Frequently Asked Questions compiled by Peter Chiam a Registered Migration Agent. Last updated August 17, 2006.
Note that the answers given here are not to be taken as legal/immigration advice or as substitute for the need to obtain legal/immigration advice under any circumstance.
Most up-to-date version is always available at http://ptlabs.com.au/visas/faq.php.
 I want to migrate to Australia, where do I start?
Unfortunately, this FAQ should really not be your starting point. Amazingly, and surprisingly, you have found your way to this FAQ before you have acquainted yourself with the DIMA (Australian Department of Immigration) website at http://www.immi.gov.au. What is DIMA, please find out by clicking the link just provided.
 Where is the official Australian Department of Immigration (DIMA) website?
 As a citizen of the UK/USA/Canada/etc I don't need a visa to enter Australia, right?
Australia enforces a universal visa system. This means that every non-citizen requires a visa to enter and remain Australia, either temporarily or permanently. Almost every non-citizen will need to apply for a visa of some sort before entering Australia. The only notable exceptions are New Zealand citizens (who do not already hold Australian permanent visas or citizenship) who are granted Special Category Visas (SCV) upon arrival. SCVs are temporary visas allowing the holder to stay indefinitely in New Zealand but are not permanent visas.
 Why should or shouldn't I use a migration agent?
An agent is very useful if you have the money but not the time, or if you have an unusual case (unclear work experience, criminal record, prior immigration offences, medical problems etc.). If your case is straightforward, it is possible to apply without the aid of an agent, provided you have a firm understanding of what is required. Usually extensive research is necessary before one is able to lodge a visa application, especially if it's a skilled visa application. If you decide to engage a migration agent, ensure he/she is a registered migration agent by checking his/her credentials at http://www.themara.com.au/Online/ARSearch.asp?DeptID=140. Agents' fees are not regulated, so feel free to get a few quotes before engaging a registered agent.
I would suggest using an agent with a fixed fee as the ones that charge per 'item' tend to be very expensive. Also make sure the agent is regisitered and go on recommendations, you do with a builder or plumber etc.
 What is Form 80 for?
Form 80 is used by DIMA for character assessments. If you applied for a skilled visa or a spouse visa, you should consider sending in a completed copy of Form 80 to ASPC.
 Where can I get detailed information on English language requirements for a skilled visa?
 Is Form 47A required for my spouse?
If your spouse is included in Form 47SK at the time of your application, no. If you got married after you lodged your application, you should send a Form 47A and Form 1022.
 How do I inform DIMA of a change in my circumstances?
Send DIMA a completed Form 1022. If you have recently married and are informing DIMA of the marriage, send a Form 47A as well.
 How do I inform DIMA of a change of address?
For a skilled visa application, send a completed Form 929 to the ASPC.
 Do I need to inform DIMA of an incorrect answer?
Yes. Failure to do so may result in your visa being cancelled or your Australian citizenship application denied when you do decide to apply for it. Form 1023 is the form to use.
 Where can I read about the latest visa application fees?
Form 990i. Be sure to download the latest version, as insufficient payment can and will cause delays and inconvenience to yourself.
 Questions on DIMA Application Forms.
 How do I find out my ETA number and how do I declare my ETA visa when asked if I held/hold an Australian visa?
Put "ETA" in the box provided for your visa number. You should ensure that you declare all past and present Australian visas that have been issued to you when asked on any DIMA visa application form.
 I keep hearing about the Skilled Migration Booklet. What is it? Where can I get a copy of it?
The Skilled Migration Booklet 6 is also known as Form 1119. It contains directions and guidelines in plain English on how you can apply for a skilled visa and whether you qualify or not. Form 1119 is a must read for an aspiring skilled migrant, whether you choose to avail yourself to the services of a migration agent or otherwise. You may download a softcopy of Form 1119 here: http://www.immi.gov.au/allforms/booklets/books6.htm or purchase the hardcopy from the nearest Australian mission.
 Where can I find the SOL?
A PDF copy of the SOL is here: http://www.immi.gov.au/allforms/pdf/1121i.pdf.
 Where can I find the MODL?
 Must I indicate which state/territory I intend to reside in? Will it have an impact on my application?
If you are unsure, put "Don't Know". It shouldn't have any negative impact on your application unless you are applying for an STNI nomination but wish to reside in another state/territory.
