Immigration

Would-be Irish citizens cannot leave the country, court rules

Legal experts have described as ‘absurd’ a High Court ruling which says that a person applying for Irish citizenship must not leave the country for an entire year before lodging their application.

The ruling came during a case in which an Australian man, Roderick Jones, challenged the Justice Minister’s refusal to grant his application to become a naturalised Irish citizen.

During the one year period before the date of the application, Mr Jones, who works in the university sector in Dublin, was out of Ireland for 100 days, 97 of them for holidays, RTE reported.

In order to apply for Irish citizenship, a judge has ruled that applicants must not leave the country for twelve months beforehand.

In order to apply for Irish citizenship, a judge has ruled that applicants must not leave the country for twelve months beforehand.

In previous cases, the Minister for Justice had allowed applicants to spend time out of the country for holidays and other reasons but Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled that this discretionary practice was not permitted by law.

The judge said that "might seem unfair" in a world where many people travel abroad for work and take foreign breaks more than once a year, but he said, that is what the relevant law requires.

He said the cure "for any such unfairness" lay in the gift of the legislature.

Under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, those wishing to ‘naturalise’ as Irish citizens have to be legally resident in the State for at least five years out of the last nine (or three out of the last five if married to an Irish citizen).

This includes one year of “continuous residence” in the 12 months up to the date of application.

The judge said the word "continuous" bore its ordinary meaning and was defined as "unbroken, uninterrupted, connected throughout in space or time".

Justice Max Barrett has conceded that his judgement ‘may seem unfair’.

Justice Max Barrett has conceded that his judgement ‘may seem unfair’.

The judge said the law did not allow the Minister any discretion in relation to this requirement. 

He said the minister had manifested "very real humanity" in trying to nuance the very clear wording of the legislation by applying a discretionary absence period to allow for the realities of modern life, but he had gone beyond what was legally permissible.

The judge said there was no evidence before him as to why the Oireachtas had imposed this condition in the 1956 Act.

He said it may have been to ensure potential citizens enjoyed a concrete connection with the State or were attuned to the way of life in Ireland or some other reason. 

The cure for any resulting unfairness was not to be found in the courts he said, but lay in the gift of the legislature.

Over 8,000 people were granted Irish citizenship in 2017 alone, according to European Union data.

According to The Journal.ie, Ireland’s Department of Justice said they were examining the ruling and “will take any necessary action in consultation with the Attorney General”.

The plantiff Roderick Jones has been contacted for comment.

'Huge weight' lifted as family allowed to stay permanently

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted permanent residency in Australia after a long campaign.

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted permanent residency in Australia after a long campaign.

An Irish family facing deportation after having their visa application rejected have now been granted permanent residency.

Dubliners Christine and Anthony Hyde, who have lived in Australia for a decade, were told they would have to leave Australia after their three-year-old son Darragh was considered a “burden” to the country because of his cystic fibrosis, and the cost of his medication.

But they have now been granted permanent residency after Australia’s Minister for Immigration David Coleman used his discretionary powers to intervene.

Christine Hyde, who had driven a massive online campaign to highlight their case, said the family were “so excited” after hearing the news.

“Late yesterday evening we received the good news that we were granted residency,” she said.

“We are so excited, a huge weight has been lifted and we can continue our lives. We will are completely grateful to everyone. Thank you to everyone who supported us.”

The Hydes’ local MP Damian Drum had taken up their case with the Minister and the Premier of Victoria had also called for them to be allowed to stay.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman has used his ministerial discretion to allow the Hyde family to say in Australia.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman has used his ministerial discretion to allow the Hyde family to say in Australia.

An online petition calling for the Hydes to be allowed to remain in Australia has received over 120,000 signatures.

Earlier, Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews said that he thought the Hydes should be allowed to stay in Australia.

“This is a great family,” he said. “They’ve been SES volunteers and school teachers in their local schools, they’ve have contributed over the past 10 years.

“The young boy was born here, some compassion and some common sense (is needed).

“There’ll be some costs for the medical treatment he needs, but there will be so many more benefits to Seymour, to that local community and indeed for all of us.”

Family granted extension as minister mulls deportation

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted extra time in Australia while their case is considered by the minister.

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted extra time in Australia while their case is considered by the minister.

The Australian government has allowed an Irish family to remain in the country while their immigration case is examined.

Dubliners Christine and Anthony Hyde, who have lived in Australia for a decade, were given until today to leave Australia after their three-year-old son Darragh was considered a “burden” to the country because of his cystic fibrosis, and the cost of his medication.

They are now permitted to stay put until their case is reviewed and a decision made.

It is understood that David Coleman, Australia’s Minister for Immigration, has begun looking at Darragh’s case.

“It could be a few weeks, but we will be able to stay until a decision is made,” Mrs Hyde told Yahoo News.

The news comes following the intervention of the Hydes local MP as well as the Premier of Victoria.

Federal member for the seat of Nicholls Damian Drum is backing the Hyde family’s bid to remain in Australia.

“I spoke to David (Coleman) on this case,” Mr Drum told the Irish Echo earlier this month.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman, in whose hands the Hyde family’s destiny now rests.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman, in whose hands the Hyde family’s destiny now rests.

“The Minister is in a very difficult position here. This situation where you have people out here on work visas who have children with severe disabilities, there is a real potential that this could cost the country millions of dollars and everyone understands that.

