visa changes

TSS visa update

Current and prospective applicants for skilled visas will have been keenly awaiting the Department’s announcement of the implementation date for the TSS visa and other changes to the permanent employer-sponsored program.

The date for these changes has not yet been announced, however according to the Department they are still scheduled to take place this month.

Importantly, the Skilling Australians Fund Bill (‘the SAF Bill’) is yet to be passed by parliament. Readers will recall that the SAF Bill proposes to replace the current ‘Training Benchmarks’ with the Skilled Australia Fund levy – instead of making a contribution to an industry training fund or expending part of their gross payroll on training Australian staff, employers will have to make upfront payments into the fund as part of the nomination process (for more on this, see our blog post dated 2 February 2018).

It is unclear if, and when, the SAF Bill will be passed – the House of Representatives is not sitting again until 13 March 2018, and the Senate will not sit until 19 March 2018.

The Department has advised that this will not affect the rest of the changes, which will come into effect as soon as the remainder of the legislative and functional processes are finalised.

This means that any nominations lodged after the March implementation date but before the SAF Bill is passed will continue to require proof of expenditure towards the Training Benchmarks. Once the SAF Bill is passed and becomes law, employers will instead have to pay the levy which may well work out to be much more expensive than the Training Benchmarks. The levy payment is non-refundable, even if the nomination or visa application is refused.

Due to the uncertainty of these timeframes, visa applicants should endeavour to finalise and lodge their nominations and applications as soon as possible, so that they can be processed under the ‘old rules’.

Changes to Australian Employment Visas - subclass 457

On 18 April 2017, the Government announced that the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457 visa) will be abolished and replaced with the completely new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018.

The TSS visa programme will be comprised of a Short-Term stream of up to two years and a Medium-Term stream of up to four years.

Existing 457 visas will continue to remain in effect.

 

Changes from April 2017

From 19 April 2017, for the existing 457 visa subclass: -

Occupation lists: The occupation lists that underpin the 457 visa will be significantly condensed from 651 to 435 occupations, with 216 occupations removed and access to 59 other occupations restricted.

Of the 435 occupations, access to 24 occupations has been restricted to regional Australia (e.g. occupations relating to farming and agriculture).

The Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL) will also be renamed as the new Short-term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) and will be updated every six months based on advice from the Department of Employment.  

The other occupations list used for skilled migration, the Skilled Occupations List (SOL) will be renamed the new Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL). This list will contain occupations that have been assessed as being of high value to the Australian economy and aligning to the Government’s longer term training and workforce strategies.

Validity period: The maximum duration of 457 visas issued from this date for occupations that are on the STSOL will be two years. Occupations on the MLTSSL will continue to be issued for a maximum duration of four years.

 

Changes from 1 July 2017

Occupation lists: The STSOL will be further reviewed based on advice from the Department of Employment. The MLTSSL will be revised based on outcomes from the Department of Education and Training’s 2017-18 SOL review. 

English language requirements: English language salary exemption threshold, which exempts applicants whose salary is over $96,400 from the English language requirement, will be removed.

Training benchmarks: Policy settings about the training benchmark requirement will be made clearer in legislative instruments.

Character: Provision of penal clearance certificates will become mandatory.

 

Changes by December 2017

Before 31 December 2017, for the existing 457 visa: -

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (the Department) will commence the collection of Tax File Numbers for 457 visa holders (and other employer sponsored migrants), and data will be matched with the Australian Tax Office’s records to ensure that visa holders are not paid less than their nominated salary.

The Department will commence the publication of details relating to sponsors sanctioned for failing to meet their obligations under the Migration Regulations 1994 and related legislation.

 

Changes from March 2018

From March 2018, the 457 visa will be abolished and replaced with the TSS visa. The TSS visa will be comprised of a Short-Term stream of up to two years, and a Medium-Term stream of up to four years.

The Short-Term stream is designed for Australian businesses to fill skill gaps with foreign workers on a temporary basis, where a suitably skilled Australian worker cannot be sourced.