 If my spouse is not migrating with me, must I put his/her details in my application form?
 English Language Requirements.
 What is the IELTS?
 I scored 4.5 in one band, but have an average score of 7. Will that do?
You're advised to read Form 966i carefully.
 Do I need to take the Academic or General IELTS test?
The General IELTS test will be sufficient. If you have taken the Academic test, you may submit those results too, provided they meet the minimum scores required by DIMA.
 Can I submit two sets of IELTS results and choose the best components between them to score 15/20 points?
 Skills Assessment: General.
 Can I lodge a valid skilled visa application without a valid skills assessment?
Generally, no. Your skilled visa application must include a valid skills assessment. A valid skills assessment is an assessment that must not have expired at the time your visa application is lodged.
 How do I find out which skills assessing authority to lodge my skills assessment application to?
Refer to Form 1121i, which is the Skilled Occupations List (SOL). The SOL has a column for the number of points associated with each occupation, and another column for the skills assessing authority that is responsible for that occupation. At the end of the leaflet, a list of addresses, phone numbers and website addresses for each skills assessing authority is given. Finally, short descriptions of the requirements in general for each occupation are also provided in the SOL leaflet.
 Should I submit my original skills assessment advice/result to DIMA or will a certified copy suffice?
In the case of an electronic application a colour scan of the letter/certificate uploaded will be sufficient. The following advice relates to paper based applications which are now discouraged. It may be that DIMA does indeed request the original in which case follow the instructions given.
DIMA advises you to submit the original copy of your skills assessment advice/result. However, you may also submit a certified copy of your skills assessment result. DIMA may then request for the original copy later on, if need be. Note that if you choose to submit a certified copy to DIMA, it may result in delays. On the other hand, if you choose to submit the original copy to DIMA, do ensure you have at least one certified copy of your original advice/result for your own reference.
 What if I have more than one occupation that I think I can nominate?
A person may sometimes have qualification and/or experience that allows him to nominate more than one skilled occupation. For such cases, there is nothing stopping that person from applying to more than one skills assessing authority. If successful, the person may choose the positive assessment that suits him/her best. Note that having two positive skills assessments will not give you double skills points!
 Skills Assessment: ACS.
 How long is an ACS assessment valid for?
1 year from date of issuance. Note that other types of skills assessments from other assessing bodies may be valid for longer periods or even indefinitely.
 Are the ACS serious about letters of reference for work experience?
Very serious indeed. You should refer to the ACS guidelines for more details on how to prepare letters of reference for your ACS skills assessment. There have been many instances where insufficient employment references have led to delays and even failure of a skills assessment application.
 Must my documents be certified for an ACS assessment?
Yes. Documents should be certified by a person before whom a Statutory Declaration may be made. You are not encouraged to supply original documents to the ACS.
With the change to the E-Visa system DIMA initially only wants to see the ACS result via a scanned colour image uploaded to the system. However, since ACS do not return your application it is worthwhile keeping a copy and having this certified at the same time. Keeping this copy will allow you to show DIMA should it be asked and refer to for questions from the ACS. For paper based applications, this certified second copy will be sent with the application, however paper based applications are now discouraged.
 What is an "RPL"?
RPL stands for Recognition of Prior Learning. RPL is a pathway for computing professionals who have limited or no computing qualifications but have extensive and varied IT experience. More details are available in the ACS guidelines and RPL information pack available off the ACS website.
An external website that can offer specific assistance is RPLHelp. This site offers (for a fee) download of example RPLs.
 After I'm positively assessed by the ACS, must I join the society to apply for my visa?
No. The invitation to join the ACS that comes with your positive skills assessment result is entirely separate from your DIMA application.
 Points Test and the Basic Requirements.
 How are my age points calculated?
Your age points are calculated based on your age at the time your application is received by DIMA. For example, if your birthday is 1 May 1973 and your application is received by DIMA on 1 Jan 2003, your age at the time of application was 29 years old. This means you get the points associated with the 18-29 bracket.
 Will work experience after my application lodgement be counted?
 I meet the basic requirements. Do I get any extra points for that?
 I score 130 points, will my application be processed faster?
Scoring well above the passmark, in itself, will not shorten your application processing time.
 How can I claim English language points?
