3.7.2.20 Substantial Change in Circumstances for SpB

Substantial change in circumstances

Some newly arrived persons may qualify for SpB during the NARWP, if they have experienced a substantial change in circumstances beyond their control after arrival in Australia and are able to satisfy the available funds test.

Policy reference: SS Guide 4.2.6 SpB Income Test & Limits

Factors to consider for newly arrived persons

Newly arrived persons are required to have attempted to obtain support from all possible alternative sources before being granted SpB. Before SpB can be paid, the delegate must be satisfied that:

  • the change in circumstances is substantial and beyond the person's control and occurred after arrival in Australia, AND
  • they are in financial hardship and are able to satisfy the available funds test, AND
  • they have attempted to obtain a sufficient livelihood. For example, they have attempted to obtain support from their sponsor (1.1.S.290), or have attempted to obtain employment, or if sponsored by a business, have attempted to work for their sponsor, AND
  • their available funds or support options were depleted because of the change in circumstances.

Note: The person is not required to seek support from charity organisations.

The newly arrived person may be required to meet an activity test requirement (3.7.5.20).

Policy reference: SS Guide 9.2 Visa subclasses & payment eligibility for visas issued after 1/9/94

Confirmation of changed circumstances

All newly arrived persons claiming to be in hardship due to substantially changed circumstances must substantiate their claim with documentation. If necessary, a referral should be obtained for a social worker assessment and assistance.

Example: A claim that a pre-arranged job fell through would have to be substantiated by evidence both that a job offer existed and that at the time it was withdrawn, the person was in Australia.

Policy reference: SS Guide 8.1.4.60 Special payments - documentation required, 8.1.7.20 Social Worker Involvement - Specific Payments

Available funds

A newly arrived person's available funds should NOT be taken to be depleted purely because they:

  • cannot obtain or maintain employment, unless there is an exceptional delay (see 'Recognition of overseas qualifications' below) in recognition of qualifications in Australia (1.1.A.320), or
  • have purchased a principal residence, or
  • cannot establish a business, or
  • are limited by the amount of funds they can bring with them when leaving their emigrating country.

Explanation: It is reasonable to expect that they would be aware of the regulations imposed by their emigrating country and make appropriate arrangements for their support in Australia, before migrating.

Recognition of overseas qualifications

Delays of up to 2 years are possible when overseas qualifications need to be recognised in Australia. If verification has been obtained by Australia Education International - NOOSR (AEI-NOOSR), this would NOT be regarded as an exceptional delay.

Explanation: The delays are due to requirements for meeting English standards and trade proficiency, and depend on a person's English language ability and level of tertiary or trade qualification.

Timing of the substantial change in circumstances

A change of circumstances is only relevant for the purposes of the SSAct if that change of circumstances occurs after the person has arrived in Australia.

In the case of visas granted onshore, the substantial change in circumstances should also occur after the NARWP has commenced. For a temporary holder, this means after the person has applied for the temporary visa and for a permanent visa holder, after the person has become an Australia resident.

Example 1: After arriving in Australia and becoming an Australian resident, a person suffers a serious long-term illness, which prevents them from working. The illness is deemed severe enough to be considered a substantial change in circumstances and SpB is paid.

Example 2: A person is granted a permanent visa offshore and has been offered employment in Australia to commence upon arrival. Before arriving in Australia, the offer of employment is withdrawn. This is NOT a substantial change of circumstances beyond the person's control for the purposes of SSAct section 739A(7).

Example 3: A person is granted a temporary visa offshore and migrates to Australia to marry their Australian citizen partner, even though the partner had become unemployed (employer bankruptcy) BEFORE the visa holder left their country. Two weeks after arrival the visa holder applies for SpB due to financial hardship. As the substantial change occurred BEFORE the visa holder arrived in Australia, this is NOT considered a substantial change in circumstances beyond the person's control under SSAct section 739A(7) and SpB would NOT be paid.

Example 4: A New Zealand citizen is granted a permanent resident visa onshore. Before the visa is granted, the person's employer becomes bankrupt. This is NOT a substantial change of circumstances beyond the person's control for the purposes of SSAct section 739A(7), because it occurred BEFORE the person became an Australian resident.

Exception: For visas granted onshore, if the delegate is of the view that there are exceptional circumstances leading to the claimant being in financial hardship that occurred before the commencement of the NARWP, then the delegate may decide that the claimant has suffered a substantial change in circumstances and waive the NARWP. For example, the claimant is the victim of domestic violence.

Act reference: SSAct section 739A(7) Newly arrived resident's waiting period

Sponsored newly arrived residents

A sponsored newly arrived resident is a newly arrived resident who has been nominated for migration to Australia by a sponsor. Sponsored residents must have made every effort to get adequate support from their sponsor before being granted SpB. Once an AoS has been entered into, SpB is only payable in cases where there has been an UNFORESEEN and substantial change in circumstances after arrival in Australia.

