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 There have been several changes over the past 12 months for those applying for spousal exemptions under Section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act.

We know that the Department of Health take a hard line on certain exemptions from time to time however it now seems they have nearly eliminated the eligibility of an entire group of applicants – those with skilled migrant spouses who are not medical practitioners.

To provide some background, if you are a GP who is under the moratorium you may be eligible for a spousal exemption to work in a non-DPA area if you meet certain eligibility criteria and your spouse is either:

  • A medical practitioner who is either:
    • Australian trained/not restricted in any way, or;
    • Holds an unrestricted s19AB exemption and provider number
  • A skilled migrant who has held a skilled working visa within the last 10 years and who is currently employed in that skilled profession

So why are those with skilled migrant spouses getting rejected?

There are several eligibility requirements for this exemption however the two main reasons for these new rejections are the following:

  • Spouses do not hold General Migration Visas

In the past we have had applications approved for those with partners who were on skilled working visas such as the 482 visa or an employer sponsored permanent resident visa such as the 186.

However, the department have now clarified that the spouse must have held a general skilled migration visa which are classified as visa subclasses 189, 190, 489 and 491.

This rules out a lot of people as most skilled migrants come to Australia under the 482 visa. The 189 visa is virtually impossible to get these days due to high points requirements so most people will generally go down the employer sponsored pathway instead.

  • Spouses didn’t require the ‘correct’ skills assessment

Some skilled migrants are exempt from skills assessments depending on their occupation and the company they are working for. Whereas others completed a skills assessment a few years ago when it was done by a different authority then it is now, or the process was different.

So even though the person is working in their occupation and holds their skilled visa, they are forced to go back and complete (and pay for) a skills assessment with the authority the department needs so that their spouse can apply for a spousal exemption.

These authorities have been obviously confused when they receive these requests. For example, we had a spouse who was a Dentist and held a valid AHPRA registration and a provider number but was told they needed proof of a skills assessment even though the process was different 6 years ago when they came to Australia.

This point has been argued and no consideration is being given to these situations

Despite these spouses being genuinely skilled workers, the applications are being rejected on a technicality due to, we assume, the ability for the department to reduce the number of IMGs working in non-DPA areas.

As we know from experience, it all comes down to their interpretation of the legislation at that time.

If you believe you may be eligible for a spousal exemption, Alecto can provide you with a free assessment of your situation and can assist with your application for a small fee, just contact us at [email protected]