“If the Minister intervenes in this case, it will set a precedent so we have to be very careful,” he explained.

An online petition calling for the Hydes to be allowed to remain in Australia has received over 115,000 signatures.

Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews also believes that the Hydes should be allowed to stay in Australia.

“This is a great family,” he said. “They’ve been SES volunteers and school teachers in their local schools, they’ve have contributed over the past 10 years.

“The young boy was born here, some compassion and some common sense (is needed).

“There’ll be some costs for the medical treatment he needs, but there will be so many more benefits to Seymour, to that local community and indeed for all of us.”

The Minister for Immigration David Coleman has been approached for comment.

Irish doctors fleeing Ireland for Australia in larger numbers

The number of doctors emigrating from Ireland to Australia increased from 22 in 2005-2006 to 221 in 2017-2018, a new report has found.

The number of doctors emigrating from Ireland to Australia increased from 22 in 2005-2006 to 221 in 2017-2018, a new report has found.

Australia is the primary beneficiary of a sustained exodus of Irish-trained doctors from Ireland, a new detailed study has found.

Doctors are continuing to emigrate from Ireland in high numbers and many are choosing Australia.

This is having a seriously damaging effect on the Irish health service, experts claim.

The study, called “Tracking the leavers: Towards a better understanding of doctor migration from Ireland to Australia 2008-2018”, found that even though overall Irish emigration numbers to Australia decreased as the Irish economy recovered, the number of doctors emigrating here has continued to increase year on year.

The report also points out that Ireland’s dependence on internationally trained doctors has increased from 13 per cent in 2000 to 42 per cent in 2017, and last year there were 500 vacant consultant posts nationwide.

The emigration of Irish-trained doctors to Australia is a subset of this larger migration from Ireland to Australia after 2008, the report says.

“It might be expected that doctor migration would follow the same patterns, i.e. peaking between 2011 and 2013 before returning to pre-2008 levels by 2014 as the Irish economy showed signs of improvement.

ALSO READ: Will changes to the skilled regional visa affect me?

“However, the number of Irish citizen doctors granted 457 visas increased in the period 2008-2012 and has continued to increase.

“In 2017-2018, a decade since the onset of recession in Ireland, 326 Irish citizen doctors were issued with working visas (temporary and permanent) for Australia, more than double the 153 issued in 2008-2009. This trend suggests that the migration of doctors is not primarily related to economic circumstances, which began to recover in 2013-2014, but perhaps to health system factors.”

The report, written by the Human Resources For Health group, also observed that early career Irish doctors are increasing attracted by offers of work and sponsorship for RMO/resident medical officer posts in the Australian health system.

“The number of doctors migrating from Ireland to Australia at this early career stage increased from 22 in 2005-2006 to 221 in 2017-2018,” the report found. “In 2017-2018, 221 of the Irish doctors granted 457 visas were early career stage doctors, while the remaining 86 were more senior.”

The chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s Consultants’ Committee, Clive Kilgallen, said cuts to wages during the recession have been a major factor in many doctors’ decision to move abroad.

“This is a systemic issue, in particular for consultants appointed after 2012, who could be working for up to €50,000 per year less than their colleagues who were appointed before 2012, and are doing the same job. This is grossly unfair and it is no wonder so many of them have turned their backs on [Ireland],” he told irishhealth.com.

The report also notes that in 2014, 684 Irish/EU doctors graduated in Ireland but 627 doctors emigrated from Ireland to countries such as Australia, the UK and the US.

“These figures are clearly unsustainable for our health service,” Dr Kilgallen said.

Read the full report here.

Minister considers plight of Victorian Irish family

Damian Drum is the Nationals MP for Nicholls. He is supporting an Irish family’s bid to stay in Australia.

Damian Drum is the Nationals MP for Nicholls. He is supporting an Irish family’s bid to stay in Australia.

A local federal government backbencher and the Victorian Premier have voiced their support for an Irish family facing deportation.

Federal member for the seat of Nicholls Damian Drum is backing the Hyde family’s bid to remain in Australia and says Immigration Minister David Coleman is reviewing their case.

“I am waiting for the Minister to get an opportunity to look through the file. It will be done probably within the week,” he told the Irish Echo.

“I’ll be in constant contact with the Minister on this one and we are hopeful that we can get a good decision but we are not in a position to make a call on it yet,” he said.

Christine and Anthony Hyde’s application for permanent residency was refused because their son Darragh, 3, has cystic fibrosis.

Unless the Minister intervenes, the family who have lived in the north Victorian town of Seymour for 10 years, must leave the country by June 18.

“I spoke to David (Coleman) on this case,” Mr Drum said. “The Minister is in a very difficult position here. This situation where you have people out here on work visas who have children with severe disabilities, there is a real potential that this could cost the country millions of dollars and everyone understands that.

“If the Minister intervenes in this case, it will set a precedent so we have to be very careful,” he explained.

Darragh Hyde has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Darragh Hyde has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Despite this, the Nationals MP said he feels “relatively confident” after his conversations with the Minister.

He added: “There’s still a lot of work to be done in relation to all the data that goes into the appeal, all the data that the Hydes need to present. All that data has to find its way from the Department to the Minister.”

Mr Drum said he became involved in the case at the request of the local community.

