DIMIA Annual Report 2004-05
Output 1.1-Non-humanitarian entry and stay
Global Working advances
During 2004-05 Global Working arrangements, which involve the transfer of certain aspects of visa processing from the department's overseas offices to specialised centres in Australia, were extended.
Applications for sponsored employment visa categories, including Employer Nomination Scheme, Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme and Labour Agreement, from people overseas, are now sent by Australian Sponsors to business centres in each state and territory office for processing. This makes communication with sponsors of overseas skilled migrants easier, and ensures greater responsiveness to the needs of Australian business.
Sponsored Family Visitor visas are now also lodged and processed in all state and territory offices. To raise awareness of the visa and its potential to allow more visitors to come to Australia under guarantees from their family members in Australia, the department held consultations with community leaders around Australia.
Special Program visas, which facilitate the entry of generally young people into a range of community-based programs, are now processed in the department's Hobart office.
Further, IT systems and functions were introduced in July 2004 to support Global Working. These allow our staff anywhere in the world to access information alerting decision-makers to applications that may present a higher risk and need further checking. Communication between our offices in Australia and overseas related to these checks is facilitated by the electronic protocols that also allow data to be collected for reporting and monitoring of fraud and other trends.
These new systems and functions have been important in supporting the redesign of business processes for visas applied for over the Internet, or e-Visas. During 2004-05 we piloted a new student e-Visa for students from China, India and Thailand. The facility for people intending a short visit to Australia to apply for their visa over the Internet was extended to a range of countries belonging to the European Union, as well as to three new countries in the Arabian Gulf.
In April 2005, people applying for a Temporary Medical Practitioner visa could do so electronically, using the existing temporary business visa facility. This has made visa processes more convenient and accessible for much-needed qualified medical professionals.
New functions were added to e-Visa products, including the facility for agents to lodge e-Visa applications on behalf of applicants. Agents can prepare applications offline and connect to the Internet to lodge them as a group. Documents can now be electronically attached to an increasing range of e-Visas.
The online health processing system piloted in Singapore last year has been extended to selected clinics in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the UK and Germany. As part of the process, digital facial images are captured by panel doctors or radiologists and electronically attached to client records in the department's central database. These biometric images can be retrieved by visa processing officers to help verify a client's identity. We plan to extend this facility to other e-Visas and related products, which will greatly reduce the potential for identity fraud.
A pilot allowing students applying for a visa in Australia to pay their Visa Application Charge using Bpay was introduced in April 2005. This means that clients who do not have an international credit card can now use the e-Visa service. The number of clients choosing this service is small but steadily increasing.
Tourism and business visitors
Tourism is worth more than $17 billion a year to the Australian economy and makes an important contribution to Australia's export earnings. A number of new service delivery strategies provide a robust infrastructure for delivering visa services that support sustainable growth with high levels of integrity. Approval rates have increased for visitor visas at the same time as the non-return rate has declined. Along with the expansion of the electronic visa initiatives in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and European Union new member state passport holders, new working holiday arrangements and greater promotion of the electronic visa products, these outcomes are important indicators that management of visa processes are delivering timely and effective services for the industry.
The department, through the Tourism Visa Advisory Group, has continued to work with key industry bodies and will continue to explore consultative arrangements that enhance Australia's appeal as a tourism destination.
The broad objectives of the Student Visa Program are to increase export revenue by promoting Australia's education services overseas, to develop trade and commercial links and to promote goodwill and understanding of Australia. According to the Department of Education, Science and Training, overseas students contribute around $7.5 billion in national income annually. Education is Australia's third-largest service export after tourism and transportation and the sixth-largest overall in terms of goods and services. It directly and indirectly contributes about 48 000 jobs for Australians.
The department continues to engage international education peak bodies, other government agencies, education providers, student representative bodies and the migration and education advice industries in developing policy and improving service delivery.
We continue to reform service delivery through our Global Working strategies. There has been a significant increase in uptake of e-Visa for Assessment Level 1 students, signifying increasing confidence by clients with electronic service delivery options. All People's Republic of China (PRC) applications are now processed through the Adelaide Offshore Student Processing Centre (AOSPC), which has improved communication flows between providers and the department. Since 1 November 2004, students from PRC, India and Thailand have been able to lodge their student visa applications online through selected education agents who enter into an access agreement with us. These agents are subject to strict audit and performance measures to ensure quality and integrity.
Against this background there has been an increase in student visa grants (offshore grants increased by 1.27 per cent), with an all time record of 174 786 student visas granted to the end of June 2005. At the same time integrity has been maintained at a high standard, as improvements in non-compliance levels demonstrate.
Further improvements in non-compliance levels and increasing approval rates have facilitated a number of reductions to the student visa country/sector Assessment Levels (ALs). Effective from 1 April 2005, 18 countries across 63 education sectors had their AL reduced to a lower risk rating. Additionally, six countries which gained membership of the European Union had their AL reduced to a lower risk rating, effective from 1 November 2004. These reductions demonstrate the success of the risk assessment model for student visas, rewarding efforts by education providers and their agents to recruit genuine students and improve the quality of visa applications. It also reflects improvements in students' performance and compliance with visa conditions. This will help a number of markets grow and increase the diversity of the overseas student population in Australia, at a time of softening growth and intense competition.
Research on migration
In 2004-05 a survey of Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme migrants who had entered Australia between January 2000 and December 2003 highlighted the outstanding results they achieved. Virtually all principal applicants were employed and a high proportion were still living and working in regional Australia. A similar survey of Skilled Designated Area Sponsored migrants also showed a high rate of employment. Some drift of these migrants away from their designated areas, however, informed the decision to make this a two-stage visa, the second stage being provisional on the migrants living and working in the designated area for at least two years. Research commissioned from Dr Bob Birrell found that Australia's brain gain of skilled workers increased by 12 per cent in 2003-04.
State-specific and regional migration
The number of migrants sponsored by employers and by state and territory governments was the largest ever. The number of skilled migrants choosing to live and work in regional Australia reached an all time high in 2004-05. Around 18 700 visas were granted under the state-specific and regional migration mechanisms in 2004-05, a significant increase over the 12 720 granted in 2003-04. These migrants fill skill shortages in local communities across Australia.
