study; will be able to in future, even in respect of historical study, as the regional boundaries are redefined.
The Department will also be monitoring universities and colleges setting up regional campuses – this will be more out of curiously than anything else.