DIAC announce new priority processing opportunity for Australia visa applicants

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) recently released some important information in regards to carrying out health and character checks prior to being assigned to a case officer that may have an impact on priority processing for a number of Australia visa applicants.

The DIAC release can be located here, but the most important aspect of it is that all priority group 2 applicants should consider initiating health and character checks now, despite having no indication that a case officer has yet been assigned to their case. Priority group 2 applicants are applicants who have obtained state sponsorship and whose occupation currently features on the State Migration Plan for that state.

Additionally, they have given the same encouragement to priority group 3 applicants (i.e. applicants that have an occupation featuring on schedule 3 of the Skilled Occupation List) who lodged a visa application between 15 January, 2009 and 30 June, 2010.

What are the benefits of applying for health and character checks now?

DIAC have stated the following as a reason for why applicants might wish to apply for health and character checks now:

"Initiating all necessary health and character clearances now is likely to enable an application to be considered in a quicker timeframe once it is allocated to a case officer. It may mean that a decision can be made when first considered, without a case officer needing to request any further documentation, as considerable delays can be encountered in requesting and receiving information."

However, it is important to understand that providing these clearances does not guarantee immediate processing of an application.

Why might there be negative implications of initiating health and character checks now?

DIAC have also provided the following details as to why applicants might not want to apply for health and character checks at this time:

"In undertaking these clearances now, an applicant should be mindful that processing arrangements may change over time and that any such changes may impact on the validity of a clearance and the order of assessment of applications. An applicant may be required to repeat a clearance at their cost in the event of a change to the current application allocation arrangements."

Health and character checks have a 12 month validity period, and must be current at the time the case officer makes a decision on the visa, which is why there is the possibility that you will have to repeat the police and character checks, should a decision not be made on your visa within that timeframe.

Additionally, the date which you obtained police clearances and undertake medicals dictates your initial entry date to Australia. You must enter Australia within 12 months of the earlier date recorded for your police and character checks, regardless of when the visa is granted. The initial entry date cannot be changed under any circumstances, so if the visa grant is delayed you may be left with a particularly short period in which to organise for you (and any family members) to activate your visa through a trip to Australia.

What does Visa Bureau advise?

We are advising a number of our clients to take advantage of this opportunity and initiate their health and character checks now.  However, if you do NOT hold a state sponsorship where it has been confirmed that your occupation will feature on your sponsoring state’s State Migration Plan and you lodged your visa application AFTER July 2009, we advise that you hold off on undertaking the medicals and police checks for now.

The reason for this is that applications for priority group 3 applicants is set to progress in date order, and as we monitor the rate at which these cases are being allocated, we will be able to give you an indication as to when DIAC will be approaching your lodgement date. As a result, you will still benefit from a more efficient processing timescale from DIAC and you will have a significant period in which to make your first entry to Australia following the visa grant.

- Lauren Mennie is Casework Department Manager for the Australian Visa Bureau.