The figure below shows the growth of state-specific and regional migration initiatives.
Figure 6: Australian total-State-specific and regional skilled migration
The Australian Government has continued to work closely with state and territory and local governments to promote state-specific and regional migration initiatives through the Commonwealth State/Territory Working Party on Skilled Migration. A key mode of engagement with state and territory governments, regional authorities and regional employers has been through a network of departmental Regional Outreach Officers in each state and territory.
Introduced in 2004 to promote and support regional migration initiatives, the officers have been well received by regional employers and state and territory governments.
We expect visa grants under state-specific and regional migration initiatives categories to grow strongly in 2005-06, possibly to around one-third of the Skill Stream.
The new Skilled Independent Regional (SIR) visa, which began on 1 July 2004, provides a pathway to permanent residence for skilled people who wish to live and work in regional Australia or a low population growth metropolitan centre.
The government has earmarked 6500 SIR visa places in the 2005-06 migration program, but more places will be provided if there is a higher level of interest from state and territory governments.
There are challenges in attracting migrants to regional Australia, particularly as there is a well established migration path to Sydney.
To this end, the Australian Government is working with the NSW Government to introduce measures to contain migration numbers to Sydney. Agreed measures being pursued include the development of a Sydney Skills Shortage List (SSSL) and a higher salary threshold requirement for skilled persons sponsored to Sydney.
The government is also working with other states to pursue their skill requirements and development objectives. This includes strengthening dedicated regional migration networks and expanding humanitarian settlement in some regional areas.
1.1.1 ECONOMIC ENTRY (PERMANENT)
Figure 7: Performance information-Economic entry (permanent)
- maximise the economic and budgetry benefits from granting provisional and Permanent Resident visa to skilled and business migrants
- address key and emerging skill shortages, particularly in regional Australia
- expand business establishment and investment
Figure 8 shows the broad categories of the Skill Stream and compares outcomes from 2004-05 to outcomes from 2003-04.
Figure 8: Migration Program Outcome
Regional migration and skills shortages
State-specific and regional migration initiatives now account for 24 per cent of the Skill Stream of the Migration Program.
State-specific and regional migration mechanisms offer a range of avenues through which employers and state and territory governments can fill skill shortages that can not be filled locally. These mechanisms are highly targeted to address existing skill shortages and help in the development of local communities.
- 18 700 visas were issued in 2004-05, an increase of 47 per cent over the previous year (see Figure 9)
- Approximately 56 340 visas have been issued since 1996 under these mechanisms.
Figure 9: State-specific and regional migration visas, 1997-98 to 2004-05
Source: DIMIA Migration program
The distribution of these visa across the states and territories in 2003-04 and 2004-05 is shown in the figure below.
Figure 10: Migration Program Outcome - State-specific and regional migration
The increase in people migrating to regional areas is expected to continue and will be encouraged through promotion of the state-specific and regional mechanisms to both Australian employers and to potential overseas applicants.
Significant changes were made to legislation and procedures for employers to sponsor skilled workers from overseas. The requirement that sponsors test the labour market by placing job advertisements in the press was replaced by minimum salary and minimum skill thresholds. The minimum skill level is set via a list of acceptable occupations for this visa. The list covers the major occupational groups of managers/ administrators, professionals, associate professionals and tradespersons. The minimum salary level for this visa was set at $39 100 ($50 775 for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professions). This is the same salary level for the temporary business visa (subclass 457).
Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa applicants are required to show that they have the skills or qualifications for the approved position. They can do this by:
- having their qualifications assessed by the appointed assessing authority and having three years' post-qualified work experience
- having worked in Australia on a prescribed temporary visa for two years, including the last year with the sponsoring employer
- being nominated for a senior executive position that pays more than $151 500.
All ENS and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) sponsorship and visa applications are lodged in Australia. This simplifies communication with sponsoring employers, providing one point of contact with the nearest departmental office for the entire process.
Analysis of performance
While many Skill Stream migrants have traditionally settled in Australia's major capital cities, regional migration is a priority, consistent with the broader agenda for promoting growth in regional Australia.
As regional migration opportunities expand, further increases in the take-up of state specific and regional migration initiatives are expected.
The 2005-06 Migration Program provides a total of 6500 places for the Skilled Independent Regional (SIR) visa. State and territory governments will have a direct influence on the number and skills of migrants that settle in their jurisdictions through the sponsorship of SIR visa applicants.
The Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) is a list of occupations in significant national shortage and provides for priority processing and additional points for the general skilled migration points test. In May 2005 an additional 17 occupations (mainly trades and engineering related) were included on the MODL. The MODL will be reviewed every six months to better reflect emerging labour shortages and further improve targeting.
Gavin entered Australia on a temporary business (long stay) visa, and was then sponsored through the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) by the Brighton Veterinary Hospital, his employer.
"The process is very detailed as you would expect, but it was very quick considering that," he said.
One of the directors at the Brighton Veterinary Hospital, Gerry Dean, said that sponsoring Gavin had produced wonderful outcomes for the hospital.
"Gavin brings with him a gentle English demeanour and an outlook that has enriched the hospital," he said.
"Customers love his accent, but more importantly the hospital has gained a valuable employee that it wasn't able to fill from the local market," he said.
The arrangement has been just as pleasing for Gavin and his family, who are considering staying in the area long term.
To address the demands for more skilled migrants by many states and regions a number of initiatives will be implemented in 2005-06:
- an additional 10 points allocated to SIR visa applicants from 1 July 2005
- from 1 November 2005 Working Holiday and Occupational Trainee visa holders will be able to apply for a SIR visa while still in Australia if they are sponsored by a state or territory government or regional certifying body.
Business establishment and investment
The Business Skills program provides economic benefits to Australia in terms of job creation, capital transfers and exports. The interests of state and territory governments have been given greater priority in the development of two-stage processing arrangements. Applicants may apply for sponsorship from a state or territory government and be eligible to meet concessional criteria, enabling sponsors to attract the kinds of business people they are seeking to assist in the economic development of specific areas. This linkage also encourages applicants who are more committed to succeeding in business in Australia.
