Did you know you need to have health insurance to study in Australia?

 

Health insurance for students

All students in Australia who have come from overseas must have a health insurance policy while they are here. It is very important you maintain this health insurance for the whole time you are on a student visa— not just while you are studying. Your insurance must commence from the date you arrive in Australia and remain in effect until you leave, or move to a different visa subclass.  

Almost all student visa holders are required to maintain a specific type of health insurance known as Overseas Student Health Cover.  The exceptions are for students from Sweden who have insurance provided by CSN International or Kammarkkollegiet, Norwegian students who are covered by the National Insurance Scheme and Belgian students.  You can find out more about visa conditions on our website at www.immi.gov.au/students/visa-conditions.htm.

An Overseas Student Health Cover will cover you for some specialist services and medical emergencies.  However, you may need to pay for certain treatments. You should understand the details of what your policy covers before travelling to Australia.  If you are unsure or cannot understand your policy, you should contact your health insurance provider.

If your education provider or agent is organising Overseas Student Health Cover on your behalf, you should ask when your cover begins and when it ends.  You may be in breach of your visa conditions if you are in Australia without the appropriate cover, even if you were relying on your education provider or your agent to arrange the insurance.  This could result in your visa being cancelled. If you find that your Overseas Student Health Cover is not valid, you should organise for this to be corrected immediately. 

New provider for visa medicals

Bupa Medical Visa Services is the new provider of health examinations for visa applicants in Australia. The change in service provider, which took effect on 28 July 2014, will benefit clients through improvements to processing times and reduced examination fees.

BUPA Post

Bupa also has the capability to provide medical services for visa applications made outside Australia, which offers the department the opportunity to consolidate and streamline the visa medical examination and assessment process globally. The expansion of Bupa’s services outside Australia is planned for the coming months and updates will continue to be published on our website.

Both the department and Bupa Medical Visa Services are committed to ensure that continuity of service is maintained throughout the transition with minimal effect to clients and application processing service standards.

Clients can now book their immigration health examination online on the Bupa website or by calling Bupa Medical Visa Services on 1300 794 919.

The department also offers a service for clients to do an immigration health examination before lodging their visa application, which can help avoid processing delays. For information go to My Health Declarations on our website.

Partner (Provisional) visa (subclass 309) – what you need to do next

If you arrived in Australia on a Partner (Provisional) visa, it is important to inform us about any changes to your personal details, such as a new residential address or new passport details. You can provide this information by completing Form 929. If your family circumstances have changed, fill in Form 1022.

Two years after you first lodged your Partner (Provisional) visa application overseas, we will send you a letter via email or the post requesting the information we need to consider your permanent visa application. It is important to keep your contact details updated to ensure you receive your letter.

If it has been more than two years since you first lodged your application overseas and you have not received a letter from us, you can apply through ImmiAccount or download the documents you need from our website.

What to expect from a registered migration agent

If you choose to use a migration agent to help with your visa application, it’s important to check they are registered with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (the Authority). It’s against the law for anyone who is not registered to advise about eligibility for a visa or provide assistance beyond clerical help with a visa or citizenship application.

Registered migration agents are skilled professionals with up-to-date knowledge of Australian migration law, and are bound by the professional standards set out in the migration agents’ Code of Conduct.  This provides you with a level of protection. On the other hand, an unregistered agent may not have current knowledge about the law and ignore any form of consumer protection.

So what can you expect when using a registered migration agent?  Firstly, your agent must be realistic with you about your chances of getting a visa – they shouldn’t give you false hope and can never guarantee you a visa. You should discuss with your agent what your chances of success are and your agent should provide you with an agreement of services and fees before they start work or take any money from you. The agreement should give you a breakdown of the costs involved in preparing and submitting your visa application, including the agent’s professional fees and any visa application charges.

One of the benefits of using a registered migration agent is that they must charge you reasonable fees for their services.  You can see the average range of fees charged by registered migration agents here . Your agent must also keep you informed about the progress of your visa application and must let you know in writing about the outcome as soon as possible.