“Many people from within the community have been stopping me and saying: ‘Can you help this family?’”

He said the Hydes have proven that “they are making a substantial contribution to our nation.”

Christine works as assistant principal at a local primary school and Anthony works as a bus driver.

An online petition calling for the Hydes to be allowed to remain in Australia has received over 100,000 signatures.

Mr Drum said: “The family has got the backing of the local community –I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

“As local MPs we get lots of requests in this regard and my first answer is always to refuse a letter of recommendation for people that I haven’t met.

“I went against my strict rule in relation to letters of support in this case.  I’ve only done that on the back of a strong letter of recommendation from the school where Christine Hyde works.”

Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews says the Hydes should be allowed to stay in Australia.

Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews says the Hydes should be allowed to stay in Australia.

The Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews has also thrown his support behind the Hydes saying “They’re effectively Aussies.”

The Labor MP said: “This is a great family.  They’ve been SES volunteers and school teachers in their local schools, they’ve have contributed over the past 10 years.

“The young boy was born here, some compassion and some common sense (is needed).

“There’ll be some costs for the medical treatment he needs, but there will be so many more benefits to Seymour, to that local community and indeed for all of us.”

Christine and Anthony Hyde applied for permanent residency in 2015 before Darragh was born.

Shortly after his birth, the toddler was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and their application was rejected on the basis that his illness would be a burden on the state.

The family argued that Darragh’s condition is mild and have doctors reports to back that up.

They also argued that Darragh is Australian born and therefore should not be forced to leave..

“Darragh is Australian –he was born in Australia and has never set foot out of Australia.  He’s never been to Ireland.  It’s really unfair,” explained Christine.

Christine Hyde told The Irish Echo the message she would like to get to the minister.

"Just read the case. Just read our story. Just take it in, read the facts and make a decision: Yes or no. I believe any person that reads our case, like the many others who have, that have a heart and have a bit of compassion will see the unique circumstances around our situation and will say ‘yes’. But I don't even know if they're going to read our case,” she said.

Federal Minister for Immigration David Coleman has the power to allow the Hydes to remain in Australia.

Federal Minister for Immigration David Coleman has the power to allow the Hydes to remain in Australia.

"I have no idea what we're doing. i honestly don't know where to begin. There's parts of me that says, 'It will be fine, don't worry about it'. Then there's parts of you thinking, 'What if we're not? Do we need to start packing?' Where do we begin with this? This is our home of ten years, how do you begin to pack that up in 28 days? We still have to work. We can't just stop life either so I don't know where we are with it at all.

"You don't want to get to a point where you've got ten days and it's a no. Who can pack up in ten days? Get out of the lease and sell a few cars, it's not realistic.

"If they just gave us an answer at least we would have some time to sort things out. There's no point giving us an answer on 17th June when we're supposed to be out of the country on the 18th.

"You have to have that in the back of your head and worry about it as well. We don't want to be seen as the people who overstayed a visa or anything like that. It's not us, we want to follow the request. if the request is to leave by the 18th of June, so be it. We'll do that. Don't tell us on 17th June that the answer is a ‘no’, that you're not going to intervene.

"Now there's a timeline on it, now we have an end date to this, it's like, 'Come on'. I don't know what to do."

“We don’t want to be seen as the people who overstayed a visa or anything like that. It’s not us, we want to follow the request. if the request is to leave by June 18, so be it. We’ll do that. Don’t tell us on 17th June that the answer is a no, that you’re not going to intervene,” she said.

With additional reporting by David Hennessy

Will changes to regional skilled visa pathway affect me?

John McQuaid answers your immigration questions.

John McQuaid answers your immigration questions.

Hi John, I’m sponsored on a temporary 482 visa working for my employer in Dubbo western NSW. I’m eligible to be nominated for permanent residency in December this year but now I’ve heard the permanent 187 visa is being closed in November. Is this true? What can I do? Jarleth T

Dear Jarleth, Yes, in early April, Immigration announced a number of changes to the Regional Skilled visa program.

‘Regional’ for the most part means any area in Australia outside Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. As part of the changes the Regional Sponsored Migration Stream (RSMS) 187 visa path will close on November 16, 2019. However, there are transitional arrangements or exemptions for anyone who holds or applied for a 482 visa on or before March 20, 2019.

If the above dates apply to you, you will still be able to apply for the 187 visas after November. The exemptions will also apply to anyone who holds or applied for the old 457 visas on or before April 17, 2017. You could also consider whether you can meet the requirements to apply for the 187 earlier via the Direct Entry Stream. This option does not require you to have worked for the employer on the 482/457 visa but may require you to first obtain a migration skills assessment that can be expensive and time consuming to get. See https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/regional-sponsor-migration-scheme-187

The 186 Employer Nomination Scheme permanent visa may also be an option. This has different requirements for the employer and a small nomination application fee.

The new regional visa options will begin on November 16, 2019. Two new temporary visas are the 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored and the 491 Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa.

Both will offer a pathway to the new permanent 191 visa but only after three years on the temporary visa. The employer sponsorship process for the 494 visas will operate a bit like the current 482 visas but the 494 will be a five-year visa and all occupations will have a pathway to the permanent 191 visas. More occupations will be added but these are yet to be announced.

The points tested temporary 491 skilled visa will require nomination by a state government or a family relative living in a designated regional area.