In 2004-05, 90 per cent of all business skills provisional visa applications were state and territory sponsored.
The Business Skills Monitoring Unit continued to undertake post-arrival integrity checking of residual (single stage) business skills visa holders. This resulted in 1112 visa cancellations in 2004-05, where visa holders did not demonstrate an ownership interest or ongoing management role in an eligible business in Australia.
As skill shortages continued to affect the Australian labour market in 2004-05, it was essential that the department deliver an increased number of visas in the skill stream, especially in its regional categories.
This year a record number of general skilled migration visas were processed by the Adelaide Skills Processing Centre. This single centre now processes all applications for such visas worldwide, resulting in efficiencies through economies of scale and the more concentrated knowledge and expertise of staff.
Centralised processing enabled priority to be focussed on applications for regional migration visas which resulted in the highest number of visas ever delivered in these categories. This ensures that migrants with specific skills will be available to meet the needs of businesses and industries in areas outside Australia's larger metropolitan centres.
Business Skills visa applications this year were again processed in three centres: Perth, Taiwan and Hong Kong. These specialised centres have been able to develop expertise which has ensured higher quality decision-making in these more complex categories. There has been a reduction of the backlogs that existed before the current arrangements were put in place.
A key outcome of the global working arrangements is closer liaison with Australian sponsors and stakeholders. This was the main reason for the decision to transfer all processing of employer-nominated applications to Australia in April 2005. The category includes applications sponsored under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme. Applications from skilled workers are processed in the department's Business Centres in each state and territory, depending on where the employer has lodged their sponsorship.
Processing categories of visa applications in specialised centres has provided the opportunity for the department to develop greater policy knowledge and understanding of different caseloads. This has enabled criteria to be developed that deliver outcomes in Australia's best interests. This will be increasingly important while employers need to seek more skilled workers from overseas.
1.1.2 FAMILY ENTRY (PERMANENT)
Figure 11: Performance information - Family entry (permanent)
- facilitate the entry of close family members of Australian citizens, permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizens including spouses, interdependent partners, fiancÚ(e)s and dependent children
- provide opportunities for other family members such as parents, aged dependent relatives, carers and remaining relatives to join their relatives in Australia.
In support of these objectives, visas were granted in the following categories:
Figure 12: Migration Program Outcome - Family Stream
The outcome for these visa categories was 41 740 in 2004-05, down 1.2 per cent on 2003-04.
Analysis of performance
In August 2001, the department introduced a best practice model for processing of partner visas. There have been reductions in partner visa processing times since the best practice model was introduced.
The median processing time for partner visa applications in Australian offices is 2.2 months and overseas three months, significantly within the service standards (see Output Component 1.1.2 Service Standards page 79). We expect the best practice model will continue to deliver improvements in visa processing times.
Benefits flowing directly from specialist Bona Fides Units (BFUs), established in all Australian offices at the beginning of 2002, continue to emerge and enhance the integrity of the family component of the migration program. These benefits include:
- more detailed reporting on emerging fraud trends, in particular country and gender profiles
- greater cooperation between Australian and overseas offices in the identification and prevention of immigration fraud, especially in cases remitted by the MRT
- assurance checks of onshore sponsors on behalf of overseas offices, leading to the discovery of non-bona fide applications where the sponsor was found to be living with another partner.
During the program year 1733 cases were referred to the BFUs and 1136 home visits were conducted. This is an increase of 17 per cent and 49 per cent respectively on the 2003-04 figures. Following BFU activity 1315 cases were finalised, 132 more than in 2003-04. Of these 23 per cent were refused by the BFU as the parties were not in a genuine relationship; 72 per cent were granted after establishing the bona fides of the relationship; five per cent resulted in the application being withdrawn.
In 2004-05, the 1000 places available in the original parent category were filled. The contributory parent migration category came into effect on 27 June 2003. In that category there were 3500 visas granted in 2004-05. The parent category was capped in June 2005. In 2005-06, a total of 4500 places will be available; 1000 in the parent category and 3500 in the contributory parent category. Application rates in both categories increased significantly in 2004-05.
In March 2004, a best practice model for child visa processing was implemented globally. The model is based on the partner visa best practice model, which has been operating since August 2001.
Although the child visa caseload is relatively small in size, there has been an improvement in the processing times of complete applications lodged since March 2004. Client reaction to the processing changes has been favourable.
All applications for parent visas previously lodged at overseas offices are now processed centrally at the Perth Offshore Parents Centre (POPC). This includes applications for the contributory parent migration category. Economies of scale and specialisation have enabled POPC to develop more efficient and effective processing procedures.
Temporary child visa applications from onshore applicants are lodged and processed centrally at the department's Hobart office. This ensures consistency and focus on the special needs of these children. This temporary visa allows them to be included in their parent's application for grant of a permanent Partner visa. In 2004-05, 35 applications were lodged and 27 granted.
On 2 April 2005, new interactive versions of application and sponsorship forms for partner visas were released on the department's website. These online forms include a number of inbuilt information and help text features that assist applicants and sponsors to fill out their forms. The forms also generate personalised document checklists to inform applicants and sponsors about the supporting documentation which must be lodged with their application. Applicants cannot yet lodge these online forms over the Internet. Once completed, the forms can be printed and lodged at one of our offices.
1.1.3 SPECIAL ELIGIBILITY
Figure 13: Performance information-Special eligibility
- resolve the status of certain groups of people who, for humanitarian reasons, have been allowed to remain in Australia as long-term temporary residents
- enable certain people in Australia, such as former permanent residents and people who inadvertently became unlawful before turning 18, who have close ties to Australia and have spent their formative years in Australia, to remain permanently in Australia
- facilitate the entry of former permanent residents who have spent nine out of their first 18 years in Australia as permanent residents and who have maintained close ties to Australia or served in Australia's armed forces.