Non-sponsored newly arrived residents

A non-sponsored newly arrived resident is a newly arrived resident who has not been nominated for migration to Australia by a sponsor.

Partnered provisional visa (PPV) holders

A subclass 309 or 820 visa holder who lodges a claim on or after 1 January 2012 will be required to have experienced a substantial change in circumstances beyond their control after arrival in Australia to have the NARWP waived (3.7.1.20). The onus is on the person to ensure that they have support in place for the duration of the NARWP. In the event that this support is to be provided by the partner, it is the responsibility of the visa holder to ensure that the partner is in a position to do so.

Changed circumstances that WOULD be considered substantial for the purposes of SpB

Many changes in circumstances apply equally to sponsored and non-sponsored residents and partnered provisional visa holders.

The following table provides examples of circumstances that WOULD be considered a substantial change for the purpose of qualification for SpB. The substantial change in circumstances MUST have occurred after the person arrived in Australia.

Change in circumstance And…
A sponsor, partner or SpB claimant has a prolonged illness or injury, is unable to work and/or there are significant medical costs being incurred by the SpB claimant or the partner.
Sponsor or partner loses job through no fault of their own, the job was organised or commenced after arrival of the SpB claimant.
After commencing work, SpB claimant loses job through no fault of their own, in the case of a visa granted onshore, the claimant had commenced the job prior to grant of the visa and in the case of a visa granted off shore the job was arranged prior to arrival in Australia.
Sponsor or partner dies, the SpB claimant has no means of support.
Partner and SpB claimant separate, the SpB claimant was the victim of domestic/family violence.
Child is born or family becomes responsible for a dependent child, the child has a severe medical condition or a severe disability that incurs significant additional costs to the SpB claimant or partner.
Dependent child develops a severe medical condition, disability or sustains a serious injury, the SpB claimant is unable to work and/or there are significant medical costs being incurred by the SpB claimant or the partner.
Sponsor or partner becomes a long term prisoner, or is confined long term to a hospital, psychiatric institution or nursing home, the SpB claimant has no means of support.
Sponsor or partner has been notified as a missing person or has abandoned the SpB claimant, the SpB claimant has no other means of support.
SpB claimant is the victim of substantiated domestic violence, has no other means of support.
SpB claimant who has been granted permanent residence resulting in their Australian citizen child no longer being eligible for SpB, has no other means of support.

Where family violence is involved, the claimant should be referred to a social worker. A social worker should assess and document the claimant's situation. The information provided by a social worker should contribute to a decision about qualification for SpB, but the delegate, NOT the social worker, makes the final decision about qualification.

Changed circumstances that are NOT substantial for the purposes of SpB

The following situations would NOT be considered a substantial change in circumstances for the purpose of qualification for SpB - where no other extenuating circumstances are involved.

  • Claimant and partner are separated but living under one roof.
  • Partner and the visa holder separate due to breakdown of the relationship and there is no domestic violence involved.
  • Partner misrepresents their circumstances (financial, physical, material) and the partnered provisional visa holder chooses to leave because of this.
  • Partner leaves work to study or train, engages in an unprofitable business, resorts to excessive gambling or makes another lifestyle choice that impacts on the couple financially.
  • A claim is lodged after 1 January 2012 and the person states they are unaware of the legislative change that removed family member as an exemption from the NARWP for partnered provisional visa holders.

Example 1: Upon arrival in Australia the person finds that the partner has embellished claims of circumstances, living standards and financial support and the claimant decides to leave. The person lodges a claim for SpB. As the onus is on the person to fully investigate the situation into which they are migrating, this is NOT considered to be a substantial change in circumstances beyond the person's control and SpB is NOT paid.

Example 2: The SpB claimant and the partner decide to have a child during the NARWP period. The birth of a child (including multiple births) is NOT considered to be a substantial change in circumstances as it is a lifestyle choice over which the couple did have control and SpB is NOT payable.

While there is an expectation that a claimant and their partner are responsible for the decisions affecting their individual situations, mitigating circumstances may exist that require additional deliberation when assessing an individual's claim for SpB. The delegate has the authority to consider all available information regarding the claimant's individual circumstances before deciding if there was a substantial change in circumstances that was beyond the person's control.

Changed circumstances no longer apply

Where a person has been granted SpB during the NARWP due to a substantial change in circumstances and those circumstances subsequently change prior to completion of the NARWP, an exemption from the NARWP may no longer be warranted. Advice from a social worker should be sought or a referral should be made if necessary.

Example: An SpB recipient and partner reconcile after separation and are residing together as a family unit. The original decision to grant SpB during the NARWP was based on a substantial change in circumstances due to domestic violence and separation from the partner. As the SpB recipient and partner have reconciled the substantial change in circumstances no longer exists and SpB ceases to be payable for the remainder of the NARWP.

Last reviewed: 3 January 2017