From 22 March 2014, applicants will have to pay a surcharge for credit card merchant fees. This surcharge will apply to visa application charges and other fees payable to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (“DIBP”). It will be applied to all onshore and offshore applicants. 

Most visa applications can only be lodged online. Therefore in most cases, the surcharge for credit card merchant fees is unavoidable. For those visa subclasses where applications can still be made on paper, applicants may avoid paying by credit card but a Non-Internet Application Charge may be payable.

Details of the exact fees that will be charged for credit card payments will be available on 22 March 2014 when the surcharge will come into effect.  

Subsequent Temporary Application Charge

On 1 July 2013, the subsequent temporary application charge of $700 was introduced. 

If an applicant has previously applied for a temporary visa in Australia and applies for a subsequent temporary visa in Australia, this charge may apply. This charge is payable in addition to any visa application charges that already apply.

When determining whether the surcharge applies, DIBP looks at the applicant’s previous visa lodgement history in Australia and the type of visa the applicant intends to lodge in Australia. Common situations where the charge will apply include:

  • Working holiday (Subclass 417) visa holders who applied to extend their working holiday visa in Australia and are then nominated by their employer to apply for a 457 visa in Australia;
  • Student visa holders who applied for their visa in Australia and are then nominated by their employer to apply for a 457 visa in Australia;
  • 457 visa holders who applied for their visa in Australia and wish to apply for a new 457 visa in Australia.

The surcharge will apply to each applicant, even if family members are submitting a combined visa application. 

The subsequent temporary application charge does not apply to applicants applying for permanent residence in Australia.

DIBP Application Fees likely to increase on 1 July 2014

The DIBP often increases its application fees on 1 July annually. Changes in migration regulations and policy also may come into effect on this date. Employers that are considering nominating a 457 visa employee this year should aim to lodge 457 applications before 1 July to avoid potential fee increases.

Changes to Business Sponsorship Approvals

On 14 February 2014, migration policy was amended to remove references to the number of sponsorship positions a Subclass 457 business sponsor could nominate within the sponsorship validity period once the relevant number or ‘ceiling’ was reached.

This policy change overturns the Labor Governments changes of 1 July 2013 which required businesses to request approval of a specific number of sponsorship places and provide a justification of why the relevant number was being proposed. Prior to 1 July 2013, businesses applying for Subclass 457 sponsorship approval had an ‘uncapped’ approval for the term of three years. 

The consequence of this policy change means that businesses will still need to nominate a number of Subclass 457 positions when applying to be an approved sponsor. However, there is no consequence to the business sponsorship approval once this cap is reached as further nominations can still be lodged until the sponsorship approval expires.

It is important to note that this policy change applies to business sponsorships approved on or after 14 February 2014. Business sponsorships which were approved between 1 July 2013 and 14 February 2014 are still subject to a nomination ceiling and the sponsorship approval will cease when that ceiling is reached. If business sponsors are close to reaching their nomination ceiling a sponsorship variation application can be lodged, which will result in approval of uncapped sponsorship positions.

Upcoming 457 Visa Review

The Government has announced an integrity review of the Subclass 457 visa program, in particular, regarding the changes that were introduced in the last 12 months. We note that the review has a specific agenda of assisting in the de-regulation of the program as well as streamlining current processes. The panel is expected to report back by the middle of the year.