In support of these objectives, visas were issued in the following categories:
Figure 14: Migration Program Outcome-Special Eligibility Stream
Analysis of performance
Resolution of Status Program (ROS)
ROS visas were introduced in June 1997 to enable certain people in Australia on temporary visas, often for long periods of time, to apply for permanent visas. Applications closed in October 1998. The process to gain permanent residence under the ROS program comprises two stages. Successful applicants were initially granted a temporary ROS visa.
Decisions on permanent visas are not made until the applicant has resided in Australia for a period of 10 years. Applicants must meet this 10-year requirement within 12 years of arriving in Australia.
A total of 99 permanent ROS visas were granted during 2004-05. This is a finite caseload with 50 cases remaining to be finalised.
Former Resident and Close Ties Visas
The Former Resident subclass caters for offshore applicants who spent nine out of their first 18 years in Australia as Australian permanent residents. It also caters for former residents who served in the Australian Armed forces before 1981.
The Close Ties subclass enables certain people in Australia to remain as permanent residents. It caters for former permanent residents, people who arrived in Australia before 1975, and those who inadvertently became unlawful before the age of 18, had close ties to Australia and spent their formative years in Australia.
Close Ties and Former Resident visa applications were repatriated on 1 November 2003 to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Regional Office's Global Processing Unit (GPU) for centralised processing. The GPU has developed efficient and effective processing procedures for Special Eligibility visas, in part due to specialisation and economies of scale.
During 2004-05 the GPU granted 200 Close Ties and 173 Former Resident visas. A total of 494 Close Ties and 211 Former Resident visa applications were received, and 208 were refused.
1.1.4 VISITORS AND WORKING HOLIDAY MAKERS
Figure 15: Performance information - Visitors and working holiday makers
The delivery of visa processes and strategies that support the growth of the tourism industry and enhance border integrity by:
- assisting the lawful entry of genuine tourists, business and family visitors by continually improving grant rates, client services and processing times
- minimising the potential for non-genuine visitors to remain in Australia or to contravene visa conditions.
In support of these objectives, visas are granted to offshore applicants in the following categories:
Figure 16: Visas granted to offshore applicants by categories
In 2004-05, there were 3 588 947 visitor visas granted to offshore applicants, an increase of 3.67 per cent over 2003-04 and a 1.43 per cent increase over the Olympic year (2000-01), which previously had been the year for the highest number of visitor visa grants. This trend is expected to continue in 2005-06.
The highest numbers of offshore visitor visas were granted to people from:
Figure 17: Countries where highest numbers of offshore visas granted
In 2004-05, 104 353 Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visas were granted, an increase of 11.2 per cent over 2003-04.
The main source countries for working holiday makers were:
Figure 18: Countries where highest numbers of WHM visas granted
ProfileIn Australia on a working holiday, Monique, 29, discovered her welding skills were badly needed by local employers struggling to meet demands in a growing economy.
Applying for work, she was employed on the spot in Darwin by Universal Engineering NT managing director, Steve Tiley, who offered to sponsor her under the Australian Government's employer-sponsored migration program. Surprised by the offer, Monique agreed to give it a go. She has become so fond of Australia she is considering making it home.
"I would love to live here permanently. There is lots of space and the weather is great. Everywhere I go in Australia there are advertisements for welders. I can't see myself going back to Holland," she said.
"I'm really happy that the employer sponsored temporary entry program has given me the opportunity to become a first class welder and contribute to the Australian economy as well," she said.
Analysis of performance
The number of visitor and working holiday maker visa grants in 2004-05 was the highest in six years.
The department supports the tourism industry by facilitating the entry of bona fide visitors to Australia through:
- the introduction of new technology to deliver a client service consistent with their expectations
- enhanced integrity checking mechanisms to minimise opportunities for non-bona fide visitors to be granted visas.
People who wish to visit Australia apply for a range of visitor visas. Of all short-term visitor visas granted, 82.75 per cent were Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) grants, the majority of which were issued through travel agents and airlines in 34 countries overseas or directly via the Internet. People not eligible for ETAs apply for visas either electronically over the Internet, through Reliable Business Partners or at Australian missions overseas.
In 2004-05 there were 3 588 947 visitor visa grants offshore, an increase of 3.67 per cent over the 2003-04 figure of 3 461 841. Of these, 2 969 903 were ETA grants, an increase of 2.96 per cent over the previous year's result of 2 884 597. The number of non-ETA grants was 619 044, an increase of 7.24 per cent over the 2003-04 figure of 577 244.
The overall approval rate for all offshore visitor visas increased to 98.5 per cent in 2004-05 from 98.4 per cent in 2003-04.
The approval rate for ETA applications in 2004-05 was 99.98 per cent, compared with 99.99 per cent in 2003-04. For non-ETA applications offshore, the approval rate was 91.96 per cent, compared with 91.10 per cent in 2003-04.
The proportion of visitor visa holders applying for protection visas after arriving in Australia decreased to 0.06 per cent in 2004-05 (from 0.07 per cent in 2003-04).
In 2004-05, 2236 persons who originally entered on visitor visas applied for protection visas in Australia, compared to 2382 in 2003-04.
Figures 19 and 20 reflect the continuing success of the risk management strategy employed, including the more systematic use of tools such as the 'no further stay' condition, bonds and sponsor sanctions. As a result, the department has been able to increase grant rates without compromising the non-return and protection visa application rates from high-risk countries (that is non-ETA countries), both of which have continued to decrease.
Figure 19: Non-ETA visitor visa approval rates and protection visa application rates
- The non-ETA Visitor visa approval rate is the number of non-ETA visitor visas (ie subclasses 456, 459, 675, 676, 679, 685 and 686) granted as a percentage of applications decided for these visa subclasses during the reporting period. Not all applications are decided in the program year that they are received.
- The non-ETA protection visa application rate is the number of protection visa applications lodged by non-ETA nationals who arrived on visitor visas as a percentage of the total number of non-ETA visitor arrivals during the reporting period. Not all applications will necessarily have been lodged by visitors who arrived during the reporting period, ie; the applicant may have arrived in a previous program year.
