Visa application charges and fee increases from 1 July 2018

July 1, has always been a date for amendments to migration regulations. Sometimes the changes are drastic and surprising, other times minimal. Every year in recent memory, visa application charges and associated application fees (business sponsorship and nomination applications, and citizenship applications) change. In most occasions, they have increased. In very few occasions, they have decreased.

The legislative instrument for the visa application charges from 1 July 2018, was registered last week. As the amending provisions refer to the Schedule 1 criteria and only the class of visa, it is far easier to search the Explanatory Statement for the affected subclass number.

The days of massive fee hikes, however, appear to be over. This is because from 1 July 2017, it has been the policy of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to increase visa application charges annually by the forecast Consumer Price Index (CPI) and rounded to the nearest $5.

This policy, though, is not in any regulation. What is law is the maximum visa application charge possible. The Migration (Visa Application) Charge Act 1997 (Cth) provides a formula for calculating the maximum visa application charge possible. This was initially set at $12,500 as of 1 July 1996, which given CPI increases over the years, means there is still some way to go to hit the maximum. Of course, calculating visa application charges have changed since the Act was passed. Combined visa application charges were changed to a pay-per-applicant model with a base application charge for the primary applicant, and further charges for additional applicants. Interestingly, this cap does not apply to contributory parent visas, which have their own Contributory Parent Visa Composite Index when calculating the maximum allowable charge for contributory parent visas.

Subclass 188 – Business Innovation and Investment visas in the Premium Investor stream will remain the dearest with a base application fee of $8,770. Subclass 820/801 – Partner visas and Subclass 309/100 – Partner visas will have a maximum base application fee of $7,160, which is not far behind. This does not include additional applicants or surcharge fees and is reduced in certain circumstance such as being the holder of a Subclass 300 - Prospective Marriage visa.

With these increases in mind, it is obviously beneficial for applicants who believe they are eligible for their visa to lodge their application in the days before the change.