Additional points will be available that might make the option more attractive in this competitive arena. Additional points include: 15 points for state or family sponsorship; 10 points for a skilled partner; 5 points for a partner with competent English, and 10 points for applicants without a partner.

Both these temporary visas will cost $3,755 for the primary applicant, the same fees as a current PR application, but then the 191 PR application three years later will be a mere $385.

Additional fees will apply for each family member: $1,875 for partners and $940 for children.

So, while the initial fees are high, the overall cost of the 494 to 191 visas compared to the current 482 to 187/186 visa will be much lower.

When the new visas start it is intended that any area excluding Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Perth will be designated as a regional area. Regional visa holders may live in any designated regional area and can move between designated regional areas. The myriad changes to visa rules this year are complex.

Consider asking a registered migration agent for help with assessment of your eligibility.

John McQuaid is an Irish-born registered migration agent. Send him your questions here.

Skilled migrants facing tougher path to residency

Australia’s political leaders are nervous about immigration levels.

Australia’s political leaders are nervous about immigration levels.

Skilled workers looking to get sponsored by Australian companies face a more treacherous path to permanent residency no matter who gets elected this weekend.

Both Labor and the Coalition are promising further restrictions to temporary skilled visa holders and stricter rules for businesses looking to sponsor foreign workers.

Labor are under pressure from the union movement to protect Aussie jobs. The coalition has linked congestion problems in Australia’s biggest cities to high immigration numbers.

Labor has pledged to increase the minimum pay rate for foreign workers on skilled visas from $53,900 to $65,000 “to ensure it is not cheaper to bring in an overseas worker than pay a local worker.”

Immigration expert John McQuaid said this measure would hit workers in the hospitality industry hardest.

He said: “Unsurprisingly, the parties are not pandering to those on temporary visas because they can’t vote.

“With the raising of income on 457-styles visa, areas like hospitality and the service industry would be hurt most because they’ve been historically lower paid.  Café and restaurant staff and managers will find it tougher to get sponsored if this happens.”

The number of Irish workers applying for skilled visas in Australia is falling.

The number of Irish workers applying for skilled visas in Australia is falling.

A tightening of immigration rules and the ending of the 457 visa programme last year has made it more difficult for skilled workers to get sponsored by employers.

Figures from the Department of Home Affairs show 1,470 primary applications for a skilled visa were granted to Irish people up to June 30, 2018.

This was a 22 per cent fall on the previous year when 1,900 Irish people were granted a skilled visa.

The coalition government introduced Labor Market Testing to ensure Australians are always given priority for local jobs.  Employers can only bring in overseas workers if they can not find a suitable local candidate.

Businesses who hire a foreign worker must also pay upwards of $1,200 into a training fund for Australian workers.

If elected, Labor says it will clampdown on employers who “artificially inflate salaries” by offering foreign workers substandard accommodation and inflated overtime hours.

It also plans to “restrict temporary work visas to jobs where there is a genuine skills shortage” and to introduce what it calls the Australian Jobs Test to prevent labour agreements from being entered into unless they create jobs for local workers.

It will also crack down on “unqualified temporary workers” with mandatory off-shore testing of foreign workers skills before a visa can be issued.

Extra funds will be used to increase workplace inspections and investigate employers who breach work visa regulations.

Would-be migrants prepared to live and work in rural areas for three years have a more linear path towards permanent residency.

Would-be migrants prepared to live and work in rural areas for three years have a more linear path towards permanent residency.

While these measures will make it more challenging to get sponsored, a new regional visa programme offers new opportunities for Irish people willing to move to rural areas.

Unveiled by the Liberal government in March, the new scheme offers 23,000 visas for skilled workers who are willing to live and work in regional Australia.

After three years of regional work, visa holders can apply for permanent residency.

Skilled migrants will be priority processed and can access a larger pool of jobs on the eligible occupation lists compared to those who live in major cities.

John McQuaid said the regional visas, which will be available from November 2019, offer new opportunities for Irish people who are willing to look beyond the big cities.

“There’s going to be additional occupations on the list for people willing to apply for regional visas. It will open up options for some people who previously didn’t qualify,” he explained.

“It could also be an attractive option for Irish people who grew up in rural Ireland who are much more at home in rural Australia than in the big cities and there’s plenty of promise in regional locations.”

While the regional visas offer a possible new pathway in, the Liberals have reduced the permanent migration cap by 15 per cent from 190,000 to 160,000 for the next four years.

Labor also believes an intake of 160,000 permanent migrants each year is “about right”.

Scott Morrison also hopes to attract more students to study in regional Australia with $15,000 scholarships being offered to 1,000 domestic and international students.

International students who study at regional universities can apply for an additional year in Australia on a post-study work visa.

Labor plan to relax grandparent visa scheme

Labor have promised to make it easier and cheaper for immigrants to bring their parents to Australia.

Labor have promised to make it easier and cheaper for immigrants to bring their parents to Australia.

Labor has promised to make it easier for immigrants to bring their elderly parents to Australia.

The new 870 visa allows older parents to “reunite” with their children and grandchildren in Australia for extended periods.

If elected on Saturday, Labor has promised to reduce the cost of a five year visa from $10,000 to $2,500 while a three year visa would decrease from $5,000 to $1,250.

