Australia hit by new visa charge

June 25, 2013

A newly introduced visa charge of AUS$700 (US$648) for visitors wishing to stay onshore in Australia with a different visa could potentially cause great damage to the international education and tourism industries, according to peak bodies lobbying for the charge to be dropped.

The subsequent temporary visa charge will be introduced from 1 July and will be applied to anybody applying for a second visa onshore in Australia. The new charge is part of a suite of changes. As of July, there will be no single prescribed charges according to visa category. Instead, charges will comprise components including a base application charge, an additional applicant charge and the subsequent temporary application charge.

In a statement to members, English Australia (EA) gave the example that a visitor that arrived on a tourist visa, decided to stay and applied for an Elicos visa, and then subsequently applied for a Higher Education visa (the second onshore visa), would pay a total of AUS$1,885 (US$1,746) in visa application fees.

EA and the Australian Tourism Export Council (Atec) issued a joint statement calling on the government to reverse its decision. According to DIAC figures, around 15 per cent of students and five per cent of tourists could be affected.

Sue Blundell, Executive Director of EA, said, "If these charges remain, they will do incalculable damage to international education which is only now starting to recover, and to local tourism. As well as the monetary impact, they present Australia as less welcoming, at a time when government policy should be about supporting services exports."

Atec Deputy Chair, Peter Ovenden, said students may be dissuaded from switching to a tourist visa after completing studies. "The application charge may dissuade these visitors from coming to Australia in the first place, and will definitely impact on their desire to stay on and enjoy what the country has to offer as a tourism destination."

Introducing the new pricing measure, a spokesperson from DIAC said, "These initiatives will put Australian visa services on a sustainable financial footing in the long–term, while not detracting from Australia's global position as destination of choice to visit, live, work or study."

However, Blundell questioned the economic rationale. "It is unclear whether any thought has gone into an analysis of whether the new visa fees and charges will raise more revenue than the revenue lost by a downturn in the number of visas taken up," she said.
"Importantly, the fee contributes to making our overall visa costs significantly higher than our main rival countries including the UK, Canada and the USA, at a time when the market is more competitive than ever," Blundell added.

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