Figure 20: Non-ETA Visitor visa approval rates and Non-Return rates
- the non-ETA visitor visa approval rate is the number of non-ETA visitor visas (ie subclasses 456, 459, 675, 676, 679, 685 and 686) granted as a percentage of applications decided for these visa subclasses during the reporting period. Not all applications are decided in the program year that they are received.
- The non-ETA visitor visa non-return rate is the proportion of visitor visa arrivals in the reporting period who do not depart Australia within the validity of their Visitor visa.
Sources: Outcomes Reporting Section, DIMIA.
Short-stay business visitor visas support Australian businesses, including export industries, and are an integral part of the department's operations.
In 2004-05, 339 424 short stay business visitor visas were granted, a 13.58 per cent increase over the 2003-04 program year (298 835 visas). Of these, 164 700 (48.52 per cent) were granted to ETA business visitors and 174 724 (51.48 per cent) were granted to non-ETA business visitors.
The main purpose for these visits included business negotiations, signing of contracts, inter-company business activities and attendance at conferences.
Figure 21: Main source countries for short-stay business visitor visa grants
Sponsored family visitors
The Sponsored Family Visitor program allows Australian citizens and permanent residents to formally sponsor their relatives to visit Australia. In order to strengthen the integrity of this visitor program a security bond system has been introduced. This program has proved to be successful in allowing those applicants about whom there are some residual concerns to be granted a visa to visit family in Australia.
In 2004-05, 10 655 sponsored family visitor visas were granted, an 11.37 per cent increase over 2003-04. In 98.62 per cent of cases where a bond was requested, the visa holders met all visa conditions, including departing within the validity of the visa period, and the bond was refunded.
Approved Destination Status
The Approved Destination Status (ADS) scheme allows for citizens of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to access streamlined group travel to other countries. Australia was the first Western country to be approved as a destination under the ADS.
Overall, 45 083 tourists arrived in Australia under the ADS in the 2004-05 program year, compared with 32 528 in 2003-04. Since the inception of the ADS in August 1999, a total of 167 553 tourists have arrived on ADS visas. The ADS non-return rate in 2004-05 was 0.34 per cent compared to a global non-return rate of 1.22 per cent.
The ADS has been extremely successful in providing an avenue for large numbers of PRC tourists to visit Australia, while ensuring high levels of integrity and compliance with visa conditions.
Recent research by Tourism Australia indicates that 73 per cent of ADS travellers would recommend Australia as a holiday destination to family and friends, and 54 per cent would like to return for another holiday within five years. On both counts, Australia performs better than major European markets.
Until July 2004, the ADS was operating in three regions of the PRC: the Beijing and Shanghai Municipal Governments and Guangdong province. On 1 July 2004 the ADS was expanded to six new regions: Hebei, Tianjin, Shandong, Chongquing, Zhejiang and Jiangsu.
Twenty five new agents in these six new regions and 13 new agents in existing regions were gazetted to participate in the ADS from 30 June 2004, bringing the total number of participating agents to 77.
International Events Coordinator Network
The International Events Coordinator Network (IECN) helps organisers of international events in Australia prepare for immigration-related requirements on behalf of their participants. In 2004-05, the IECN provided information on visa requirements and procedures for 681 events (compared with 406 events in 2003-04). It also acted as a conduit between the event organisers and the Australian missions processing visa applications for participants.
Tourism and Visa Advisory Group
The department continues to interact with key stakeholders in the tourism industry. The Tourism and Visa Advisory Group (TVAG) provides the main forum. TVAG comprises representatives from Tourism Australia, the Australian Tourism and Export Council, Tourism and Transport forum, Qantas, the Board of Airline Representatives Australia, the Australian Hotels Association, state and territory tourism authorities and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources.
Working holiday visas
Australia's working holiday visa program has both social and economic benefits. It promotes international understanding by helping young people experience Australian culture. It supports the Australian economy by providing supplementary labour for industries needing short-term casual workers.
In 2004-05, new working holiday arrangements were finalised with Taiwan and Estonia. Australia now has 19 reciprocal working holiday arrangements in effect.
There were 104 353 working holiday visas granted in 2004-05, an 11.2 per cent increase over 2003-04.
Electronic lodgement of visitor visa applications
In July 2004, the 'e-Visa' facility, for electronic lodgement of visitor visa applications (referred to as e676) was extended to the European Union accession countries (Czech Republic, Republic of Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) and, in April 2005, to Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.
Applications are processed in the Hobart Global Processing Centre, typically in a period of seven to ten days.
It should be noted that e676 is not the same as the subclass 976 Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). It does offer many of the same benefits as the ETA, including electronic lodgement, label-free travel facilitated by the Advanced Passenger Processing system, shortened decision-making periods and no requirement for applicants to either visit or post their passports to an Australian mission.
In 2004-05, 21.52 per cent of eligible subclass 676 applications were lodged electronically. The following nationalities had the highest electronic take-up rates:
- Estonia (92.08 per cent)
- Latvia (70.43 per cent)
- Lithuania (60.56 per cent)
- Slovenia (35.29 per cent)
- Czech Republic (32.93 per cent)
- Slovakia (29.03 per cent)
- Hungary (26.77 per cent).
On 2 April 2005, following extensive community consultations, the processing of the sponsored family visitor visa caseload was repatriated to Australia and now allows a period of stay of up to 12 months (from the previous maximum of 3 months) in certain circumstances.
The electronic lodgement facility, made available to working holiday makers on 1 July 2002, has continued the consistent growth demonstrated in 2002-03 and 2003-04. The repatriation of processing for this category allows greater communication and liaison with Australian family sponsors, which helps processing as well as the sponsor's understanding of the visa process.
Of the 104,353 working holiday maker visas granted in 2004-05, 102 276 (98.01 per cent) were lodged electronically. The majority are processed and granted in one day. Where additional processing is required, the department's Hobart office manages this task and also responds to any email enquiries from clients or their agents. The continuing very high take-up rate of electronic lodgement of working holiday maker visas during 2004-05 is an important achievement, allowing for better client servicing and greater operational efficiency.
