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’.