The first thing that needs to be said is that where possible the aim should always be to lodge an application with DIAC that is as complete as possible. This makes the processing of the application as simple as a complicated process can be for all concerned. DIAC have no wish to write one letter after another to an applicant asking for forms and/or supporting documents that have not been supplied.
DIAC’s best case scenario is be able to be able to triage an application, confirm that everything required is there, do the necessary processing checks and make a decision. Needless to say that also works for every genuine applicant. It’s a ‘win win’ as they say in game theory.
Having said that the majority of applications (I suspect the vast majority) received by DIAC are incomplete in one or more areas. This is usually caused by the applicant but there are certainly plenty of situations where the DIAC process results in an application not containing every necessary document. The obvious example is offshore applications and medicals. The new system now is for DIAC or the Immigration section in an overseas post to send out a medical letter which the applicant takes to the panel doctors with their medical forms. The medical then proceeds and the panel doctors upload the results which DIAC can then view online – eHealth. Is it better? Faster at the DIAC processing end if you forget about having to send out the request letter but generally slower for the applicant who was able to simply include a sealed medical with the application. Perhaps less paper flying around but I’m not really sure about that one.
DIAC have a document checklist for every application well most of them anyway. You can find these by digging through the multiple layers on their website or simply going to the Search and typing the visa subclass number + Checklist (eg. 820 Checklist). These are very wordy documents full of hyperlinks and it’s not hard to see how applicants can get lost in the DIAC website as they jump from one to the other. The hyperlinks don’t work so well if you have printed out the checklist!
I hate to say it but there are often subsequent DIAC requests for additional forms. My favourite is the 1221 (Additional personal particulars information). Does anyone know what this form is for? It is just the same information which applicants have already filled out many times in a slightly less logical or rational order. I’ve taken to always putting it in as it still alludes as to when it’s required (& why). The good old 886 Settlement form was also fun although to be fair this sometimes came after visa grant (sometimes).
One of the troubles of course with the aspiration to lodge a decision ready application is that some areas are subjective – for example in Partner applications ‘evidence of a genuine and continuing relationship’. How much is enough? How do you figure that out? In the end it depends on the assessment of an individual, your case officer and while they are guided by the DIAC Procedures Advice Manuals (PAMS) the humanity of the process leads to a wide spectrum of requests in this area. In addition to proof of relationship varies greatly between relationships and visa applications. A partner application can be a short novel while to prove an ENS applicant has a partner may be a Marriage Certificate and a few cheesy photos.
Generally we have to accept that every application ends up on a desk in a DIAC office with a case officer. In my experience DIAC officers work through their work load methodically. There are of course variations from person to person but the process is fundamentally impersonal. Applicants are assessed against the Migration Regulations; where necessary there are interactions / requests / submissions and eventually an outcome. From my perspective it’s the annoying things that stand out – what seem unreasonable requests, requests for documents that have already been provided, stuff ups and errors but they are few and far between and always simply human error. It’s instructive to tell yourself, as I often do, that we all make mistakes and hence we all need to be understanding within reason. Additionally you tend to remember the odd events and all the smoothly processed applications slide away into hazy memories.
Some applications allow for “Agent Decision Ready Checklists”. These can be used by Registered Migration Agents (and I assume specialist lawyers). These live in the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) pathway to permanent residence. They are great – simple, manual, and easy to use (and good for business from my perspective). There are still areas where you might wonder what’s needed and how much but experience solves that problem.
It’s also important to remember that there are times when it’s simply not possible to make a perfect or decision ready application. Some documents are very difficult to obtain and some countries do not give up documents without a fight. Then of course all visas have expiry dates and it’s always better to lodge an incomplete application than no application at all or to lodge it after a visa has expired. Being unlawful is never helpful and always best avoided. If you’re stuck in this situation make it clear in the cover letter to your application. List out what you have not been able to provide at time of application, say why briefly and give DIAC an idea of when you’ll be able to provide the document(s) – communication.
So what can you do to lodge the “perfect” application?
- Read all the available DIAC information
- Get the checklist
- Create your own checklist from the DIAC one and all your other reading (keep it simple)
- Be methodical and always attach a list of everything your submitting (a table of contents / list of documents)
- If your uncertain find an expert to look over your application (you’ll have to pay for this)
- If you need it get the application done professionally. Remember some applications are more complex – examples: any Business Skills application, any 457 Business Long Stay or ENS application, and Remaining Relative or Carer applications.
Immigration applications are not rocket science but they do require a significant ability to get all the details correct and consistent. Most applicants do not have access to or the ability to read and interpret, The Migration Act, The Migration Regulations, DIAC’s Procedures Advice Manuals (PAMS) and Ministerial Instructions and Guidelines. If you’re uncertain get help.