The ALP has also pledged to remove the current cap of 15,000 visa places which would allow expat families to ‘sponsor’ both sets of parents instead of being restricted to just one set under existing visa regulations.

The Sponsored Parent Temporary Visa 870 was introduced last month by the Coalition government to allow Australian citizens or permanent residents to move their parents here for extended periods.

The 870 visa allows elderly parents to live here on a three or five year visa for a maximum of 10 years but does not allow them to work.

There is no minimum or maximum age limit for parents who wish to apply but they must show they have sufficient funds to support themselves whilst living here.

Those wishing to avail of these visas will need to take out private health insurance as they will not be covered by Medicare.

The child who is sponsoring the visa also commits to covering any health or age related expenses that may be incurred by their parents whilst living in Australia and must first be approved as a sponsor before a parent being can apply for the visa.   The sponsorship application fee is $420.

The sponsor must undergo police checks and have a minimum household income of $83,454 to qualify.

The new 870 visa allows Australian residents to ‘sponsor’ their parents to come to Australia for up to five years.

The new 870 visa allows Australian residents to ‘sponsor’ their parents to come to Australia for up to five years.

Applications from sponsors opened on April 17, and if approved, parents can apply for the 870 visa from July 1.

Unlike other parent visas, the 870 visa does not require the parent to meet the Balance of Family rule.

But the parent must have a child who holds Australian citizenship or permanent residency.

Immigration expert John McQuaid said the visas are attractive for Irish families who have permanent residency and would like to bring grandparents over to spend more time with grandchildren

He said: “It’s very attractive for couples in Australia who are starting to have children and would like to bring the grandparents out to help mind the children or just to spend quality time with their grandkids.

“The downside is there are no work rights for the grandparents and the family have to be able to show they have financial capacity to look after the grandparents while they are here.

“It’s a big financial commitment not to work for 3 or 5 years but it does suit some older grandparents who are retired and have good pensions.”

McQuaid said the new parent visas are in “big demand” and urged anyone who is interested to apply immediately as the quota will be filled quickly.

Applications for parents to apply (once their child has been approved as sponsor) open on July 1 and once filled, it will not re-open again until July the following year.

It’s very attractive for couples in Australia who are starting to have children and would like to bring the grandparents out to help mind the children or just to spend quality time with their grandkids.
— Immigration expert John McQuaid

The Liberal party has branded Labor’s proposal to remove the 15,000 cap if elected as “completely unsustainable.”

The Productivity Commission has estimated that the cost to taxpayers of a permanent parent visa holder was between $335,000 and $410,000 per adult.

John McQuaid has warned voters to take election promises on immigration with “a pinch of salt.”

He said: “When it comes to election time, immigration is a real political football –both parties love to shout about how they are going to fix the immigration situation.  Its electioneering. 

“If they (Labor) uncap the parent visas, Australia would be flooded with old people and it’s highly unlikely that would happen in my view.

“I think they might increase the quota but I can’t see them totally removing the cap.”

More details on how to apply for the 870 visa are available here.

Irish-born ex-bikie faces deportation under controversial policy

An Irish-born former bikie has lost his legal fight against deportation.

An Irish-born former bikie has lost his legal fight against deportation.

An Irish-born ex-bikie, who has lived here since he was six years old, faces deportation under a controversial Australian government policy.

Paul John Pennie’s visa was cancelled in 2016 and his appeal against deportation was rejected in the Federal Court last week.

Pennie, who moved to Australia with his parents in 1980, was sentenced in July 2015 to four-and-a-half years in a WA prison for charges including possessing methylamphetamine with intent to sell or supply and wilful destruction of evidence.

In January 2016, a delegate of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton cancelled Pennie’s visa, ruling he did not pass the character test due to his criminal record which included being a former vice president of the Bandidos bikies gang.

After the minister refused to revoke the cancellation, Pennie, now 44, took his case to the Federal Court but last Thursday his application was rejected.

According to the Federal Court’s transcript, Pennie has significant family ties in Australia and essentially none in Ireland. His parents, who live in Perth, are elderly and he is very close to his sister and her family.

His sister supported his appeal, telling the court that deportation to Ireland “would destroy him”.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s policy of deporting people who moved to Australia as children.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s policy of deporting people who moved to Australia as children.

In her judgement, Justice Katrina Banks-Smith referred directly to the level of access to healthcare, social welfare and housing support in Ireland which, she said, was similar to Australia.

A submission by Minister Dutton to the case asserted: “I accept that Mr Pennie departed Ireland as a young child and would experience significant difficulties in establishing and adjusting to life as an adult in Ireland. I also accept Mr Pennie's immediate family and social supports are in Australia and he may experience significant emotional and practical hardships upon return to Ireland. I find that Mr Pennie's psychological conditions may be exacerbated given his history of depression and suicidal ideation.

“However,” he added. “I find that as an Irish citizen Mr Pennie will have a level of access to healthcare, social welfare and housing support that is similar to other citizens of Ireland.”

Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí said he could not discuss individual cases but added: “Any Irish citizen who is deported to Ireland would have the same rights and entitlements as any other Irish citizen in terms of healthcare, access to housing and social services.”

He added: “The guidelines regarding the determination of habitual residence address the issue of returning emigrants very specifically. The guidelines state: “A person who had previously been habitually resident in the State and who moved to live and work in another country and then resumes his/her long-term residence in the State may be regarded as being habitually resident immediately on his/her return to the State.””

