27 March 2009

Australian visa application form changes have gone live

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The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has released an Australian visa application form update, effective immediately.

As of today, 27 March 2009, the Australian visa application form database has been updated, meaning all Australian visa applicants will have to use new forms as provided by DIAC.  Nearly 100 Australian visa application forms have been affected by the changes, which are the result of new Australian migration legislation.

The Australian visa application form changes affect nearly all classes of Australian migration, including Australian skilled migration visa applications, spouse, parent and other family visa applications, and Australian business visa applications.  Medical check forms have also been replaced with new forms.

While the Department states that changes to the Australian visa application forms occur at least three times per year (in congruence with legislative cycle), the ambiguity surrounding this month's changes to the forms have left migration agents and prospective Australian migrants wondering what step to take next.

For those prospective migrants who have already started the Australian visa application process, the Department has not yet made it clear as to whether they would still accept old Australian visa application forms.  While the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) informed the Australian Visa Bureau that they have been discussing with DIAC the issue of accepting old forms for some time now, a conclusion from the Department has not yet been formalised.  Further, DIAC has told the MIA that DIAC officers will be reminded to have some flexibility if they receive an old Australian visa application form.

Yet how long DIAC will remain lenient and flexible with old forms is a question that remains to be answered.  From a legal perspective, the old Australian visa application forms have not yet been revoked, and under section 495 of the Australian Migration Act, can still be accepted as an "approved form". 

Filling in new forms can be time-consuming for prospective migrants who have already spent many months preparing their Australian visa application forms, and making them fill in new forms can delay the already long migration process.  Furthermore, the Australian visa application process inherently comes with deadlines, and for those who are already part-way through the application process, these Australian visa application form changes will cause unnecessary stress.  It could also potentially jeopardise a valid lodgement if the applicant fails to meet a deadline; this could occur if an applicant is required to use a particular Australian visa application form that becomes available at an inconvenient time. 

Lauren Mennie, casework manager and registered migration agent for the Australian Visa Bureau, says her team is helping hundreds of people emigrating to Australia who will be affected by the changes, and that most of their Australian visa application forms will have to be redone. 

"In certain circumstances, we have been required to go against the grain and lodge an old Australian visa application form, and in these cases we have had no issue with lodging an out-of-date but unrevoked Australian visa application form.  However, whenever possible it is better to be on the safe-side and use the new forms supplied on the DIAC website or LEGENDcom through your migration agent," Ms Mennie advised.

LEGENDcom is a subscripted online database of migration and citizenship documents that allows migration agents to save Australia visa application form information for a prospective migrant and transfer it automatically to new forms if DIAC makes any further changes.

While only four Australian visa application forms have been removed from the Australian migration program, 73 forms have had essential changes made and 16 have been updated with non-essential changes. 

DIAC is likely to make a statement regarding the changes on Monday.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

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