Assurance of Support
- Assurance of Support: A History
- Mandatory Assurances of Support
- Discretionary Assurances of Support
- Assurance of Support for the Community Support Program
- The Assurance of Support Period
- Requirements for Qualification as an Assurer
- Social Security Payments covered by the AoS
- Further Information
An Assurance of Support (AoS) is given for migrants who enter Australia under certain visa types, specified by the Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs). Some visa applicants are required to obtain an AoS before their visa application can be approved. An AoS is a legally binding and unconditional commitment by an Australian resident (the assurer) to support the migrant (the assuree) and repay any recoverable Australian social security payments that may be paid to the assuree during their AoS period. An AoS period can be 12 months, two years, four years or ten years, depending on the type of visa sub-class.
The AoS scheme allows migrants with a higher likelihood of needing income support payments, such as parents of Australian residents, entry into Australia, while protecting Australian Government social security outlays.
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Assurance of Support: A History
In Australia, a concept similar to the current AoS scheme dates from the early 1900s. In 1912, a system was introduced whereby guarantees were given by sponsors that provision would be made for the maintenance of sponsored migrants to avoid their becoming a charge on the state.
In the 1920s maintenance guarantees were introduced. These guarantees provided for the recovery of any public monies and, as they were in Australia on a temporary basis, the payment of the migrant's return passage should they return to their country of origin. The guarantee period was for five years from date of arrival in Australia.
In 1955, the recoverable costs under a maintenance guarantee became more specific and included medical (surgical or dental) costs; age, invalid or widow's pensions; unemployment, sickness or rehabilitation benefits; or any other allowances paid by the Commonwealth, State, public or charitable institutions. The guarantee period was reduced to three years.
Under the Migration Act 1958, recoverable costs under the maintenance guarantee included accommodation, surgical, dental and special benefits. This remained in force until migration reforms in 1989.
In 1982, the maintenance guarantee was renamed 'Assurance of Support' (AoS). In 1985 assurances were made effective for ten years or until Australian citizenship was obtained by the migrant.
From 1989, all parents who applied under the immigration family reunion program were required to be covered by an AoS. The AoS period was reduced to five years regardless of whether the migrant became an Australian citizen.
In August 1991, a new AoS scheme was introduced. It saw the introduction of a monetary bond and the Migration Health Services Charge and a broadening of recoverable payments. The AoS period was reduced to two years.
In July 2003, Contributory Parent Visa was introduced, allowing a further 4,000 parents to migrate to Australia, in addition to the existing 500 parent visa places. This visa requires assurers to provide a guarantee to meet the assurees' welfare costs during a 10-year AoS period.
Before 30 June 2004 the AoS scheme was operated by Home Affairs under the Migration Regulations 1994 and the Department of Social Services (DSS), through Services Australia.
Home Affairs decided when a migrant required an AoS, and whether a monetary bond needed to be lodged. Home Affairs also assessed the financial situation of the potential assurer through minimum income test requirements, and approved the AoS. Home Affairs held details of the assurer.
Services Australia was responsible for assessing the assuree's claim for social security payments, should such a claim have been made during the AoS period. It was also responsible for raising a debt against the assurer to recover the amount of any social security payments paid to the assuree during the AoS period.
From 1 July 2004, responsibility for the AoS scheme was transferred to DSS. Home Affairs continued to decide whether a potential migrant requires an AoS; however, Services Australia took over the assessment of potential assurers. Services Australia now approves the AoS and notifies Home Affairs that approval has been given. Services Australia also assumed responsibility for the lodgement of a monetary bond, if one is required. Services Australia continues to administer the AoS debt recovery and waiver processes, while the rights of review of a decision pertaining to the assurer remain under the Social Security Act 1991.
Changes to the AoS scheme were introduced with effect from 1 January 2008, under the Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment (Further 2007 Budget Measures) Act 2007.
Some key changes to the AoS scheme effective from 1 January 2008 were:
- removal of mandatory and discretionary AoS from all skilled visa subclasses and carer visa subclasses 116 and 836;
- a simpler formula for income test thresholds and changes to assessable income to include fringe benefits, foreign income, tax free pensions or benefits etc.; and
- security for the two-year AoS increased to $5,000 for primary visa applicant and $2,000 for secondary applicant.
The Social Security (Assurances of Support) (FaHCSIA) Determination 2007 gave effect to these changes from 1 January 2008.
Further changes to the AoS scheme were introduced from 1 April 2018 in the Social Security (Assurances of Support) Determination 2018. An amended Determination was registered on the Federal Register of Legislation on 23 May 2018 that returned the AoS requirements, including the income threshold for assurers, to the settings that were in place prior to 1 April 2018. The changes applied retrospectively from 1 April 2018.
As part of the Encouraging Self-Sufficiency for Newly Arrived Migrants 2018-19 Budget measure, a second amended Determination was registered on the Federal Register of Legislation on 12 February 2019. This change increased the AoS period for certain visas, in line with changes to newly arrived resident’s waiting period, from two years to four years.
