BEWARE OF NEW INTEGRITY CHECKS!

Nearly every Australian visa has a "public interest criteria" - commonly known as a PIC 4020 - which must be satisfied in order for the visa to be granted.

PIC 4020 is essentially an integrity check.  Put simply, it involves immigration confirming that you aren't providing them with false or misleading information, or bogus documents - and that you haven't done so in the past.  If you don't pass the integrity check, then you don't get your visa.

The current version of PIC 4020 allows immigration to refuse your visa application in circumstances where the applicant provides a bogus document or information that is ‘false or misleading in a material particular’, in relation to –

  1. any current application for a visa, or
  2. any visa that the applicant held in the period of 12 months before the application was made.

Significantly, however, PIC 4020 is changing as of 18 November 2017.

The new version of PIC 4020 will apply to any visa that the applicant has held, or applied for, in the 10 years before the current application was made. This means that any information or documents provided to immigration, a skills assessment body or Medical Officer of the Commonwealth in conjunction with a visa application made in the last 10 years can be taken into account to determine whether you pass the integrity check.  Importantly, this includes visas which were refused or withdrawn prior to decision.

The changes are contained in the Migration Legislation Amendment (2017 Measures No. 4) Regulations 2017.

If you have any concerns about this forthcoming change - because, for example, you may have forgotten to previously declare a criminal conviction - then we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice before lodging your next visa application. 

Putt Legal is experienced in making submissions to the immigration department, requesting that the strict application of PIC 4020 be waived.

Update on SkillSelect Invitation Rounds

Recent reports after the SkillSelect invitation rounds are indicating that candidates need at least a score of 65 points to receive an invitation for general occupations.

The minimum invitation score for Accountants has also increased to 85 and the engineering occupations that fall under the occupation group ‘Other Engineering Professionals’ has increased to 70.

There is a number of ways to increase your points total, with one of the quickest way being to undertake another English Language test. The Department accepts multiple test such as IELTS, PTE Academic and TOEFL iBT. If Academic IELTS was a requirement for your skill assessment, you may want to consider undertaking the general version to see if you are able to score higher within each band.

Another option is to consider applying for the Subclass 489 Skilled Regional visa.  You may be eligible if you have a family member that is living within a designated area of Australia or have a State that is willing to sponsor you, giving you an additional 10 points.  

This is a temporary visa, that will require you to live and work regionally within that State for a period of at least two years. For certain States such as South Australia and Tasmania, the entire State is considered regional. Within Western Australia, postcodes such as Mandurah (6210) and Bullsbrook (6084) are considered as regional areas even though they are only about 1 hour outside of Perth CBD.  After the two-year period, permanent visa pathways are available.

Contact Putt Legal for further information relating to the SkillSelect process.

Australian Citizenship Bill Discharged from the Senate

On 18 October, the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 was discharged from the Senate as the government did not meet the deadline to bring the legislation on for debate.

This discharge means that the pending citizenship applications that were lodged on and after 20 April 2017, will not have to satisfy the four-year permanent residence requirement and demonstrate a competent level of English.

The processing of citizenship applications should now resume however processing times will exceed those estimated due to a large backlog of applications. In September, the Department estimated that 75% of application were being processed within 10 months, while 90% of applications were being processed within 14 months.

Though the Bill was discharged, the Department is proposing amendments to the legislation to be implemented for citizenship applications lodged on and after 1 July 2018, subject to the legislation being passed in the Senate. The amendments include reducing the English requirement from “competent” to a “modest” level. There is no indication yet on what changes will occur to the residence requirement.

Putt Legal encourages all permanent residents who meet the current residency requirements to lodge a citizenship application immediately.  

Have you overstayed your visa? Advice if you become unlawful

Those who are not Australian citizens must have a visa to live lawfully in Australia. However, circumstances can arise where a non-citizen may find themselves in Australia without a visa.

Temporary visas, like visitor visas, student visas and the subclass 457 visa, have an expiry date, and overstaying a temporary visa will result in a non-citizen having an unlawful status in Australia. While Permanent visas don’t have an expiry date, they do have a ‘travel facility’ date, and to leave and come back to Australia after this date requires a further visa (see http://www.puttlegal.com.au/resident-return-visas/).