Figure 22 compares the number of working holiday maker visas granted in program years 2002-03 and 2003-04 with the number of visas granted during 2004-05, and highlights the underlying strengths of this program.
Figure 22: Take-up of e-WHM since July 2002
Sources: Outcomes Reporting Section, DIMIA.
Figure 23: Performance information - Students
To enable people who are not Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents to study in Australia (generally as full-fee paying students), in full-time accredited and registered courses. Student visa arrangements are aimed at streamlining entry procedures for genuine students while maintaining the integrity of Australia's immigration programs.
Students apply for a student visa specific to their intended education sector. For each student visa subclass there were criteria to be satisfied with respect to financial capacity, English proficiency, potential to breach visa conditions and other relevant matters.
The evidentiary standards for these criteria differ according to the immigration risk level (Assessment Level) assigned to each sector and country. The risk level reflects factors such as visa non-compliance and fraud. The higher the risk level the greater the evidentiary requirements applicants must provide in English proficiency and financial capacity to study in Australia.
Analysis of performance
The Student Visa Program has a dual role:
- To maximise the competitive advantage of Australia's international education student industry by streamlining access to student visas. Key indicators include:
- growth in student visas and student numbers
- diversity of student visa source countries
- reduction in processing times
- transparency of visa requirements
- increase in approval rates
- accessibility of visa lodgement arrangements.
- To minimise student visa non-compliance, measured by:
- visa cancellation rates
- number of student visa holders who become unlawful
- protection visa applications by overseas students
- the level of fraud in student visa applications.
Figure 24 shows the numbers and rate of growth in the Student Visa Program. The rate of growth has reduced in recent years, indicating a softening following the very high growth levels in the 1999-2002 period.
Figure 24: Student visa grants
Figure 25: Offshore student visa grants 2001-02 to 2004-05 program years
Sources: Outcomes Reporting Section.
Student visas were granted to 123 different nationalities, indicating a high level of diversity in the users of the program.
In the education sectors:
- The Non-award sector showed a marked increase in growth from 14 068 to 17 668 despite an overall softening in growth.
- There was a marginal increase in the number of visa grants in English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS)-from 22 372 to 22 642, and Vocational Education and Training (VET)-from 24 723 to 25 187.
- The total number of overseas students applying for university education, including the higher education and postgraduate research sectors, rose from 92 256 from the previous program year to 93 124.
Figure 26: Top ten source countries for overseas student visas granted
The following figures demonstrate the steady growth in the number of student visa holders in Australia, both in total and by top source countries.
At 30 June 2005 there were 190 400 overseas students in Australia, a 7.4 per cent increase over the previous year. A record number of overseas students (211 515) were in Australia as at 31 March 2005.
Figure 27: Number of Persons on Student visa in Australia
This stock data provides a 'snapshot' of the estimated number of overseas students in Australia on four given dates throughout the year. The data has been extracted at the end of each quarter of each program year from 1999-2000 to 2004-05. Figure 27 shows the fluctuations in each quarter due to student peak periods.
Figure 28: Top Source Countries for International Students to Australia
Since the student visa reforms of 2001 there has been a steady improvement in compliance levels against all key indicators.
The number of students applying for protection visas (PV) continues to decline. During 2004-05, PV applications declined 31.76 per cent from the previous year (from 296 to 202). The rate of PV applications compared with the student visa grants now stands at its lowest-ever level of 0.12 per cent.
Student visa cancellations were lower than the previous year (8140* compared to 8245). Also the proportion of cancellations compared to grants declined from 4.8 per cent in 2003-04 to 4.6 per cent in 2004-05-an indication of improving compliance levels.
The number of student visa holders who became unlawful in 2004-05 was 1514, a 33 per cent decrease on the 2003-04 total of 2257.
The number of applications refused due to fraud has declined from 1540 in 2003-04 to 1055 in 2004-05.
* This figure is based on cancellations data as at 30 June 2005. Following a decision of the Federal Court, a number of cancellations were reversed on 17 August 2005. This will be reported on in 2005-06.
Assessment level review
The improved levels of compliance by student visa holders are a good measure of the success of the 2001 student visa reforms. Consequently, it is possible to review the risk ratings allocated to individual nationalities by education sector, to reflect better their current compliance levels.
Ten countries, including eight from Central Europe, joined the European Union (EU) in May 2004. This change opened up pathways to free education in many EU member states and may have adversely affected Australia's ability to attract students from these markets.
Effective from 1 November 2004, six countries that acceded to the EU had their assessment levels adjusted from AL3 (high risk) to AL2 (moderate risk). This change ensured that all 10 EU accession member states were assessed against either AL2 or AL1 (low risk) criteria.
In April 2005, following a review of compliance against the risk factors in 2003-04, the department made further assessment level adjustments. In all, 18 nationalities had their risk ratings reduced in one or more sectors, totalling 63 adjustments.
These reductions reflect the ongoing success of the student visa reforms introduced in 2001. Following these reforms, we are seeing rising approvals rates and generally falling non-compliance rates for student visa holders. The changes are likely to increase numbers of students from these countries, adding to the diversity of the program as a whole.
Adjustments to legislative and policy settings
Key improvements to legislation and policy taking effect from 1 July 2005 included:
- creating the facility for students from higher immigration risk countries to demonstrate their financial capacity through sponsorship by certain non-profit organisations
- amending the definition in the Migration Regulations of 'Foundation Course' to provide for all foundation courses appropriately registered to be a legitimate pathway to the higher education sector
- establishing greater consistency in the English language proficiency requirements for student visa applicants from higher immigration risk countries who have completed courses conducted in English in Australia.
The department continues to work with the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) on the management of the student visa program and in particular the intersection between migration legislation and the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act). In 2004-05 we made a submission to the evaluation of the ESOS Act. The terms of reference for the evaluation set the parameters for discussion of the effective and efficient operation of the ESOS legislative framework. In making a submission to the evaluation, the department sought to address issues of quality assurance, whole-of-government and the relationship between the ESOS Act and migration law and policy. We will work with DEST and industry in 2005-06 on the implementation of the ESOS evaluation recommendations.
