Application Fee Madness
What were they thinking?
That was my first impression when we read over DIAC information sheet on how applicants should calculate their Visa Application Charges (VAC).
Before anyone takes the time to red over the 38 page Visa Pricing Table (VPT) which took affect on the first of July, take a couple of Panadol's before you begin. Actually throw in a couple of Vallium's if you have any lying around because you may need them if you lodged your application already and you didn't read the fine print on this VPT before you lodged.
This price list outlines what the VAC for each subclass of visa. Up until now the VAC's were pretty straight forward, one fee covered the entire family and there were no hidden extra's to pay.
That's all changed.
Now we have;
- the Base Application Charge and;
- the Subsequent Temporary Application Charge and;
- the Non- Internet Application Charge.
The problem in not getting the VAC right, is that your application is not valid until the correct amount has been paid. Every visa applicant, including now the additional family members, must pay the VAC at the time the application is made.
If it turns out you didn't pay enough then your application is deemed invalid until the shortfall is made up. This also means for combined applications each visa applicant must pay their own VAC before their application is valid.
DIAC's Proceedural Advice Manual (PAM) has this to say on the new pricing system when it comes to applicants who have lodged as one family unit;
"some of the individual applications may be valid, and others may be invalid, depending on the total amount of money received and the circumstances surrounding the payment of the money."
And then things can get worse;
"the department cannot "select" which visa applications have had the first instalment VAC paid and which have not and, therefore, it cannot be determined which applications are valid and which are not. As a consequence of this, in this situation, all of the applications are considered to be invalid."
And then worse again;
"If the shortfall is made up some time after the applications are submitted then an application will be valid on the date it was submitted but all of the other applications will be valid only on/from the day the shortfall was made up. This is because, until that time, the remaining applications were all considered to be invalid."
And then if you think it couldn't get any worse, think again;
"It is particularly important, where possible, to ensure that additional applicants are given every opportunity to make up any shortfall in the VAC at the time the application is made. This is because in some cases an additional applicant may not be able to combine their application with another application if the application is not made the same time and place as that of the application they are seeking to combine their application with. This is because regulations 2.08A
limit who may combine their applications with an application after the original application is made."
We envisage that considering the volume of applications received by DIAC there may be a considerable period of time before they can figure out what was the correct fee which should have been paid and was this fee actually submitted. They will then have to contact the applicants to remedy any shortfall.
What if this does not occur until weeks or months later when a case officer is allocated?
The STAC, read the fine print carefully
Now if you are single then you may think you have nothing to worry about with this new VPT. You may wish to reconsider that thought. Most applicants may have missed or will miss the fine print regarding the Subsequent Temporary Application Charge, we call the STAC.
Now the STAC is one sneaky visa application charge and is not exactly cheap at an extra $700 if it applies to you. Yes that an extra $700 is on top of the base visa fee you need to cough up. To make matters worse some family unit members may also need to pay this extra fee.
However as pointed out above, these STAC's are essential to make an application valid. The consequences of not paying are worrysome.
Now if you have read over the VPT we have provided you will be experts at determining if the STAC applies to you or not. Hmmm.
Of course now you understand the Migration Regulations 1994 or the Migration Act 1958 definitions of a "substantive visa" and what is an "operation of law" so these questions are easily answered from the VPT;
Was the 'Table 2' visa granted to the applicant as an operation of law?
Was the 'Table 2' visa granted as a result of the Minister exercising his or her ministerial intervention powers?
Was the 'Table 2' visa granted without the applicant making an application?
Of course you all know how a visa can be granted without making an application.
Of course you all know the range of laws which cover the Minsters intervention powers.
Even DIAC acknowledges it will have to spend a significant amount of time in some applications to consider if the STAC applies to an applicant or not. The PAM prepares visa processing officers in advance;
"When assessing if the subsequent temporary application charge applies to a person, visa processing officers may need to interrogate relevant departmental systems to determine if the charge applies. This may require interrogating not just ICSE but also TRIPS or the movement database."
Non- Internet Application Charge
This $70 VAC penalises people who now wish to use the paper format of applications instead on their online variants. It is only payable by the main applicant once and not for those family members as additional secondary applicants.
The paper applications used by applicants after the 1st July 2013 should outline clearly that this additional charge is due however again there will be an issue of validity if not paid. We feel DIAC should be able to quickly identify if an applicant has neglected to pay this fee and contact them to make up the shortfall without affecting the validity of their applications.
If DIAC fails to do this efficiently this will significantly impact upon any applicant who lodged an application just before their visa was due to expire.
Please take the time to read over the VPT we have provided in this newsletter.