It’s a widely held belief that you can lodge a visa application and then wait for the Department of Home Affairs to ask you to upload documents. In fact, it’s been pretty normal for the Department to issue a request under section 56 of the Migration Act, for further information – in which they may detail the sort of evidence they are looking for – if they feel they don’t have enough information to make a fair decision on your visa application.
That’s reassuring, given how complex and changeable migration law is, and given the number of self lodged applications. People who have never lodged a visa before are usually uncertain, to say the least, about the type and volume of information that needs to be provided. Usually, lodging an application is associated with stress and sleepless nights! It’s consistent with “natural justice” – we all know how much money goes in to lodging an application – and it’s in the Aussie spirit of “a fair go” to give someone a second chance to provide the correct information.
But it’s all changing…
Section 54 of the Migration Act refers to the fact that, when making a decision on a visa application, the decision maker must give regard to all information provided with that application. However, section 54 also states that “a decision to grant or refuse a visa may be made without giving the applicant an opportunity to make oral or written submissions”.
In the last few months, as Registered Migration Agents who manage a high volume of visas, we’ve seen increasing evidence of the Department unashamedly exercising its rights under section 54. That is, applications are being lodged – sometimes with and sometimes without all documents – and are being refused without providing the applicant with the opportunity to give further information or clarification!
Recent statistics from the Department of Home Affairs show that the refusal rate on Subclass 187 – Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme – visas is currently a whopping 50% – up from around 13% twelve months ago. Many of the refusals are occupation specific, suggesting that the Department has formed the view that certain occupations are being associated with high levels of fraud. And, unfortunately, many genuine applications appear to be caught up in the wave of refusals.
No one – least of all a Registered Migration Agent – likes to get a refusal letter. The consequences to the applicant are huge – loss of visa application charges which can be in the thousands of dollars; and an onshore refusal can mean you have to leave the country or embark on a costly and lengthy appeal process.
The Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) – the professional body representing Registered Migration Agents – has queried the Department of Home Affairs about the new trend and has been advised that all Registered Migration Agents need to be aware that the Department is not obliged to request further information; and that all applications should be “decision ready” when lodged. That means – application form completed in full, fees paid, and all supporting evidence attached.
Does this mean that medical checks and police clearances have to be done at the time of lodgement too?
The only exception is health and character information, which is still requested by the Department. Given the long wait times for many visas, it’s often impractical to complete medicals and police clearances which will expire in twelve months, until you know your case is being looked at. Your Registered Migration Agent may advise on the best time to undertake these checks.
How can you minimize the risk of this happening to your application?
Firstly, be sure that you are applying for the correct visa and that you have the necessary requirements to do so. That’s particularly important now, as things are changing so quickly.
If you’re going it alone without professional help, you need to research thoroughly, and then research again (in case it’s changed since you first looked!)
Be sure that the document gives the evidence that the Department is looking for, and that the information is up to date.
Upload or attach all supporting documents at the time you apply.
While your application is processing and you are enduring that agonizing wait, you must be sure to notify the Department of any change in circumstances that arise. Otherwise, when a case officer starts to process your visa, if something is no longer valid, they may act on the original information. This sometimes happens, for example, when a business has a change in circumstances.
Please take the advice of your Registered Migration Agent if you have one and comply quickly with all requests for information.
And, it goes without saying that the documents you provide must be accurate and unaltered – providing false or misleading information will land you in another world of trouble!
“That’s not true – I was asked for further information only recently!”
Sure – some case officers are still asking for further information under section 56. And, we’re noticing the trend within certain visa types more than others – right now the big focus seems to be on employer sponsored visas and some partner visas.
However, the Department’s warning is a widespread one; and can apply to any category of visa – now or in the future. As departmental processing times blow out due to unprecedented levels of demand, the Department is keen to implement processing strategies which maximise their efficiency and help them to reduce the application pipeline.
And, it’s a game of lotto. Some applications will be affected, others not. Can you afford the risk?
Clearly, lodging a decision-ready, accurate application is the best way that we can help departmental case officers to work efficiently.
Does this extra risk mean you shouldn’t lodge a visa application?
Not at all – but the value of professional migration advice in the current environment can’t be underestimated.
And, if you are getting help, please take your Registered Migration Agent’s advice. We still encounter clients who, after being advised to provide a certain document, will ask us to lodge without it and wait until the Department asks for it. In this environment, that’s a high-risk strategy! Your agent is employed by you to act in your best interests and won’t be asking for something if it’s not needed.
At Emergico, it’s our policy to always lodge complete and decision ready applications. We would only do otherwise when we can’t get documents from our clients in time, and there is a time imperative, such as a visa expiry.
When you’re the applicant, the ball is very firmly in your court!
Need some help when the ball is in your court? Contact our friendly and helpful team of Registered Migration Agents at Emergico Migration.