23 October 2012

Government announces latest Australian visa fee increase

In an effort to increase revenue and bring the government's budget back into surplus, Australia visa fees will be increased as of 1 January, 2013.

The Australian economy, which has managed to survive and even grow during perilous economic times, is adjusting in the wake of a stabilising resources industry.

The booming mining and construction industry has started to slow in line with a drop in demand from China and in order to make sure the country's economy does not suffer Treasurer Wayne Swan is looking for revenue from other sources.

The Australian economy operated a AU$44 billion (£28 billion) deficit during the last financial year but Mr Swan is determined to return this year's budget to surplus in order to account for any turbulent economic times to come.

In order to achieve the treasurer's aim of a AU$1 billion (£640 million) surplus, Mr Swan has been making changes to several policies and services but the main difference is the change to several Australia visa streams.

The skilled graduate visa, partner visa, working holiday visa and temporary overseas workers will all be subject to price increases ranging from AU$70 (£45) to almost AU$1,000 (£643).

The skilled migrant scheme (subclass 457 visa) will rise from AU$350 by approximately AU$100 while the working holiday visa (subclass 417) fee will increase by AU$70 (£45).

The proposed increases are expected to generate AU$52 million within the first year, rising to AU$520 million within four years.

While price hikes are seldom welcomed news, Mr Swan insists the move is necessary.

"I think it's pretty obvious to all that the mid [fiscal year] review, or this midyear review, has been put together amid storm clouds which are hanging over the global economy."

The biggest increase will affect the partner visa stream; those wishing to bring a partner or spouse to Australia will have to pay AU$4,000 as opposed to AU$3,060 if the partner is already in Australia or AU$2,700 - up from AU$2,060 - if the partner is offshore.

Maurene Horder, CEO of the Migration Institute of Australia, says the changes are 'unfair', especially considering the economic benefits migrants offer.

"The fact you can get away with charging a bit more doesn't mean it is reasonable or fair or that you have to do it," said Ms Horder.

"It is not as if the government is now saying, "Alright, we will process them more quickly. We will ask you for more money but we will look after you." They are not doing that.

"I am suggesting we are being pretty lazy and pretty greedy in the broad to just say let’s get these unsuspecting people and add some impost there. Migrants bring a lot of economic benefit to our economy and I think we shouldn't be arbitrary hitting the non-citizens or the people who have no rights as yet, the non voters, with high costs."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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