AUSTRALIA – Changes Taking Effect 1 July 2017

Several previously announced changes to employer-sponsored temporary and permanent visa programs came into effect on 1 July 2017.

A brief explanation of the impacts of these changes are provided below.

Temporary Work (Skilled) Subclass 457 Visas

There have been several changes to 457 visas including:

  • Training Benchmarks: More restrictions on training which is acceptable for 457 sponsorships and ENS nominations, as well as the calculation of payroll expenditure for these benchmarks;
  • New 457 Occupations Lists: New occupations lists apply to 457 visas with many occupations returned to the eligible list. A few have been removed entirely from the approved lists, while others have been transferred between the MLTSSL and the STSOL lists. Companies will be relieved to hear that both Chief Executive or Managing Directors and Corporate General Managers are now back on the four-year list with the option of applying for permanent residence;
  • English Language Exemption: Previously, applicants with a base salary of $96,400 were exempt from English language testing. From 1 July, the high salary exemption will only apply where the applicant is already working for an associated entity of the sponsor overseas;
  • Skills Assessment for trade occupations: Formal skills assessments are now required for more trades and passport countries;
  • Police Clearances: Police clearances will be required for 457 applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017; and
  • Accredited Sponsorship Expanded: Accreditation gives priority processing to 457 nominations and visas. Previously, it was only available for “high volume” sponsors who lodged at least ten 457 visas in the last 2 years. From 1 July, “low volume” sponsors will also be able to be accredited providing they have minimum turnover of AUD 4 million and have at least 90% Australian staff.

Permanent Employer Sponsorship (ENS and RSMS)

For the Direct Entry stream of both Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS), the following changes were made:

  • New Eligible Occupations List:There is a new eligible occupations list for the ENS Direct Entry Scheme (the RSMS list is essentially unchanged);
  • Age Limit: Applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017 will only be accepted from individuals age 45 or younger;
  • No English Language Requirement for High-Income Earners: An English testing and skills exemption is now in place for applicants with a base salary of at least 180,000 AUD. This change affects pending applications or applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017;
  • Higher English Language Competency Requirement: Applicants who lodge applications on or after 1 July must possess “Competent” English language skills;

For the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream, the changes were:

  • Higher English Language Competency Requirement: Applicants who lodge applications on or after 1 July must possess “Competent” English language skills;
  • Genuine Position: Employers must now show that there is a genuine need for a paid employee in the position, similar to the Direct Entry stream; and
  • Fee Increases:Department of Immigration fees were increased by 2% for most application types. This affects the first Visa Application Charge (VAC) for both the main applicant and any dependent family members.

Action Items

Employers considering temporary or permanent visa sponsorship of foreign nationals in Australia should immediately consult with their immigration advisor at McCown & Evans regarding the impact of these recent changes.