The Ambassador also said NGOs like Crosscare and Safe Home Ireland “provide advice and assistance to returning emigrants”.

Pennie, who suffers from heart failure (he suffered cardiac failure in 2014), Crohn's disease, depression and chronic pain, had claimed he feared a lack of medical care for his health issues in Ireland and that he would be homeless.

Since 2014, more than 4,000 people have been stripped of their Australian visa and returned to their country of birth, regardless of how long ago they left.

The policy has been criticised by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

In February, following a meeting with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, she said: “I’ve made it clear that New Zealand has no issue with Australia taking a dim view of newly arrived non-citizens committing crimes … but equally, the New Zealand people have a dim view of the deportation of people who move to Australia as children and have grown up there.”

Is the Irish government concerned that Australia is compelling people with criminal backgrounds and no particular support network in Ireland to reside there?

Ambassador Ó Caollaí said: “The majority of deportations of Irish citizens dealt with by the Embassy involve comparatively recently arrived Irish citizens who have overstayed their visa and the circumstances [outlined] don’t arise.”

Australia forcing family to leave because of toddler's illness

Christine and Anthony Hyde with their son Darragh.

Christine and Anthony Hyde with their son Darragh.

A Dublin couple and their young son are facing deportation from Australia because their son has Cystic Fibrosis.

Christine and Anthony Hyde moved from Dublin to Australia in 2009 and have been living in the small regional town of Seymour in rural Victoria for the best part of a decade.

But their three-year-old son Darragh, who has spent his whole life in Australia, has been deemed a health burden which has resulted in their visa application being rejected.

Ms Hyde completed an education degree and masters in special education since coming to Australia and is now an acting assistant principal at a local primary school. Her husband works as a part-time bus driver.

Because of the critical need for trained teachers in regional areas, the couple easily met the criteria for a skilled visa and were invited to apply for permanent residency in 2015, Ms Hyde said.

“On August 3, 2015 we applied to become permanent residents of Australia. A few weeks later our son was born and soon after he was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis,” she said.

“Our family’s application for permanent residency was then refused by the Australian Department of Home Affairs because they assessed Darragh as having a condition which make him a burden on the community.”

The Hydes have launched an online petition to appeal to decision-makers in Canberra regarding their case.

Only ministerial intervention can now keep the family in Australia, they say.

“Unless the Hon David Coleman MP (Minister for Immigration), Hon Peter Dutton MP (Minister for Home Affairs) can help us, we will be forced to leave our friends, family, and the life we have built for ourselves in Australia,” Ms Hyde wrote on the petition blog.

“Darragh has the support of his family, our large support network in Seymour and the wider Australian community. By signing this petition, you are showing your support for Darragh and his life in Australia and you believe that he should be allowed to stay in Australia and have the opportunity to contribute to our community.”

Their situation is complicated by the announcement of the federal election on May 18 which means the government is in caretaker mode.

Doubts cast on Morrison government's 'bush visas' plan

Australia’s skilled immigration system is facing another shake-up.

Australia’s skilled immigration system is facing another shake-up.

Doubt has been cast on whether the Morrison government’s plan to compel large numbers of would-be skilled migrants to regional areas will work.

Under new plans aimed at easing congestion in the major cities released on March 19, as many as 9,000 skilled migrants each year will have to live and work in rural or regional parts of Australia for a period of three years if they want to apply for permanent residency.

These designated areas essentially includes everywhere except Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and south-east Queensland but does include the cities of Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart and Newcastle.

The new Skilled Regional Provisional visas, along with other incentives such as priority processing, will enhance opportunities for regional Australia, the government says. 

“They will enable regional businesses to fill vacant jobs faster and encourage skilled migrants and their families to settle and remain in regional areas,” the announcement said. “There will be greater incentives for regional employers to nominate skilled workers, including access to additional regional occupations and priority processing of regional visa applications.’

“We’re only talking about people going into places where there are jobs and opportunities,” the Prime Minister said at a press conference in Canberra announcing the plan. “We have a lot of shires around the country saying to us ‘we want people’.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants more skilled immigrants to live and work in regional Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants more skilled immigrants to live and work in regional Australia.

But immigration experts have claimed that demand for existing regional visas is actually falling and have cast doubt on the PM’s claims just months before an anticipated federal election in May.

One migration agent said the new ‘three years in the bush’ provision would “be a turn-off for many”.

“A larger number of the visas available will require migrants to first take a provisional visa to live in a regional area and then, after proving they have lived there for three years have the opportunity to apply for permanent residence,” he said. “This will suit some but will be a major turn-off for many.”

Minister for Immigration David Coleman said permanent residency would be the carrot for new migrants to ‘go bush’.

“For people who emigrate to Australia, permanent residency is at the top of their priority list,” he said.

“It means that you can stay in the country and plan your future in this nation. So by linking the requirement that a person stays in a regional area for three years to their permanent residency, we will see a very, very high level of compliance with that requirement.”

Minister Coleman said if applicants did not comply “they won't get permanent residency and they will not be allowed to settle in Australia”.

Millions of dollars have been allocated to monitor compliance within the scheme. After three years applicants must prove they have lived and worked in the regions but Prime Minister Morrison played down fears of a ‘big brother’ approach by his government.