At the end of the process, or after completing a large block of work, the agent must give you an invoice for the work they have completed.  It’s important to know that agent fees can vary and may depend on the type of visa you need, the amount of time it will take to prepare your application, or if you need extra help or have complex circumstances. For example, your agent might charge more if you have dependents on your application (such as children). Some agents who are very experienced and highly qualified may charge a higher fee.

If your agent’s fees seem too high, discuss this with them before signing a contract. You should consider talking to a few agents about their services and fees before you choose one and sign a written contract with them.

If you have any issues with your registered migration agent, you should try to resolve them first by talking to your agent.  If this doesn’t work, the Authority may be able to help you.  You can call the Authority on 1300 226 272 or complete the complaint form on the website. Remember, if you get migration advice from someone who is not a registered migration agent, the Authority cannot assist you if there’s a problem.

There are more than 5000 Australian registered migration agents to choose from.  You can find one on the Authority’s website

Visa or citizenship related payments in Australia have become simpler and quicker

The department is no longer accepting cash payments at its counters for visa or citizenship related fees and charges.  This does not impact the methods of payment available at Australian embassies or high commissions and visa applications centres outside Australia.

The cashless office initiative aims to make payments at government shop-fronts simpler and quicker.

How can I pay?

Accepted methods of payments are:

  • credit card
  • debit / credit card
  • EFTPOS
  • prepaid credit card
  • bank cheques
  • money order

Additional Fees
We have also introduced a surcharge on all credit card payments for visa application charges from 19 April 2014 to recover credit card merchant fees.

The surcharge will not apply to BPAY or EFTPOS payments. The surcharge will apply to all applicants, whether they are applying for their visa in or outside Australia.

For information about fees and charges visit: www.immi.gov.au/fees-charges

Using the Census to make sense of temporary migration

This post is part of the On the Move blog series, which brings you posts focussing on the use of census data in a temporary migration context. These posts have been prepared by our Economic Analysis Unit. 

If you’ve been following these blogs for a while you will know that the 2011 Census of Population and Housing offers up a couple of incredibly useful products for Immigration’s policymakers.

The most well-known of these are the 21 million records of data released from the Census,  which capture the details of everyone present in Australia on Census night. Included among these millions are:  all people born here; all migrants with a permanent visa; and because it’s a population count, all those with a temporary visa, provided they have been (or intend to be) in Australia for at least a year.

The second product is the Australian Census Migrant Integrated Dataset (or ACMID for short).  Again it is based on data from the Census, but this time it has been matched with the immigration records of just over a million permanent migrants who settled in Australia after 2001.  For people working in this department, this is especially useful.  On its own, the Census does not make any distinction between permanent settlers and temporary migrants, whereas the ACMID enables us to drill-down into various categories of permanent entry.

While these datasets are both useful in their own right, what is especially enlightening are the additional insights gained if you look at the ‘differences’ between them.

Just to recap, the Census is a source of statistics on Aussies, permanents and temporaries. The ACMID is only permanents.  Take one away from the other and you get statistics on Aussies and temporaries.  Take out the fifteen million or so who were born here, and you get a much smaller set of data, one that only contains statistics on temporary migrants.

If we then take this chunk of temporary data, and apply some reasonable assumptions and straightforward logic, we can get decent proxies for some of the main groups of temporary entrants.  These comprise Working Holiday Makers, International Students and New Zealanders on subclass 444 visas.  This latter, lesser-known group comprises New Zealand citizens who, because they first entered Australia after 2001, have limited prospects of obtaining permanent residence or Australian citizenship, and by extension are ineligible for many government benefits in the areas of health, education and welfare.