The Medium-Term stream will allow employers to source foreign workers to address shortages in a narrower range of high skill and critical need occupations, where a suitably skilled Australian worker cannot be sourced.

 

The Short-Term stream will include the following criteria:

    ·         Renewal: Capacity for visa renewal onshore once only.

    ·         Occupations:  For non-regional Australia, the STSOL will apply. For regional Australia, the STSOL will apply, with additional occupations available to support regional employers.

    ·         English language requirements: A requirement of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) (or equivalent test) score of 5, with a minimum of 4.5 in each test component.

    ·         Genuine entry: A genuine temporary entrant requirement.

 

The Medium-Term stream will include the following criteria:

    ·         Renewal: Capacity for visa renewal onshore and a permanent residence pathway after three years.

    ·         Occupation lists: For non-regional Australia - the MLTSSL will apply. For regional Australia - the MLTSSL will apply, with additional occupations available to support regional employers.

    ·         English language requirements: A requirement of a minimum of IELTS 5 (or equivalent test) in each test component.

 

Eligibility criteria for both streams will include:

   ·         Work experience: At least two years’ relevant work experience.

   ·         Labour market testing (LMT): LMT will be mandatory, unless an international obligation applies.

   ·         Minimum market salary rate: Employers must pay the Australian market salary rate and meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold requirements, currently set at $53,900 as at 12 April 2016

   ·         Character: Mandatory penal clearance certificates to be provided.

   ·         Workforce: A non-discriminatory workforce test to ensure employers are not actively discriminating against Australian workers.

   ·         Training requirement: A strengthened training requirement for employers to contribute towards training Australian workers. The detailed policy settings for several of these requirements will be finalised through the implementation process.

Source: DIBP

 

 

Changes to Australian Employment Visas - Permanent Visas

Also announced on 18 April 2017 are changes to the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa ('ENS' visa) and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187) visa ('RSMS' visa).

While the changes will mainly impact the ENS and RSMS, future applicants for the Skilled visas (subclass 189, 190 and 489) may also be affected by changes to the occupation lists.

 

Changes from April 2017

From 19 April 2017, for new applicants for permanent employer sponsored skilled visa programmes:

Occupation lists: The Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL) will be significantly condensed, with 216 occupations removed, and access to 24 occupations restricted to regional Australia (e.g. occupations relating to farming and agriculture). The CSOL currently underpins the Direct Entry stream of the ENS visa.

The CSOL will also be renamed the new Short-Term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) and will be updated every six months based on advice from the Department of Employment.

The other occupations list used for skilled migration, the Skilled Occupations List (SOL) will be renamed the new Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).

 

Changes from July 2017

From 1 July 2017, for permanent employer sponsored skilled visa programmes:

Occupations lists: The STSOL will be further reviewed based on advice from the Department of Employment. The MLTSSL will be revised based on outcomes from the Department of Education and Training’s 2017-18 SOL review.

English language requirements: A requirement of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) (or equivalent test) score of 6 in each component.

Age: A maximum age requirement of 45 at the time of application will apply to Direct Entry stream applicants. A maximum age requirement of 50 at the time of application will continue to apply to Temporary Residence Transition stream applicants.

 

Changes by December 2017

Before 31 December 2017, for permanent employer sponsored skilled visa programmes:

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (the Department) will commence the collection of Tax File Numbers for these visa holders, and data will be matched with the Australian Tax Office’s records to ensure that visa holders are not paid less than their nominated salary.

The Department will commence the publication of details relating to sponsors sanctioned for failing to meet their obligations under the Migration Regulation 1994 and related legislation.

 

Changes from March 2018

From March 2018, for ENS and RSMS:

For the ENS and RSMS visa: The MLTSSL will now apply, with additional occupations available to support regional employers for the RSMS.

Minimum market salary rate: Employers must pay the Australian market salary rate and meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold, currently $53,900.

Residency: The permanent residence eligibility period will be extended from two to three years.

Work experience: At least three years’ relevant work experience.

Age: All applicants must be under the maximum age requirement of 45 at the time of application.

Training requirement: a strengthened training requirement for employers to contribute towards training Australian workers.

 Source: DIPB