[If applicants do not stay in regional areas for three years] they won’t get permanent residency and they will not be allowed to settle in Australia
— Minister for Immigration David Coleman

“There is a strong self-assessment process to this because people need to demonstrate where they have been. Through people’s own records, where their addresses have been and where their power bills are, their employment records, their tax file numbers - all these sorts of things - we have a pretty reasonable understanding of where people have been and where they've been living.

“[But] the suggestion of some sort of walking the beat enforcement arrangement here is obviously ridiculous.”

The Irish Echo has confirmed however that if applicants for the Skilled Regional Provisional visas are made redundant during the qualification period, it will be up to them to find another job or their dreams of residency may vanish.

The latest statistics show that demand for regional visas (the current 187 employer sponsored visa) has actually fallen from 10,198 places in 2016/17 to 6221 places in 2017/18, a 39 per cent drop.










Can I sponsor my elderly parents to come to Australia?

John McQuaid answers your visa questions.

John McQuaid answers your visa questions.

Hi John, I am a permanent resident in Australia for 10 years. We are looking for options for my parents to move to Australia. We have looked at the parent visa but don’t think they qualify because they don’t meet the balance of family test? I’m one of three brothers, the other two are still living in Ireland, though one is thinking of making the move out here. What can we do? TJ

Dear TJ , It seems at the present time your parents don’t currently meet the “the balance of family test” for the permanent parent visa options. This test means that more of your parents’ children must be living in Australia than in any other country. You can access a table to check this out (immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/contributory-parent-143/balance-of-family-test)

However , there are some alternatives to consider .

On March 1, 2019, the immigration minister announced that applications to sponsor a parent for an 870 parent temporary visa will open on April 17.

This visa option will not have a balance of family test .

Once the sponsors application is approved, your parent(s) will be able to apply for the visa.

Applications for the 870 visas are intended to open from July 1, 2019.

The visa allows parents to remain in Australia for up to five years at a time without departing. A further five-year visa can be applied for after leaving Australia for at least three months .

To be eligible for the visa a parent must be the biological, adoptive, or step-parent of the sponsor, who must be an Australian citizen or Australian permanent resident. A cap of 15,000 sponsored parent 870 visas will be granted each year. Expect queues to form very quickly. The fee for the sponsorship application will be $420.

The 870 visa application fees are listed at $5,000 for three-year visa or $10,000 for five years

The visa fees will be payable in two instalments, one at time of application and the remainder paid before the visa is granted. The 870 visas do not confer work rights . Applicants will be expected to be able to show source of funds to support themselves and have high-level health insurance.

The full rules and regulations have yet to be released.

There is also low-cost, longer-validity visitor visa available for parents of Australian permanent residents and citizens. Fees start at $140.

These longer visitor visas can only be applied for while you are outside Australia.

These 600 visas allow a maximum stay of 12 months in any 18-month period. For instance, if you have just spent 12 months in Australia, you would need to spend at least the next six months outside Australia. Otherwise, Immigration may deem you are trying to take up residence and possibly cancel the visa.

If you are not in the parent queue, you can still get a longer stay visitor visa. The duration of the visa will depend on whether you have had a history of travelling to Australia previously and leaving within your visa period. Three-year visas are given to people with a good history of visa compliance.

If it’s your first visa to Australia it may only be granted for 18 months.

For these longer-term visitor visas you will need high-level private health coverage. Immigration is likely to ask for evidence of insurance.

John McQuaid is an Irish-born registered migration agent. Send him your questions here.

Many would be emigrants caught in visa limbo

Many Irish workers have been left in visa limbo.

Many Irish workers have been left in visa limbo.

Changes to Australian visas have people waiting for their 457 visa application to be processed worried that they could not only not be granted leave to stay in Australia but they could also lose the money they spent on their applications.

When the rules changed, many occupations were removed or downgraded and those who were eligible for a four year visa and to apply for permanent residency can now only get two years. A 457 application should take 5-10 months but applications have been taking longer to process since the changes were announced.

Australia scrapped its skilled 457 visa programme last year. The programme had allowed tens of thousands of Irish workers to enter the country legally since 1996. The visa changes were announced in 2017 by then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who said he wanted “to put Australians first.”

Turnbull alleged the 457 visa was being misused by employers to import cheaper workers and not to fill genuine skill shortages.

For individuals who have a 457 application in progress with the department, it is open to them to wait until a decision is made on their application
— Department of Home Affairs

The 457 visa was replaced with the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS) 482 but the list of occupations that qualify for the 482, is significantly reduced. The new visas has been described as limited, expensive and with an intimidating amount of paper work.

People can apply for a refund of their visa fees but there are no guarantees. The employer's nomination fee of $330 is not refundable.

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told The Irish Echo: "The Department assesses all valid visa applications unless the application is withdrawn. For individuals who have a 457 application in progress with the department, it is open to them to wait until a decision is made on their application. Refunds are only available in limited circumstances and does not include circumstances where an applicant has withdrawn their application due to change of mind."

The people affected by the situation are often in Australia on bridging visas. They may no longer be entitled to a four year visa. If they have to apply for a 482 visa, they may not be entitled to work rights under any new bridging visa while they wait for the application to be processed.

The Home Affairs Spokesperson continued: "The bridging visa held in association with a 482 visa application will remain valid until the 482 visa application is finalised. Applicants holding a bridging visa with no work rights may apply for permission to work. Each request is assessed on a case by case basis."