The department consults education providers, the international education industry peak bodies and student representative bodies on the student visa program. We participated in conferences, workshops and seminars arranged by peak bodies, DEST and state education authorities as well as having regular meetings with peak organisations including the Affiliation of International Education Peak Bodies, the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, TAFE Directors Australia, the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, the Australian Council of Independent Vocational Colleges, English Australia, the Schools International Government Group and the Independent Schools Council of Australia.
The department convenes student welfare reference groups in some of its state offices. Membership of these groups includes relevant Australian and state government agencies, education providers, student and community groups and industry representatives. The purpose of the reference groups is to identify emerging student welfare concerns and to resolve them through early intervention with providers and/or through targeted information sessions on the obligations and responsibilities of providers and students. The groups are a valuable means of exchanging information and best practice.
The department's Global Working strategy saw continued growth in electronic lodgement of student visa applications, an expansion in the electronic lodgement arrangements through working with education agents in PRC, India and Thailand and bedding-down of the onshore processing of PRC student applications at the Adelaide Offshore Student Processing Centre (AOSPC).
The Adelaide and Perth onshore processing centres report regularly on e-Visa uptake rates, processing times and the proportion of cases referred to overseas posts for integrity checking. These reports inform the ongoing evaluation of electronic lodgement in the student visa program. The reports are also used to identify opportunities to improve the e-Visa functionality and business processes.
The Internet-based electronic student visa facility provides improved access to departmental services for many student visa applicants outside Australia in assessment level 1 (low immigration risk) countries. The number of eligible students applying through this facility continued to grow, with 39 270 student visas granted to AL1 offshore applicants in 2004-05, compared to 35 497 in 2003-04. The rate of eligible applicants using this facility increased to 87.2 per cent (73.40 per cent in 2003-04). During 2004-05, we improved the lodgement facility to allow family members to be included in electronically-lodged applications, as well as enabling applicants aged under 18 to lodge electronic applications. These applications are processed in Perth Onshore Student Processing Centre (POSPC).
Figure 29: Offshore student e-Visa take-up rates
Sources: DIMIA Outcomes Reporting Section.
The number of students from PRC, India and Thailand who lodged their applications via the internet has continued to climb since the pilot started in November 2004, and by 30 June 2005 had reached 4613. These applications are referred to onshore processing centres for assessment and decision. Adelaide Offshore Student Processing Centre (AOSPC) processes applications lodged from PRC and India, while the POSPC processes applications from Thailand.
The uptake of e-Visa for PRC and India was particularly strong in the last quarter of 2004-05. Since 1 November 2004, almost one-third of all new student visa applications from PRC have been lodged online. The number of e-Visa applications lodged from India in June 2005 (565) almost equalled the total number lodged in the previous 11 months.
These initiatives have improved client service and delivered greater consistency in decision-making, while enabling overseas posts to focus resources on integrity checking.
Arrangements are under way to include Indonesia in the AL2-4 e-Visa trial early in 2005-06. The department will evaluate the AL2-4 trial in 2005-06. Subject to the outcome of the evaluation, it may be possible to expand student e-Visa access to other countries in the future.
Electronic lodgement of student visa applications by students in Australia continued to grow from 4475 in 2003-04 to 11 019 in 2004-05 (a 146.2 per cent increase). This figure does not include electronic permission to work (PTW) visa applications lodged by students in Australia. The number of electronic PTW applications lodged in Australia was 42 794 for 2004-05.
My name is Elyse Ross, and I have just completed the E-visa application online. I will be studying as a tertiary level Canadian exchange student, beginning in July, and was assessed as OFFSHORE non-award sector, subclass 575. Once I lodged my visa application this morning, I checked the status of my application, and was stunned to notice that I had been approved, within 5 minutes. I just wanted to make sure that this is correct, and that no more documentation is required. If it has indeed been approved, I am indescribably impressed by the efficiency of your online services!
Thank you very much,
Elyse Ross-15 June 2005
Student guardian visa
The student guardian visa (SGV) was introduced in January 2004. It allows the parent or relative of an overseas student under 18 years of age to accompany them to Australia to provide for their accommodation and welfare while studying. In certain limited circumstances, the visa may also provide for someone to accompany a student aged over 18 years.
Since it was introduced, there has been a steady increase in interest in this visa. In 2004-05, 1126 SGVs were granted, with the majority-46.8 per cent-being to Republic of Korean nationals.
1.1.6 TEMPORARY RESIDENTS
Figure 30: Performance information-Temporary residents
To further Australia's economic, social, cultural and international relations in the context of a more mobile global workforce.
In support of these objectives, visas are issued in the following categories:
Figure 31: Number of visas issued by category
Analysis of performance
Benefiting Australia's economy
Temporary business residents are highly skilled, have high salary levels and are not eligible for a range of government services. They continue to have a large and positive impact on the Australian Government Budget. Temporary business residents are also net contributors to state and territory budgets.
On the basis of Access Economics modelling, the Australian Government Budget could benefit by around $2.5 billion over four years from the 49 855 temporary business entrants granted visas in 2004-05. The modelling also indicates that on average, state and territory budgets could share around $1 billion over four years.
Skilled long-term temporary entrants continue to make a major contribution to Australia's international competitiveness, bringing with them new ideas, skills, technology, understanding and contacts. On this basis their numbers are likely to continue to rise as Australia's economy remains strong. Many are also choosing to stay on in Australia as evidenced by the steady growth in skilled temporary residents applying onshore for permanent residence on skill grounds.
Meeting skill needs
Temporary business visa grants focused on filling vacancies in skilled occupations, covering the top four Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO) dictionary classifications. The visas allow business to respond quickly to changes in skills needs. This was particularly apparent in the health professions and senior management positions.
In 2004-05, 3074 visas were granted to doctors and a further 3237 visas to their dependants. This is an increase of 27 per cent from 2428 visa grants to doctors in 2003-04. At the end of June 2005, there were 2437 temporary resident doctors in Australia, an increase of 31 per cent on the number of doctors in Australia on this visa at the end of June 2004.
