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New Department of Immigration Fees from 1 July 2013 to Cost Visa Applicants

webster By Mark Webster
Monday, 17 June 2013

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has announced details of their proposed changes to visa application charges effective 1 July 2013. The amount of increase in application fees is quite staggering in some circumstances, and is far more than was expected.

The fee increases will affect visa applications lodged on or after 1 July 2013.

New types of application fees will be introduced, namely:

  1. Additional Applicant Charge: for applications which include dependent family members such as spouses and children
  2. Subsequent Temporary Application Charge: for applications lodged whilst the applicant is in Australia
  3. Non-Internet Application Charge: for situations where an application is lodged in paper format where it could have been lodged online

Additional Applicant Charge

The additional applicant charge will have the most significant impact of any of the proposed changes.

In general, a surcharge of 50% will apply for including a family member aged 18 or over (in general, this would be a spouse or adult child) and a surcharge of 25% will apply for including family members aged under 18 (ie dependent children under 18).

In the case of 457 visa applications, however, the surcharge will be 100% for a dependent spouse. This is on top of the 98% increase to the primary visa application charge which had already been announced for 1 July. These fee increases, following the abolition of LAFHA last year, have led to a significant increase in the cost of bringing overseas staff to Australia and could start to significantly impact businesses seeking to set up in Australia.

Students will also be severely impacted by the change - the surcharge for including a dependent spouse is 75% of the base visa application charge. Living costs for having a dependent spouse and child in Australia are already significant - particularly as dependent spouses are not able to work full time whilst in Australia on a student visa. Apart from fairness and equity considerations, having the cost of making an application for a family unit increase by over 100% may well affect international student numbers and cost the Australian economy. Subclass 574 (Post-Graduate Research Sector) students will be exempt from the new surcharges.

Below is an example of how the additional applicant charge will apply for various common visa application types, and how much more it would cost a typical family to apply from 1 July 2013 (primary applicant, spouse and dependent child):

Visa Type Base Application Fee Each Dependent
over 18
Dependent
Under 18
Cost to apply for
family with one child
Percentage
Increase
Student Visa $535 $405 $135 $1,075 101%
485 Temporary Graduate $1,250 $625 $315 $2,190 75%
General Skilled Migration (189, 190, 489) $3,060 $1,530 $765 $5,355 75%
457 Temporary Work (Skilled) $900 $900 $225 $2,025 125%
ENS/RSMS (186/187) $3,060 $1,530 $765 $5,355 75%
Partner Migration (Onshore 820) $3,975 $1,990 $995 $6,960 75%
Partner Migration (Offshore 309/300) $2,680 $1,340 $670 $4,690 75%
188 Business Innovation & Investment $4,065 $2,035 $1,015 $7,115 75%

As can seen by the above table, in most cases, the increase in cost for including a spouse and child in an application will be around 75% for most visa types. In the case of a General Skilled Migration application, the increased cost would be close to $2,300 over the current fee of $3,060.

Subsequent Temporary Application Charge

The subsequent temporary application charge will apply for people lodging for certain visas from within Australia. People lodging onshore will need to pay an additional $700 as compared to lodging from outside Australia.

Note that the surcharge would not apply to the first visa application you lodge whilst in Australia, but could potentially apply to any temporary visa application you subsequently lodge whilst in Australia. It could potentially apply to each family member who is lodging onshore. The subsequent temporary application charge does not apply to permanent visa applications.

Visa types affected by the changes include:

  • Student visas
  • 457 and other temporary work visas
  • Visitor Visas
The cost for lodging onshore will be the same as lodging offshore for General Skilled Migration and ENS/RSMS.

No subsequent temporary application charge will apply for people applying to sponsor family members such as partners and parents. However, the base application charge for lodging onshore for these visa types is already significantly higher than lodging offshore (eg $3,975 vs $2,680 for partner visas, $3,060 vs $2,060 for parent visas).

Non-internet Application Charge

An additional fee of $80 will apply where a visa application is lodged in paper format and there is an online lodgement option.

Visas affected by the non-internet application charge are as follows:

  • Working Holiday Visa
  • Temporary Graduate Subclass 485
  • Resident Return Visa (subclass 155/157)

In many cases, the only reason why visa applications are lodged in paper format is because it is not possible to lodge an online application due to issues with the DIAC online visa application system. It will be interesting to see how DIAC will handle such situations in practice.

We were expecting that online partner visa applications would be possible from 1 July 2013. The absence of a non-internet application charge for such applications suggests that this may not happen by 1 July.

Conclusion

The application fee increases are significantly higher than expected. The changes will be particularly harsh for students and people applying for 457 visas, particularly if they have dependent family members and are looking to lodge onshore.

No detailed justification of the increases in fees has be provided in the information issued by the Department of Immigration. Looking at budget papers, it appears that the Department of Immigration collects over $1 billion in visa application fees each year. The total cost ofvisa processing is around $600m each year. This suggests fees collected are more than adequate to cover the cost of visa processing, even before these new increases.

The additional revenue to the Department of Immigration from the fee increases is expected to be $600 million over the next 4 years (see Budget Paper on the Visa Pricing Transformation initiative).

Acacia accepts that reasonable costs of visa processing should be met by visa applicants, but that the above increases are not justifiable in terms of actual processing costs. Visa application fees have already increased significantly since 2007 and should have been enough to cover any increased processing costs. Acacia will be advocating on behalf of visa applicants to have DIAC justify the increases and minimise the increase in charges to visa applicants. If necessary, we will seek to institute a Parliamentary inquiry into the necessity for the increases in fees, and the purposes to which these fees are being used.

If you will be affected by the changes, please register your support.

The best way to avoid the new increases is to lodge your visa application prior to 1 July - please contact us if you would like to discuss lodging your application before the changes come in.

Do You Think These Fee Increases Are Too Unfair?Click Here To Join Our Petition Against The Fee Increases 1 July 2013

References

DIAC Website: New Visa Application Charges 1 July 2013