The most conclusive way is to sit for the IELTS test if you're not a native English speaker. Note that in general, you cannot conveniently claim that English is your native tongue if you are not British, American, (Anglo-)Canadian, New Zealander or Irish. More details are available in the Skilled Migration Booklet 6.
 How can I claim points for proficiency in an Australian community language?
By producing evidence that your equivalent Australian bachelor's degree was taught in the Australian community language where the university's main language was in that community language, or by sitting for and passing a NAATI level 3 exam. Note that if you have a degree taught in French in a U.K. university, for instance, you won't qualify for these points. More details are available in the Skilled Migration Booklet 6. Note that just being a member of an ethnic community does not automatically allow you to claim these points.
 My nominated occupation has been taken off the MODL! Do I still get the MODL points?
Yes.If you have already applied.
 Do I need to meet the basic requirements if I pass the points test?
Yes. All skilled visa applicants must meet their subclasses' basic requirements. The basic requirements exist separately from the points test. Failure to meet the basic requirements for the visa subclass that you applied for will mean instant rejection.
 I meet the criterion of specific work experience. Can I assume I will automatically meet the recent work experience criterion?
Unfortunately, no. Depending on the points associated with your nominated occupation, there are differing durations for which you must have been employed in an SOL occupation to meet the recent work experience criterion (unless you are exempted from this criterion). The specific work experience criterion is separate from the recent work experience criterion. Unless you are exempted from the recent work experience criterion, you need to meet it in order to stand any chance of being granted a skilled visa. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may or may not need the points for specific work experience.
 Visa Labels.
 How do I read my visa label?
A good guide is at http://www.facs.gov.au/guide/ssguide/911.htm. Another one is here http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/compliance/guide-on-work-rights/index.htm
 My visa label is still valid, but it's in an expired passport. What do I do?
You may continue to use that visa (provided it is not cut, damaged, cancelled or expired) by carrying that old passport with your new one.
 How do I determine what my visa number is?
A visa number will always be a 10 digit number followed by an alphabetical character. See this page: http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/compliance/guide-on-work-rights/17.htm.
 Resident Return Visas.
 What is an RRV?
RRV stands for Resident Return Visa. See http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/95documents.htm#b for a good explanation on what an RRV is and who needs one.
 What happens if I remain outside Australia after the expiry of the re-entry facility for my Resident Return Visa or my permanent visa?
A person who is outside of Australia and is not a citizen of Australia will require a visa in order to enter Australia from abroad. If you hold/held a permanent visa for Australia, and are presently outside of Australia, and if your visa is due to expire before your planned/scheduled return to Australia, or if your visa has already expired, you will lose your Australian permanent resident status when you return to Australia unless you hold a valid visa that allows you to return to Australia for permanent residence. An RRV is one such visa that allows a you to re-enter Australia for permanent residence after your initial migrant visa's re-entry facility has expired.
In order to qualify for an RRV, you will need to meet certain requirements.
 I am in Australia on a permanent visa, and it's about to expire. What will happen to me if my visa expires?
If you entered Australia on a permanent visa, you have the right to remain in Australia indefinitely. This right does not lapse when your visa expires. In actual fact, your permanent visa will never expire (or lapse) while you are in Australia.
To explain this better, it is necessary to separate your permanent visa into two portions:
- A re-entry facility: This facility is normally valid for 5 years from the date of grant. This is the portion of your visa that will expire. Upon the so-called expiry date of your visa, this facility will cease to be valid. This means that if you travel out of Australia after the "Must not enter Australia after" date, you will lose your Australian permanent resident status. In order to avoid this, you should get an RRV if you wish to travel out of Australia (even for 1 day) after the expiry of your permanent visa. If you have already gotten an RRV once, your RRV functions the same way as your initial migrant visa, and will also have a re-entry facility.
- Authority to remain indefinitely: This portion of your visa allows you to remain permanently or indefinitely in Australia, unless your visa is cancelled. There is no expiry of this portion so long as you remain in Australia. But once you exit Australia, you must ensure you have the authority to re-enter Australia (see the point above) before you can avail yourself to the authority to remain in Australia under this portion of your visa.
This assumes you remain a non-citizen even after you qualify for Australian citizenship.
 Medicals, Newborn Babies and Character Checks.