It may also be that your visa is cancelled for character reasons or non-compliance.  A cancellation decision will immediately result in an unlawful status.

So, what can you do if you find yourself unlawfully in Australia? It is crucial that you speak to a specialist migration lawyer, who can assist you in taking the steps necessary to become lawful again. If you go directly to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), or continue to live in the community without a valid visa, you risk being taken into immigration detention, and potentially being deported.

Putt Legal can assist unlawful non-citizens to remain in Australia, and as lawyers, we are not required to disclose client information to the DIBP. All communications with a lawyer are confidential, meaning unlawful non-citizens can speak without fear of their visa status being disclosed to others.

As ruled in a Federal Court case, a solicitor for an unlawful non-citizen is not required to provide their client’s phone number to the DIBP, because of ‘legal professional privilege’. The DIBP served a notice on the solicitor requiring the mobile number of her client as he had failed to turn up for a court hearing at which it was likely he would be taken into immigration detention. However, the Federal Court ruled that the solicitor did not have to comply with the DIBP’s notice to provide the mobile number, as it was communicated to her confidentially and legal professional privilege attached to the information. See Hamdan v Minister for Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs [2004] FCA 1267 for the full decision.

If you find yourself unlawful, Putt Legal can provide confidential assistance in legalising your status in Australia.

How to avoid overseas student visa fees in Australia

Did you know Australia has the third highest number of international students in the world behind only the United Kingdom and the United States despite having a population of only 23 million? This isn’t surprising when you consider Australia has seven of the top 100 universities in the world! In fact, with over 22,000 courses across 1,100 institutions, Australia sits above the likes of Germany, the Netherlands and Japan, ranking eighth in the Universitas 2012 U21 Ranking of National Higher Education Systems.

These are strong academic credentials, but our institutions are just as highly rated as the cities that house them around the country. Australia has five of the 30 best cities in the world for students based on student mix, affordability, quality of life, and employer activity – all important elements for students when choosing the best study destination.

Study in Australia, the official Australian government website about studying in Australia gives you an indication of the range of course costs for different types of qualifications.

·         School - $7,800 to $30,000

·         English language studies - Around $300 per week depending on course length

·         Vocational Education and Training (Certificates I to IV, Diploma and Advanced                  Diploma) - $4,000 to $22,000

·         Undergraduate Bachelor Degree - $15,000 to $33,000*

·         Postgraduate Masters Degree - $20,000 to $37,000*

·         Doctoral Degree - $14,000 to $37,000*

* Note: This does not include high value courses such as veterinary and medical schools. Please visit institution websites directly to see costs for these courses.

Overseas students granted Australian student visas have an ability to work part time in Australia (usually up to 20 hours per week), but typically this only provides income to defray living expenses.

Parents or other sponsors of children and young adults who are planning to study in Australia in the future may care to consider their ability to obtain Australian permanent residence for themselves and their children to avoid paying expensive foreign student fees.

For example, high wealth individuals who have an ability to invest AUD 5 million per year over a four-year period in Australia, and reside in Australia for at least 160 days in that period, are eligible to apply for Australian permanent residence, and include their family members in that application. Similarly, persons with a successful business background or good employment qualifications may want to consider their ability to obtain permanent residence for themselves and family members who may be wishing to study in Australia in the future.

Malaysian or Singaporean nationals who wish to learn more are invited to attend a free immigration seminar to be given by experienced immigration lawyer and registered migration agent Alisdair Putt in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday 11 November.  Or you may wish to arrange a personal appointment in KL or Singapore in the period 11 to 14 November inclusive (fees apply for personal consultations).  Please email Alisdair on aputt@puttlegal.com.au for further details.

The Australian High Commission website for Malaysia has useful information here about student visas - http://malaysia.highcommission.gov.au/klpr/study.html; the similar website for Singaporeans is at http://singapore.embassy.gov.au/sing/study.html

Another excellent Australian government website that also contains details of overseas scholarships available and other aspects of living in Australia can be found at - http://www.australia.gov.au/information-and-services/education-and-training/international-students