Table 1 : Identifying Temporary Migrant Groups

Temporary Migrant Group Identified as …
International Students In full-time study,  born overseas and aged 18 or over
New Zealand Citizens Born in New Zealand or the Pacific Islands and  arrived after 2001 and not in full-time study
Working Holiday Makers Aged 18 to 30,  born in a country we have a working holiday arrangement with and not in full-time study
Children of a subclass 457 migrant Born overseas (anywhere other than New Zealand and Pacific Islands) and aged less than 18
Other Temporaries Those who do not match any of the above criteria.  It will include subclass 457 migrants and their spouses and those on skilled graduate visas

 This then leaves us with a residual group mostly made up  of subclass 457 holders, plus an assortment of others on skilled graduate visas and student guardian visas for example.  There are also a handful of people who don’t quite fit the mould.  Included among these outliers would be international students under 18, New Zealand citizens who were born outside of New Zealand and the Pacific, and Working Holiday Makers who had just gone over the age of 30 at the time of the Census.

All of which is a longhand way of saying this is not an exact science. Shortcomings aside though, it’s a useful addition to the other temporary migration statistics collected by the department; and because it is underpinned by some very detailed Census information, it has the potential for new insights into the behaviour of temporary migrants.

For instance, by using the address information provided in the Census, Figures 1a to 1d show where, within the greater Sydney metropolitan area, different groups of temporary migrants are living.

 Figure 1 – Distribution of temporary  migrants around Sydney metro area

OTM Graph                  

As we can see, Sydney’s international students tend to congregate along an east-west axis – an axis that incorporates Sydney’s main campuses and major transport corridors.  This axis does extend a long way west however – reaching all the way to the foot of the Blue Mountains.  This results in some long commutes for international students, who may be living in the far west to take advantage of cheaper accommodation.

In contrast, the Working Holiday Makers are a more geographically concentrated group.  So when in Sydney, they’ll favour the vibrant lifestyle of the inner city or laid back atmosphere of a beachside locale.  They are also a much smaller group than the international students, as only a small number of them stay in Australia for more than 12 months.

New Zealanders with a temporary status are more far flung, with significant numbers living on the periphery of Sydney, near Penrith in the North and Campbelltown in the South.  Economically and socially these are some of the more disadvantaged parts of the Sydney region.  Furthermore, given the increasing size of this cohort and their limited access to government services, this may be an issue of growing concern.

The final word

More generally, understanding more about temporary migrants and where they live is important because they are a growing segment of the population and like the rest of us they leave a footprint economically, socially and environmentally. At the same time, and as we have seen already, their geographic distribution does vary. This means that the pressures they place on local housing, on infrastructure and on the provision of services is also unevenly felt.  Because this issue is becoming increasingly important, more work is being done in this area with other government agencies.

More students eligible for simpler, faster visas

Study in AustraliaFor the first time students enrolled in advanced diploma level courses at low immigration risk providers will be able to access streamlined visa processing (SVP) arrangements.

SVP will benefit eligible students through simpler and faster visa processing.

It will make study in Australia even more attractive to overseas students, while at the same time ensuring that immigration risk is appropriately managed.

These changes will benefit Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) and higher education sectors, supporting the sustainable growth of international education in Australia and boosting the economy.

It is expected that the extension of SVP to low immigration risk providers offering advanced diploma courses will commence in early 2015, pending legislative changes.

For more information see:
www.immi.gov.au/students/student-visa-non-university.htm

Australia’s 2014-15 Migration Programme

A total of 190 000 places make up Australia’s 2014-15 migration programme, as announced by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection on Budget Day.

Breaking down the numbers, next year’s programme planning levels comprise:

  • 128 550 places for skilled migrants, including employer sponsored, general skilled and business migrants
  • 60 885 places for family migrants sponsored by family members in Australia
  • 565 places for special eligibility migrants, who include former permanent residents who have maintained close business, cultural or personal ties with Australia.

Migration to Australia infographic

The migration programme is set by government annually and lists the planning levels for permanent migration to Australia.  The migration programme benefits Australia economically, through addressing immediate and long-term skill shortages in the workforce, and socially, through the reunification of families.

