FEBRUARY 2019 - News, Views & Clues from Migration Plus
AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT SUPPORTING REGIONAL AREAS TO ATTRACT MIGRANTS
The Australian Government will support regional employers to get the skilled workers they need to grow and develop their businesses.
The Government will provide AUD 19.4 million in funding over the next four years to support regional areas to attract skilled migrants. Department of Home Affairs officials will be deployed to regional communities to work directly with employers and communities experiencing critical skills shortages and regional employers and skilled migrants wanting to live and work in regional areas will be given access to priority processing on visa applications.
Where Australian workers are not available, visa settings can be tailored to suit the needs of specific regions through tools such as Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMAs). The Northern Territory recently signed its second DAMA agreement, and Warrnambool on Victoria's Great South Coast is expected to sign one soon.
AUDIT REPORT FINDS CITIZENSHIP APPLICATIONS TOO SLOW AND TOO EXPENSIVE
Australian citizenship applications are not being processed in a timely way by the Department of Home Affairs, according to the auditor-general. Failed reforms in migration law and the increased integrity screening has been found to have blown out the time taken to assess applications.
Around 83,000 applications for citizenship were received in April 2017 after the announcement of tougher measures for those applying for Australian citizenship. Applications received the week before the announcement generally took 30 days to be invited for a citizenship test, while applicants in the week afterwards took 290 days on average to be invited for a test. The applications weren't processed as the Department expected they were to be subject to the new laws that were yet to pass the Parliament.
The "increased integrity measures" involving a more complex checking process from "a national security and risk perspective" were also significant driver in the increase in processing times from June 2017. An internal review undertaken by the Department of Home Affairs late last year has identified more efficient ways to conduct the integrity screening.
"The enhanced integrity measures adopted by the department over the last three years to protect Australia's national security and community safety are delivering results," the Department said.
The Department has agreed to the auditor-general's recommendation to revise how it funds its citizenship activities and to address periods of inactivity in processing applications, and refused the recommendation to publicly report its key performance indicators, saying they could give people unrealistic expectations.
Over the past five years, the Government has stripped 4150 non-citizens of their visas after committing serious and abhorrent crimes such as child sex offences, domestic violence assaults and murder. More than 800 violent and sexual offenders were stripped of their visas in 2018.
To keep Australians safe, the Government has introduced into Parliament theMigration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2018 to introduce a list of designated offences into s501 of the Migration Act 1958, providing clear and objective grounds for the consideration of visa refusal or cancellation.
Anyone convicted of the crimes below, whether in Australia or overseas, will be at risk of having their visa cancelled or refused:
violence against a person, including (without limitation) murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, assault, aggravated burglary and the threat of violence; or
non-consensual conduct of a sexual nature, including (without limitation) sexual assault and the non-consensual commission of an act of indecency or sharing of an intimate image; or
breaching an order made by a court or tribunal for the personal protection of another person; or
using or possessing a weapon; or
procuring, or assisting in any way with one of these designated crimes; and
the offence carries a maximum sentence of two or more years imprisonment.
The Bill provides that these new character provisions will apply both to decisions to the determination of visa applications that have not been finally determined as of the date of commencement, as well to as the determination of visa applications made post-commencement.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA WAIVER OF SCHOOL FEES FOR DEPENDENTS OF SUBCLASS 457 AND 482 VISA HOLDERS
A contribution fee applies for families on 457 and 482 visas whose children attend government schools in South Australia. The maximum annual contribution payable by a family on a 457 and 482 visa for 2019 is AUD 5,300 for each primary school student and AUD 6,400 for each high school student.
From January 2019, students attending some government schools in regional South Australia will not be liable for the contribution fee, unless the holder of the 457 or 482 visa earns a gross income of more than AUD 60,000. Gross income includes salary sacrifice amounts and overtime payments.
The final four asylum seeker children in Nauru are going to the United States with their families for resettlement. No more asylum seeker children will be held in the island processing centre.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a joint statement with Immigration Minister David Coleman that all children put in detention centres are out and the Australian government has shut down all immigration detention centres, including on Christmas Island.
A continuing medical crisis for those adults remaining in immigration detention on Nauru and Manus Island. Little over than 1000 asylum seekers remain in the two centres and continue to face an uncertain fate.
THE FAIR WORK OMBUDSMAN (FWO) AND THE NEW REVERSE ONUS OF PROOF LAWS
The new reverse onus of proof laws requires employers to disprove underpayment allegations in Court when they have failed to keep adequate time and wages records or issue pay slips.
Recently, the FWO has instituted proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court against A & K Property Services Pty Ltd, which operates two fast food outlets at Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast, in the state of Queensland. The company allegedly underpaid minimum ordinary hourly rates, weekend penalty rates and overtime rates to their workers who were in Australia on working holiday, student and vocational education visas. Furthermore, the employees were also not provided with superannuation, and their annual leave and personal leave entitlements were not accrued.
A & K Property Services faces now penalties of up to AUD 63,000 per contravention. The company´s three directors are facing penalties of up to AUD 12,600 for their alleged involvement in the leave contraventions and one of the directors is facing penalties of up to AUD 12,600 for his involvement in the record-keeping and pay slip breaches. The FWO is also seeking court orders requiring the directors to complete online learning courses.
The matter is listed for a directions hearing in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane on 25 March 2019.
For more information about sponsorship obligations and compliance matters contact our Registered Migration Agents at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DESIGNATED AREA MIGRATION AGREEMENTS (DAMA)
The scheme - known as the Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) has been announced for two regions in Australia - Warrnambool region in Victoria and the Northern Territory which are experiencing labour shortages and need a population boost. Employers from these regions are now able to sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers for positions they are unable to fill with local workers.
From cooks to family day care workers to motor mechanics, low skilled migrants will now be able to apply for Australia's permanent residency.
The Northern Territory has opened its door to skilled migrants in 117 occupations and has offered a pathway to permanent residency to these workers who are willing to work and live in the region for at least three years. More than 20 eligible occupations will be available under the Great South Coast DAMA with the full list to be posted in the first quarter of 2019.
The Government is currently in discussions with a range of other regions around the country experiencing skill shortages, including the Pilbara and the Kalgoorlie-Boulder regions in Western Australia, Cairns region in North Queensland, and the Orana region in central New South Wales. For a DAMA to be approved by the Commonwealth, regions must demonstrate efforts to recruit Australians first and clearly identify labour market conditions and gaps. They must also demonstrate local support available to migrant workers.
Please note that the DAMA is an employer-sponsored visa program and individual workers cannot apply for a visa independently.