What is an Assurance of Support?
Assurances of support can be required for a number of visa types. Simply stated, an assurance of support is an agreement to financially assist a migrating family if necessary, to ensure that cost to the Australian taxpayer is minimised. The assurer agrees to repay social security payments claimed by the visa applicant or members of the family migrating to Australia. These payments include:
- Special Benefit
- Newstart Allowance
- Widow Allowance
- Mature Age Allowance
- Parenting Payment (Partnered)
- Partner Allowance
- Youth Allowance
- Austudy Payment
- Crisis Payment
Who Can Give an Assurance of Support?
Generally, the Assurance of Support is provided by a family member living in Australia, however it is not necessary for the assurer to be a relative, so long as they can show sufficient taxable income in Australia to meet the requiremnts to be approved as an assurer.
Assurances of support can also be given by Corporations or Unincorporated Bodies. It is also possible for up to 3 people to lodge a joint assurance of support – in this case, the income of each person can be counted towards the required minimum.
Limitations on Assurances of Support
It is only possible for an individual to act as assurer for two adults at a time. There is no limit to the number of people a company can assure at once.
Types of Assurance of Support
There are 2 types of Assurance of Support:
- Mandatory or Bonded Assurance of Support
- Discretionary or Unbonded Assurance of Support
A Mandatory Assurance of Support is required for sponsored skilled migration visas, parents, remaining relatives, and aged dependent relatives. For these types of visa, the Assurance of Support is required for grant of the visa in all cases.
For Mandatory Assurances of Support, a bond is payable. The bond is held for 2 years for most types of visa (or 10 years for contributory parent visas). Centrelink payments which are claimed by the visa applicant and migrating family are deducted first from this bond, and any amount in excess of the bond is recovered from the assurer.
A Discretionary Assurance of Support can be requested by the Department of Immigration for a wide range of visas, but is most often requested where sponsorship is required for grant of the visa – for instance child visas. Most commonly, a Discretionary Assurance of Support is requested where the income of the sponsor is quite low. No bond is required for the Discretionary Assurance of Support, but a similar income requirement applies (except if the assurer is single with no child dependents).
Note that from 1 January 2012, no Assurance of Support is required for provisional partner visas.
Financial Requirements to be an Assurer
Assurers must meet minimum taxable income requirements. The income can only be evidenced by Australian Taxation Office (ATO) Notices of Assessment. The Notices of Assessment are issued by the ATO when the assurer lodges their tax return, and indicate the taxable income.
The taxable income must be shown for the last 2 financial years (or the 2 prior to that, if the latest Notice of Assessment is not yet available). The assurer also needs to show that the income is still at the required minimum, by providing a letter from their employer or payslips.
Note that assets cannot generally be taken into consideration in assessing the financial capacity as an assurer. The only situation where these can be taken into account is where the Assurance of Support is discretionary, and the income is within 10% of what is required.