Discussion paper on changes to Australian visitor visa system available for comment

by Ray Clancy on April 20, 2011

in Australia Immigration

Proposed changes to visa system open for critique

The Australian government wants to simplify the country’s visitor visa system and has launched a consultation paper which it wants the general public to comment on as well as business and commerce.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen and Senator Nick Sherry, Minister Assisting on Deregulation, said that the proposal to simplify visitor visas follows on from a recent commitment to streamline temporary work visas.
The government has committed to cut the number of visas in half across all visa types by 2015 through its Better Regulation Agenda.
‘We are undertaking broad public consultation on the visa simplification process, to ensure we consider the impact of any changes on the community,’ said Bowen.

The paper proposes reducing the number of visitor visas from nine to four and moving all non business short stay visas out of the visitor visa programme and into a new category which will come under the proposed temporary work visa programme.

‘This streamlining will be achieved by relocating certain short stay work entitlements and by consolidating common regulatory requirements. The government is planning to achieve further simplification in this area by standardizing similar regulations and removing duplicate regulation,’ said Sherry.

The streamlining of the visa programme has been on the Department for Immigration and Citizenships agenda for a long time and when implemented should see a reduction in waiting times. Specifically, the Australian Government has committed to reduce by 50% the number of temporary residence work visa subclasses by 2012 and to target a 50% reduction in the total number of visa subclasses by 2015.

The visitor visa group allows for short-term entry of tourist, business, medical treatment and family visitors. Some of these visitor visa holders are currently permitted to work for a short period in limited circumstances and this is likely to change.

People come to Australia on a visitor visa for a variety of reasons including tourism, visiting family, medical treatment, and to conduct business with limited work related activities. Some applicants have reported difficulties in selecting the most appropriate visitor visa for their intended stay in Australia and this is to be simplified.

It is proposed that people who seek to enter Australia for short term work will need to apply for the new Short Stay Activity visa (SSAV) which is part of the new temporary work visa framework. This would remove ambiguities around appropriate visa options for short-term work and allow the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to scrutinise all work visa applications to ensure there is no negative impact on the Australian labour market prior to a visa application being finalised.

It is also proposed that under the new visitor visa framework business visitors be restricted to business activities such as the investigation of business opportunities, attending meetings, conferences or trade fairs. This would better align the purpose and entitlement for business visitors with the visa product.

And it is proposed that tourist and business visitors are combined into a single visa product, however different restrictions would apply depending on the purpose of a person’s stay in Australia.

The paper Making Visitor Visas Simpler is available from the DIAC website and is open for comment until May 13.

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