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Additional Changes to Migration Regulations Effective 18 November 2017

In yesterday’s post, I published news about the most consequential change to the Migration Regulations that will be introduced by the Migration Legislation Amendment (2017 Measures No. 4) Regulations 2017, which will affect Public Interest Criterion 4020.

The amendments, which were made by the Governor-General on 2 November 2017, and which will become effective on 18 November 2017, include a number of additional changes to the regulations.

A summary of these changes is provided below:

Health debt and health insurance arrangements

1. A new condition 8602 will be added to Schedule 8 which will provide that “The holder must not have an outstanding public health debt”.

This condition will apply to most temporary visas. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, the condition is “aimed to improving visa holders’ understanding of their liability for public health expenses they incur in Australia”.

The Explanatory Memorandum further explains that temporary visa holders do not have access to Medicare, with the exception of some temporary visa holders from countries that have Reciprocal Health Care Arrangements with Australia.  Accordingly, it is possible that persons who hold temporary visas can incur debts to Australia’s public health system if the costs are not paid in full by their insurance arrangements.

The Explanatory Memorandum indicates that health authorities will be able to report unpaid debts for health care costs to the Department.  The Memorandum further states that the initial action that will be taken by the Department will be to encourage the visa holder to contact the health care provider and to make arrangements for payment of the debt.  However, a failure to pay the debt will constitute a breach of the condition, and may render the visa holder subject to discretionary visa cancellation.

2. Clarification of the meaning of the term “adequate arrangements for health insurance”.

Some visa holders are required (for example, through Condition 8501) to maintain “adequate arrangements for health insurance” – either in the form of travel insurance or other specific health insurance.  The meaning of the phrase “adequate arrangements for health insurance” has previously been dealt with by policy guidance in PAM3.

The amendments will provide a power to enable the minister to specify the requirements for adequate health insurance through a legislative instrument, and will also provide that where the requirement is not specified by legislative instrument, the insurance must be considered adequate in the circumstances by the Department. 

Integrity, identity and community protection amendments

The Explanatory Memorandum states that the purpose of these amendments is “to provide clear messaging to visa holders on the expectations of the Australian Government and Australian community concerning the behavior and conduct of non-citizens in Australia” and to “prevent permanent residents from attempting to circumvent cancellation processes”.

The changes will include the following:

1. New language will be added to expand the scope of Condition 8303, so that it “forbids activities that endanger or threaten any individual”.  The current wording of Condition 8303 has been limited to forbidding “disruptive or violent activities that endanger or threaten the Australian community or groups within the Australian community”.  The amended Condition 8303 will be a mandatory condition that will be imposed on most temporary visas.

2. Condition 8564, which requires the visa holder to not engage in criminal conduct, will also be imposed mandatorily on most temporary visas. Previously, this condition has been applied only on a discretionary basis to Bridging Visa Es.

3. Subitem 1305(3) of Schedule 1 will be amended to prevent former temporary visa holders whose visa have been cancelled on “behavior-related” grounds from making applications for Bridging Visa Es.  “Behaviour-related” grounds are defined to include circumstances where visa applicants have had their previous visas cancelled under section 116(1)(e) of the Migration Act  because they have been assessed as a risk to the public health, safety or good order of the community; and visa applicants who have had their previous visas cancelled under section116(1)(b) by reason of breaching Condition 8564 (which again forbids a visa holder from engaging in criminal activity).

4. Subitem 11128(3)(d)(i) of Schedule 1 will be amended, and a new clause 155.223 will be added to Schedule 2 to introduce criteria to prevent people whose permanent visas have been cancelled, or are being considered for cancellation, from either applying for, or being granted, Resident Return visas.

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