 What happens if I get pregnant before my request for medicals?
You should be aware that it may not be advisable for a pregnant woman to undergo an x-ray test. If and when your request for medicals are received, you should consult a medical practitioner for more information. You should also let your case officer know if you do or do not want to proceed with the medical exam, and your case officer may decide to put your application in suspension until after your pregnancy.
 What happens if I get pregnant after my request for medicals?
If your medicals have already been sent to DIMA, there's nothing much that you need to do. Bear in mind if your child is born before the grant of visa, you will need to notify DIMA about the new addition to your family. Also, bear in mind that you will be given a period of time before you must enter Australia after being granted your visa, even if it's for a short trip. If you are into your advanced stage of pregnancy, some airline carriers will not permit you to board. It's been said that pregnancy and immigration do not mix well.
 What happens if I have my visa, but not validated it, and my child is born?
If your visa has already been granted, your newborn child will not get a visa granted on your already successful application. You have an obligation to inform DIMA about the new addition to your family, as a change of circumstances before initial validation needs to be reported to DIMA. Your baby will have to be sponsored on a child visa later on.
 What is my newborn baby's Australian immigration status?
On the assumption that you applied for your PR visa before your baby was born, it depends on your circumstances, but generally:
- If your baby is born in Australia, and at least one parent is an Australian permanent visa holder or Australian citizen, your baby is an Australian citizen by birth. No Australian visa is required for this baby.
- If your baby is born outside Australia, and at least one parent is an Australian citizen otherwise than by descent, your baby is eligible for Australian citizenship by descent.
- If your baby is born outside Australia, and at least one parent is an Australian citizen by descent and that parent was present in Australia lawfully for at least 2 years before your baby's citizenship registration, your baby is eligible for Australian citizenship by descent.
- If your baby is born outside Australia, and neither parent is an Australian citizen, your baby has no immigration status in Australia and will need a visa to enter Australia.
Note that at present, there are time limits for an eligible child to be registered as an Australian citizen by descent.
 How long are my medical and police checks valid?
Usually, your medical and police checks are valid for one year from the date they are issued (not the date you submit them to DIMA).
 Visa application processing.
 How can I lodge, monitor and update my application?
There is now an Australia E-Visa System which can do all these online. Alternatively you can contact DIMA via thier website.
 How long is my visa application processing expected to take?
Times vary depending on the visa subclass you chose, the workload of the processing centres and other factors. See: http://www.immi.gov.au/about/charters/client-services-charter/standards/2.1.htm for general service standards published by DIMA.
 I'm presently in Australia lawfully, and have applied for a Skilled Independent (136) visa. Can I get a bridging visa?
Unfortunately, no. A 136 visa is a visa that cannot be granted in Australia. As such, it is often called an "offshore" visa, meaning the applicant must be outside Australia before the visa can be granted, if all other requirements are met for the grant of that visa.
 Will I get a grace period from visa grant to first entry?
If you applied for an migrant visa (i.e. offshore visa), your visa will have a "first-entry" condition. This means that you must enter Australia by this date, otherwise, your visa will become invalid. This date is generally the first-year anniversary of your police check or medical test, whichever is earlier. This first-entry date is generally non-negotiable and must be observed if you value your permanent visa. Note that you need not migrate to Australia during this first trip. A holiday or tour would suffice. Once you have entered Australia and satisfied this first-entry condition, you should work towards satisfying the criteria for an RRV or citizenship.
 Settling in Australia
 Is there a checklist of things I should do after I arrive in Australia?
 How do I obtain an Australian driver's licence?
 Are Australian citizens or permanent residents able to live and work freely in New Zealand?
Australian citizens and Australian permanent residents presently may live, study and work freely in New Zealand. However, time spent in New Zealand on an Australian permanent visa does not count toward Australian citizenship. Also, children born to Australian permanent resident parents where neither parent is an Australian citizen do not become Australian citizens by birth. For more information, see http://www.immigration.govt.nz/nzis/operations_manual/605.htm.
 Are New Zealand citizens or permanent residents able to live and work freely in Australia?
New Zealand citizens without health or character issues are usually granted SCVs on arrival in Australia on a New Zealand passport. New Zealand permanent residents (who are not also Australian citizens or permanent residents) do not have special access to Australia.
 Where can I get information on taxes?