Friday, 9th of January 2015 Issue #1 January
No Borders Newsletter


Short Term Australian Visa

Issues of this month

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Mixed reaction to proposed new short-term Australian visa

There has been a mixed reaction in Australia so far to proposals for a new visa that would allow highly specialised workers to stay in Australia for up to 12 months without having to apply for a 457 skilled migrant visa.

The discussion paper from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) does not specify who would be eligible for the visa, only saying it would be for "highly specialised and intermittent work".

A DIBP spokesman said the government would not comment on the visa proposal until the consultation phase was finished, but the government's priority was to ensure any changes to the visa system supplemented Australia's work force.

A short term mobility visa category would replace the existing category 400 visa, which allows skilled or specialist entrants to work for up to six weeks. There were 4,587 visas of this type granted when it was first offered in 2012/2013, rising to 32,984 in 2013/2014 with applicants are concentrated in mining, manufacturing, construction and education.

According to Angela Chan, president of the Migration Institute of Australia, it is likely to apply only to a small number of people, including company directors and high level executives who were coming to Australia to set up divisions and subsidiaries, or software developers creating specialised programmes for Australian companies.

"There is a need to have this new visa for flexibility to get these things done. There is a need to meet the skills in this area for intermittent work," she said.

Under the proposals, applicants would not need to pass English language or skills requirements and employers would not have to prove they cannot find an Australian to fill the position. The visa would allow for multiple entries.

Employer groups have been pushing for a less onerous visa than the 457 to allow them to bring in specialists for shorter term projects. They say the six weeks offered under the 400 visa is too short and the department often re-directs applicants to 457 visas.

"The current policy settings and regulations are quite strict and donít allow a lot of flexibility where thereís very specialised or unique work to be done," said Mark Glazbrook, managing director of Migration Solutions.

"If you consider a big international-based company with Australian operations, if they have a specialised piece of equipment thatís in Australia and no one knows how to install it, they want to be able to bring someone, possibly on multiple occasions, on a genuinely temporary basis," he added.

The proposals is regarded as part of a wider plant to cut visa red tape and give companies more flexibility to grow and compete for talent. But the proposals have already upset trade unions, who say that it will prevent Australians getting jobs.

According to Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney, as unemployment, at 6.3%, is at a 12 year high, the focus should be on employing and training locals.

"The review of Australiaís skilled migration system must strengthen requirements for employers to advertise jobs locally before recruiting ®workers from overseas, not make it easier for companies to bypass Australian workers, university graduates and apprentices," she said.

But not all unions agree. According to Master Builders Australia some projects of a short duration, for example three months, are currently going through the time consuming and costly process of applying and securing 457 visas which are not flexible enough.

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Australian migration agents hit out at 50% hike in cost of family visas

The Australian government is being urged to reconsider a dramatic increase in the cost of visas for partners that takes effect on the first day of January 2015.

According to the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA), the 50% increase in the visa application charge for those applying from within Australia from $4,575 to $6,865 is not justified.

Those applying for visas from outside of Australia also face a substantial increase from $3,085 to $4,630, which also takes effect on 01 January. The rises also affect prospective marriage visas.

The MIA, which is the professional association for registered migration agents, said it is deeply concerned about the price increases, which it believes are beyond the reasonable limit that should be paid.

MIA national president, Angela Chan, said that the increase was questionable because of the sheer size of the increase and the lack of any improved service that the increase will bring.

She also pointed out that those paying these fees can be vulnerable and she claimed that the importance of family migration seems to be diminishing.

The government has said that the fee increases are justifiable due to the cost of the administration involved. It does not want to subsidise this group of visas

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Customs officers at Australian airports set to be armed

Customs officers at Australian airports will be armed from the beginning of July, the new immigration minister Peter Dutton has announced.

Customs and border protection officers will be permitted to carry "personal defensive equipment", which includes firearms, while on duty at Australian airports.

"This measure will not only increase the capability of our future Border Force officers, it will also add another layer of deterrence at our borders, and will ensure that the travelling public is as safe as possible," Dutton said.

He explained that it is part of the government's ongoing commitment to enhanced border protection arrangements that will ensure a safer and more prosperous Australia.

He said he believes that this will not only increase the capability of our future Border Force officers, it will also add another layer of deterrence at Australian borders, and will ensure that the travelling public is as safe as possible.

"This government is serious about border protection. People smugglers, transnational crime gangs and narcotic traffickers should be under no illusion. The government is committed to enhancing our nation's border protection arrangements" he explained, adding that to ensure operational effectiveness, details about the number, disposition, and location of armed officers will not be made public.

Customs Officers at airports
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Warning to backpackers over middlemen exploitation

Advice for using Migration Agents

A backpacking holiday around Australia is often a young person's first experience of the country, but now there are warnings about discrimination.

An investigation is underway into claims that backpackers working as fruit pickers in the state of Victoria were being paid wages as little as 60 cents an hour, way below the minimum wage.

There are also claims that they were given substandard accommodation and charged extortionate rent by a middleman and some were even subjected to bullying and sexual harassment.

A spokesman for the Fair Work Ombudsman confirmed that a complaint has been made about the situation in Mildura. He also explained that workers picking fruit or vegetables, or pruning should receive at least $21.08 an hour on a casual hourly basis.

"The suggestionís been put to us that backpackers are being charged up to $150 a week, with reportedly up to 32 people being accommodated in one home and a dozen or so more sleeping in the garage," said the FWO.

"The allegations that have been put to us include bullying, sexual harassment and ripping them off to the tune of hundreds of dollars. Some of these matters are obviously outside our jurisdiction, but clearly where we identify these matters we do pass them on the appropriate local authorities and that might be the police," the spokesman added.

The claims also allege that the middleman charged backpackers a $450 fee for finding them a fruit picking job.

A trade union said that farmers often employ young people through agencies and they may not be aware of the exploitation. According to the Australian Workers Union, these type of arrangements are becoming more common.

"I think thatís the large part of the problem. The growers themselves don't actually know what is happening at the point of payment to the employee," a spokesman explained.

The ombudsman advises newly arrived young people not to enter into work arrangements with people that meet you at regional airports or bus depots.

"These people will approach you with promises of guaranteed work picking fruit or vegetables and accommodation and transport. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is," said the spokesman.

"Also, don't respond to questionable advertisements where there is only a first name and a mobile phone number provided. Legitimate providers will advertise for workers appropriately," he added.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is currently running two programmes aimed at protecting the rights of overseas and seasonal workers and ensuring employers, hostel owners and labour hire operators understand and comply with their obligations.

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Older people in Australia may forget the need to renew their visa

Older people who have stayed in Australia for many years may actually be illegal immigrants as they forget to renew their visas because they regard themselves as Australians, it is claimed.

Some could have been living in the country for 20 years or more and are a well-established part of their community, but unless they have undertaken Australian citizenship then they still need an up to date visa.

Overall, the latest estimated data suggest that more than 62,000 people are living illegally in Australia. According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), around 62,100 people were unaccounted for in Australia in 2014.

Formal data from 2012/2013 showed that visa holders from China, Malaysia and the United States were the highest number of over stayers in Australia in 2013, with the Chinese topping the list at 7,690, followed by Malaysia with 6,420, the US at 5,220 and the UK at 3,780.

Of these, some 44,800 were on visitor visas and 10,720 were students, and overall, over stayers amounted to 1.2% of the 5.5 million people who enter the country each year on visas.

The Australian government is becoming increasingly tough on visa over stayers and warned that they will be deported and banned from returning to Australia for up to three years.

Older People forget to renew their visa

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