Thursday, May 14, 2009

Increased visa fees to fund embassy makeovers

If you are going to apply for an Australian Student visa anytime soon, then be adviced that there may be a steep increase in the fee...according to this news article from "The Australian"

Increased visa fees to fund embassy makeovers

FOREIGN students wanting to study in Australia will be forced to pay an extra 20 per cent for their entry permits after another hike in visa fees.

Humanitarian arrivals, tourists and temporary residents who were hit with visa fee increases last year have been spared further pain.

But students, business people, skilled migrants and certain family categories are going to be hit hard, with the new measures expected to raise $402.3 million over the next four years.

For foreign students, the changes mean a hike from $450 to about $540 for each application.

It will also cost more to become an Australian citizen, with the application fee up 10 per cent to $260 for people born overseas.

The additional revenue will help offset the cost of building several new embassies.

The Bangkok embassy, one of the most important in Asia, is to be relocated to a more secure area, as will the Jakarta mission, which was severely damaged in a terrorist attack in 2005.

It will also help pay the $1million it cost the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to evacuate Australians stranded in Bangkok last year when anti-government protesters occupied the country's main airport.

Canberra's container-based diplomats in Kabul will be pleased to learn that $3 million has been allocated for a study of where to put a new embassy in the Afghan capital. The money will match a dramatic increase in military and civilian aid.

Australia's foreign-based spies get $43.7 million over four years, money the Australian Secret Intelligence Service will spend on enhancing counter-terrorism capabilities in the immediate region.

Security at diplomatic posts will get a $54 million budget boost, including $18.7 million in capital funding. "The measure aims to ensure adequate levels of protection are provided for personnel, visitors, property and information. This includes enhancement to both physical, information and communication technology security," the budget papers say.

Recognising the continuing threat posed by terrorism, the Government has allocated $28.1million to DFAT for counter-terror activities focused primarily in Southeast Asia.

Building on Kevin Rudd's First National Security Statement in December, the budget includes $106.5 million over four years to strengthen diplomacy, advance trade prospects and protect Australians abroad. The Prime Minister's hopes of securing a non-permanent UN Security Council seat will be helped by an extra $11.2million in lobbying funds. If successful it will have Australia sitting on the council for a two-year term from 2013-14.

"Membership of the Security Council would enhance Australia's ability to shape international responses to security issues," the papers say. "The measure will help support the campaign through funding additional staff at the New York mission, supplementing smaller missions on an as-needs basis, deploying special envoys and supporting ministerial campaigning."