Changes to the AoS scheme for Community Support Program (CSP) entrants (see below) were introduced as part of the Reform of Settlement and Services measure announced in the 2021-22 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. From 1 July 2022, the Social Security (Assurances of Support) Amendment Determination 2022 increased the number of CSP entrants an individual or organisation can sponsor under an AoS. Additional changes were introduced through the 2022 Amendment Determination to clarify the financial capacity test for corporations and unincorporated bodies. These additional changes apply to any organisation seeking to provide an AoS and are not limited just to organisations providing an AoS for a CSP entrant.
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Mandatory Assurances of Support
If the visa carries a mandatory AoS provision, an acceptable AoS must be provided, including the lodgement of a monetary bond, in order for the visa to be granted. This bond is a source of available funds for AoS debt recovery purposes if recoverable social security payments are made to the assuree during the AoS period. The bond is lodged and held by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia for the entire AoS period. It is released to the assurer at the end of the AoS period, with the deduction of any amount needed to repay recoverable social security payments to Services Australia.
The amount of the bond is determined by the visa class for which the migrant is applying.
For an individual assurer, the bond amounts are:
- for contributory parent visas (10-year AoS): $10,000 for the primary visa applicant and $4,000 for any adult secondary visa applicant
- for other visas (2-year or 4-year AoS): $5,000 for the primary visa applicant and $2,000 for any adult secondary visa applicant.
For corporations and unincorporated bodies providing an AoS, the bond amounts are:
- for contributory parent visas (10-year AoS): $20,000 (to cover a maximum of 2 adult assurees)
- for other visas (2-year or 4-year AoS): $10,000 (to cover a maximum of 2 adult assurees).
Discretionary Assurances of Support
If the visa applied for carries a discretionary AoS provision, Home Affairs will assess whether an applicant is at risk of becoming a charge on Australia's welfare system. A monetary bond is not required for a discretionary AoS.
Assurance of Support for the Community Support Program
The Community Support Program (CSP) was announced as part of the 2017-18 Budget and commenced on 1 July 2017. The CSP allows humanitarian entrants (i.e. applicants for a subclass 202 Global Special Humanitarian visa) to be sponsored by individuals, community organisations and business groups. Sponsors are responsible for providing adequate support to CSP entrants for the first 12 months in Australia. CSP entrants are subject to a discretionary AoS of 12 months.
The Assurance of Support Period
For both mandatory and discretionary AoSs, the AoS period is deemed to start from the date the assuree arrives in Australia, or the date the relevant visa is granted, whichever occurs later. The AoS period is four years in the case of most visas and one year for the Community Support Program. The remaining and orphan relative AoS period is two years. The Contributory Parent AoS period is ten years in duration.
Requirements for Qualification as an Assurer
There are a number of qualification requirements that a potential assurer must meet in order to provide an AoS to a migrant.
For an individual seeking to be an assurer, they must:
- be over the age of 18 years
- be either an Australian citizen, permanent resident or protected Special Category Visa holder living in Australia, and
- meet income test requirements to prove that they are financially capable of supporting their assuree(s) and repaying any social security debts which may be incurred if the assuree(s) claims a recoverable payment during the AoS period.
If individuals cannot meet the income test, the possibility of becoming a joint assurer is open to them. The combined income must satisfy the modified income test which takes account of both assurers' family circumstances.
Corporations and unincorporated bodies, including state/territories agencies, can also apply to be an assurer. Different eligibility rules apply for these assurers.
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Social Security Payments covered by the AoS
If the assuree receives one or more of the following payments from Services Australia during the AoS period, Services Australia has the legal right and responsibility to recover the amount paid from the assurer through its normal debt recovery procedures:
- Jobseeker Payment
- Youth Allowance
- Austudy Payment
- Parenting Payment
- Special Benefit
Note: Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance and Sickness Allowance were also recoverable payments. These payments are no longer paid; however, payments made to an assuree prior to their cessation are still recoverable under the AoS scheme.
If the assuree lodges a claim for any of these payments, Services Australia will contact the assurer in order to establish that they are neither willing nor able to support the assuree before the payment is granted. Services Australia must also be satisfied that it is unreasonable for the assuree to accept support from the assurer before payment is granted.
If Services Australia is satisfied that the assurer is not willing or able to support the assuree, or that it is unreasonable for the assuree to accept this help, payment may be granted. However, the amount of payment that the assuree receives will be raised as a debt against the assurer. This places the onus of providing financial support onto the assurer while ensuring the assuree has financial assistance should this be necessary.
If there is a monetary bond, Services Australia will recover any debt from this. If no bond exists, or the bond is less than the debt amount, Services Australia will recover the balance owed using its normal debt recovery processes.
At all stages during the AoS process, the applicant has the right of appeal to a Services Australia Authorised Review Officer and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
More information about the AoS scheme is available on the Services Australia website.