The size and composition of the programme is set after extensive stakeholder consultation around Australia, and takes into account other factors such as net overseas migration, economic, demographic and labour market trends.

It is managed separately to the humanitarian programme and you can learn more about it on our website

What’s changed?

While the overall size of the programme remains the same, there have been some changes within each stream:

Places have been moved into the employer sponsored category, which is designed to meet immediate to medium term skill shortages that remain in some industries and regions.  If not addressed, these shortages will reduce economic growth and productivity.

Skilled independent category has been reduced to ensure fewer migrants are competing directly with Australians for jobs as the labour market is slightly softening and unemployment is somewhat trending upwards.

Immediate family reunion has been supported by increases in the partner and child categories, as well as in contributory parent.  To maintain the relative proportions of the programme, reductions in the numbers of non-contributory parents and other family visas were necessary.

Latest visitor visa statistics now available

Fireworks

Australia continues to draw high levels of interest from international visitors according to the latest departmental report.
The department has granted more than 3.1 million visitor visas this financial year to 31 March 2014, which is nearly 6 per cent higher than last year.

Interest from Asia continues to rise significantly with tourism visa applications from China up 22 per cent (to more than 380 000 applications), Malaysia up nearly 26 per cent (to more than 187 000 applications) and applications from India up 19 per cent (to more than 102 000 applications).

The report also outlines some key initiatives of the Visitor visa programme including the introduction of a three-year validity, multiple entry visa for Chinese business visitors to enable them to engage in important bilateral trade and investment activities along with the opening of new Australian Visa Application Centre (AVAC) in additional countries, including India in June 2014.

Visitor visa quarterly reports are located on the department’s website at: www.immi.gov.au/media/statistics/visitor.htm These results aren’t unexpected as changes were made to the Visitor visa programme last year to make it easier to apply. Also the expansion of online visitor visa applications in May 2014 means it is now possible for visitors from an additional 51 countries and regions to apply for their visitor visa online.

Watch this space for further posts about the Visitor visa programme.

Training Australian workers: an obligation for 457 employers

As stated in earlier posts, significant changes to the 457 visa were made on 1 July 2013. One of these changes included strengthening the requirement for businesses that employ 457 visa holders to actively contribute to the training of Australian workers.

As it stood prior to the changes on 1 July 2013, businesses have always needed to show they actively contribute to the training of Australian workers. Businesses demonstrated they had spent, in the 12 months prior to applying to be a sponsor:

  • specific amounts on either training their own Australian employees, or
  • provided funds to an industry training fund in the industry they operate in.

Since 1 July 2013, the training obligation takes this a step further by requiring businesses in the programme to continue contributing to the training of Australians for the entire time they are approved as a sponsor and employ 457 visa holders.

What is the training commitment?

Australian businesses sponsoring 457 visa holders must meet at least one of the following training benchmarks:

  • expenditure of at least 2 per cent of the payroll of the business, in payments allocated to an industry training fund that operates in the same industry as the business, or
  • expenditure of at least 1 per cent of the payroll of the business, in the provision of training to Australian employees of the business.

Businesses are required to continue to meet one of these benchmarks for as long as they employ a 457 visa holder and are approved as a sponsor.

What happens if a business doesn’t meet the benchmarks?

We undertake regular checks of businesses that sponsor 457 visa holders to make sure they are complying with all of the sponsorship obligations, including meeting one of the training benchmarks. If during these checks we become aware they have not fully met the training requirement, we have a range of options available to us, including:

  • issuing a formal warning
  • barring the business for up to five years from sponsoring overseas workers
  • cancelling the business’ sponsorship
  • issuing an infringement notice to a maximum value of $10 200
  • entering into an enforceable undertaking (a court-enforceable undertaking between the minister and sponsor) applying for a civil penalty order with a maximum penalty of $51 000.

For more information about 457 employer obligations go to the sponsors tab at:
www.immi.gov.au/Visas/Pages/457.aspx