To support the Strengthening Medicare initiatives, doctors were added to the list of approved occupations for business (long stay) visa (subclass 457) on 2 April 2005. This provides doctors and their employers with access to more streamlined processing arrangements, as well as the ability to lodge applications over the Internet. In 2004-05, 72 visas were granted to doctors under this subclass.
Visa grants to people with information and communication technology (ICT) skills fell slightly (3 per cent) in 2004-05. A separate higher salary threshold is required for ICT professionals applying for the temporary business 457 (long stay) visa. The salary threshold for most positions nominated for this visa was set at $39 100 from 9 April 2005 and for ICT professionals at $50 775.
In 2004-05, 14 604 people holding the temporary business (long stay) visa applied to remain in Australia permanently. The majority of these (64 per cent) applied for permanent entry under the Employer Nominations Scheme, Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme and Labour Agreements. These applications represented 86 per cent of the visas granted in these visa categories onshore.
Supporting regional needs
Provisions exist to waive the salary and skill thresholds for the temporary business (long stay) visa subclass 457 for businesses in regional Australia, where there is certification by the regional certifying bodies. Under these arrangements, 978 positions were approved in 2004-05. This provision does not extend to unskilled workers. Regional Australia has access to much-needed skilled workers to fill local shortages under this regional concession.
There are also special nomination arrangements in place for health care professionals entering sole-person practices in regional Australia, which allow for sponsorship by the community, such as the local council, government regional health organisation or government regional medical centre. This arrangement applies also to the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme and the temporary medical practitioner visa (subclass 422). Support from the relevant health authorities in the state or territory is required in this situation.
In May 2005, the second National Regional Certifying Bodies conference was held in Adelaide. Representatives of many of the 52 state and territory regional certifying bodies responsible for certifying regional visa nominations attended the conference. The conference promoted the objective for all participants to work closely together on the range of visa initiatives for regional Australia, especially the role of the regional outreach officers network established after the first conference last year.
Increased integrity issues
All business sponsors are monitored to ensure compliance with the sponsorship obligations. In addition, 23 per cent of sponsors were site visited in 2004-05.
Legislation came into effect on 1 July 2004 that provides sanctions against sponsors found to be in breach of sponsorship undertakings. These allow for cancellation of the business sponsorship approval, and a bar for up to five years on bringing in foreign workers. Sponsors can also be required to pay the Commonwealth for any costs incurred in locating and removing people they have sponsored. There is scope in the provisions to require a security undertaking from high-risk sponsors.
During 2004-05, 7963 sponsors were monitored by specialised departmental monitoring units. The monitoring teams conducted 1845 site visits. Nineteen sponsors were subject to sanctions for not complying with their obligations.
Streamlined processing ensured that the median onshore processing time remained low at 26 days in 2004-05. There was a 15.7 per cent increase in application rates for the subclass 457 visa.
From January 2004, all visa applicants sponsored by Australian businesses were required to lodge their applications in Australia. This includes overseas visa applicants.
Most business sponsorship, nomination and visa applications can be lodged over the Internet. The take-up rate for electronically lodged visa applications reached 70 per cent in 2004-05, providing fast, streamlined processing for this visa.
From the magnificent beasts of an African game park to the cute and cuddly animals of the Australian bush, Jackie Van Den Berg came to Tasmania-and decided to stay.
Jackie Van Den Berg
A registered nurse, she settled in the island state under the Australian Government's Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS), and has no regrets.
"Coming from South Africa, the safety and laid back relaxed Tasmanian lifestyle appealed to me," Jackie said.
"Tasmania is a beautiful island with so many places to visit, friendly, helpful people who still find the time to talk to you. There is no rush. It has everything, the sun and sea and snow."
After entering Australia in 2002 on a temporary visa, Jackie was offered a position in the intensive care unit of Tasmania's Mersey Community Hospital.
Jackie recommends her experiences in Australia to other overseas nurses with the succinct advice to: "Go for it."
1.1.7 RESIDENT RETURN VISAS, AUSTRALIAN DECLARATORY VISAS AND CERTIFICATES OF EVIDENCE OF RESIDENCE STATUS
Figure 32: Performance information-Resident return visas, Australian declaratory visas and Certificates of evidence of residence status
- facilitate the re-entry of Australian permanent residents while ensuring that only those people with a genuine commitment to residing in Australia, or who are contributing to Australia's wellbeing, retain the right to return and remain permanently in Australia
- provide documentation to enable the entry into Australia of Australian citizen dual nationals who have compelling reasons preventing them from travelling on an Australian passport
- upon request, provide clients with written evidence of their status in Australia as permanent residents.
In support of these goals, visas were issued in the following categories, including the issue of Certificates of Evidence of Residence Status (CERS):
Figure 33: Number of return residents, Australian declatory visas and certificates issued
Analysis of performance
Resident Return Visas (RRVs)
The RRV scheme provides a service to cater for Australian permanent residents who wish to leave Australia and return as permanent residents. Applications can be lodged in a number of ways, including over the counter at departmental offices in Australia and overseas and electronically over the Internet.
A total of 67 861 RRV applications were lodged over the counter and via the Internet during 2004-05. Of those, 61 756 were lodged in person, resulting in 59 452 grants and 937 refusals.
During 2004-05, 6105 Internet applications were lodged for RRVs, up 71.49 per cent on 2003-04, resulting in the autogrant of 2201 electronic RRVs. Internet applications not resulting in an autogrant of an RRV are referred to the department's Perth office for further processing. A further 3718 RRVs were granted following this process.
Australia Declaratory Visas (ADVs)
An ADV is an administrative document granted in limited circumstances to Australian citizen dual nationals who would suffer hardship or persecution in another country if they travelled on their Australian passport. A total of 1384 ADV applications were lodged during 2004-05, with a total of 1163 being granted, down 5.45 per cent on 2003-04.
Certificates of Evidence of Residence Status (CERS)
The department provides a service to permanent residents who are unable to present to third parties a passport and visa as proof of their resident status. During 2004-05, 20 231 applications were lodged, with a total of 20 067 being issued, up 13.24 per cent on 2003-04.