People who applied for 457 visas before 18th April 2017, when the new rules were announced by Malcolm Turnbull, were to be protected by the old rules and still avail of permanent residency applications, shorter temporary transition periods before applying for permanent residency and the higher age bracket. But these may not apply if they have to make a new application for a 482.

The Department fo Home Affairs says: "Transitional arrangements were put in place in March 2018, in relation to certain requirements for people who held or applied for a subclass 457 visa before 18 April 2017.

Changes to the visa rules have made it more difficult for many skilled workers.

Changes to the visa rules have made it more difficult for many skilled workers.

"People who held a 457 visa before March 2018 and meet the various requirements, including being nominated in an eligible occupation, can apply for permanent residence through the Direct Entry (DE) stream of the subclass 186 or 187 visa.

"People who held a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017, or had applied for a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017 that was subsequently granted, are able to access certain existing provisions under the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream.

"Eligible overseas workers will need to lodge an application for permanent residence within four years, by March 2022."

Thousands of Irish availed of the 457 following the economic crash ten years ago.

The new visa has also limited availability and is only obtainable as a short-term visa, for a maximum two years, or a medium-term visa up to four years.

Brian (not his real name) is one of those caught in an immigration no-man’s land.

He came to Australia with his wife and two children. He has been on a 457 since 2014 as a carpenter. His first employer nominated him for permanent residence. Brian spent $7,000+ agents' fees on the permanent residence application. Then his employer went out of business before the PR was granted. As a result, Brian’s PR visa was not granted. He lost the $7,000+ and had to start again.

Brian then had to move his 457 visa to a new employer, but his visa only had a few months left so he had to then apply for a new 457 visa. He paid new 457 fees of $2,700. He applied for his second 457 visa in December 2017. The employer’s part was granted in October 2017 so expired in October 2018. Brian’s second 457 visa cannot now be granted.

Brian will be forced to re-apply for a 482 visa. The 482 visa costs are more than double the fees he paid for the 457 visas. 482 visa fees will be $5,500.

Brian's employer lost $330 on the first application, but will now be forced to pay the new Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy of $7,200 to lodge the new nomination. A huge cost that will surely deter a lot of employers from even agreeing to proceed.

It was also reported in October that more than 630 Irish people had been deported from Australia over the last two years according to figures released by the Australian Department of Home Affairs.

Overstaying a visa, having a visa cancelled or invalid visas were the most common reasons for their deportation.

Working holidays can now stretch to three years

Regional farm work is key to extending your working holiday visa.

Regional farm work is key to extending your working holiday visa.

The Australian Government has announced changes to the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa which will allow backpackers to stay in the country for up to three years.

The changes, which came into force on November 5, come on the back of a relaxation of the age limits for Irish and Canadian WHM applicants who are now eligible up to the age of 35.

The more recent changes to the WHM visa program include:

• Increasing the period in which subclass 417 and 462 visa holders can stay with the same agricultural (plant and animal cultivation) employer, from 6 to 12 months and

• The option of a third-year for subclass 417 and 462 visa holders who, after July 1, 2019, undertake six months of specified work in a specified regional area during their second year.

According to the Australian government, the changes have been introduced to “provide farmers with immediate access to workers in key parts of regional Australia”.

Employers will be able to retain trained and experienced employees doing agricultural work for up to twelve months, rather than the previous six.

This work includes harvesting and/or packing of fruit and vegetables; pruning or trimming vines and trees; crop work; processing of plant products; maintaining farm animals as well as shearing, butchery, packing and tanning work.

Currently, WHMs can remain in the country for up to two years on that visa.

Working holiday visa age limit increased to 35

backpacker.jpg

From today, the reciprocal age limit for Irish and Australian citizens to get a Working Holiday visa has been increased to 35.

Before today, applicants had to be no more than 30 years old to get a ‘backpacker’ visa.

The increased age limit for Australia in only available to Irish and Canadian citizens.

Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman said the new arrangements will strengthen Australia's close and long standing ties with Ireland.

"Both Canada and Ireland have been part of Australia's Working Holiday Maker program since it began in 1975, so it is fitting that they are the first countries to become eligible for the extended age range," Mr Coleman said.  "Last year, more than 16,000 citizens from Canada and Ireland were granted Working Holiday visas for Australia, with many of them living and working in regional and rural areas during their stay."

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the change would “not only allow a more diverse group of people to avail of this scheme, but also help to strengthen those links between our two countries even further”.

Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, who is visiting Australia on official business, added: “Since the Working Holiday Programme began in 1975, it is estimated that more than 275,000 young Irish people have spent up to two years in Australia under this scheme. In 2017 alone, some 8,653 visas were issued to Irish citizens under the Working Holiday Programme. The agreement to extend the age eligibility on a reciprocal basis underscores the wide-reaching success of this programme to date.”

The Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) is a temporary visa for young people who want to holiday and work in Australia for up to a year. You must be outside Australia when you apply for your first Working Holiday visa and when the visa is decided. If you apply for a second Working Holiday visa, you must be in Australia when the visa is granted. If you apply outside Australia, you must be outside Australia when the visa is granted. You can generally only work six months with one employer but many Irish nationals use the visa as a stepping stone for employer sponsorship and eventually, permanent migration.