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Understanding Turnbull’s Visa Changes

Following the Government announcement yesterday (Wednesday 18 April 2017), the Coalition have made significant changes to the current skilled migrant visa schemes (namely the 457, 186 and 187 visa subclasses) with immediate effect.

We have summarised the key changes below, including an explanation of how these updates will affect existing, pending and new visa applicants.

If your business currently sponsors foreign workers or you are concerned about how the changes may impact the future recruitment of employees, please don’t hesitate to contact Ricky Bustos, a Senior Associate in our Workplace Relations team and Registered Migration Agent.

VISA SUBCLASS 457: Temporary Work (Skilled) Visa (Subclass 457)

The background

The 457 visa previously allowed businesses to employ foreign workers for a period up to four years in skilled jobs (those listed on the Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List) where there is a shortage of Australian workers.  These employees were eligible to apply for Permanent Residency after 2 years.

Yesterday’s announcement included the following key changes:

  1. The Skilled Occupation List will be replaced with the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL); and
  2. The Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List will be replaced with the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL).

What does this mean?

In creating the STSOL and MLTSSL, the Government has removed 216 occupations that were previously on the Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List and the Skilled Occupation Lists.  This will reduce the number of foreign workers who are eligible to apply for employment in Australia, and therefore apply for permanent residency in the longer term.

When will these changes be effective?

Immediately.

Who will be affected?

Existing Visa Holders:  Existing visas will not be revoked; however if a visa applicant’s occupation is no longer on the list they will not be able to apply for a renewal.  There may be opportunity for the applicants to consider alternative visas.

Pending Visa Applicants:  457 applications which have been lodged but not yet finalised for occupations no longer on the new lists will not be granted.  Applicants will be invited to withdraw their application and refunds for the lodgement fees will be available.

New Applicants:  If the occupation is on the MLTSSL then the visa can be granted for up to four (4) years. Cost for this visa to increase to $2,400 per adult.  If the occupation is on the STSOL then the visa can only be granted for two (2) years. Cost of this visa to increase to $1,150 per adult.

Further changes commencing 1 July 2017

  • Further possible changes to the STSOL (and 6 monthly reviews thereafter).
  • Removal of the English language exemption for occupations paid at $96,400 and above.
  • All visa applicants to undergo police checks.
  • Changes to the training benchmark requirements (no details as yet).

Immigration compliance measures to be introduced prior to 31 December 2017

  • The mandatory collection of all Tax File Numbers for all 457 visa employees will be used to cross reference with data held by the Australian Tax Office. This data will be used to monitor the 457 visa employee’s salary as against the approved Nomination.
  • Publication of adverse information for employers found to have breached their Standard Business Sponsorship obligations.

VISA SUBCLASS 186/187: the Employer Nominated Scheme (Permanent Residency Visa)

The background

The 186/187 is a permanent residence visa for skilled workers who have a nominating employer.  The available occupations are listed on the STSOL (which includes those occupations listed on the MLTSSL) with immediate effect.

Existing Visa Holders:  Existing visas will not be revoked.

Pending Visa Applicants:  Pending visa applications lodged on/before 18 April will not be affected by the changes.

New Applicants:  New applications lodged on/after 19 April will only be accepted for occupations listed on the STSOL.

Further changes commencing 1 July 2017

  • Maximum age of applicants to be under 45 years of age (previously 50).
  • Minimum English language requirement.
  • Further possible changes to the STSOL (and 6 monthly reviews thereafter).
  • All visa applicants to undergo police checks.
  • Changes to the training benchmark requirements (no details as yet).

Immigration compliance measures to be introduced prior to 31 December 2017

  • The mandatory collection of all Tax File Numbers for all 186/187 visa employees which will be used to cross reference with data held by the Australian Tax Office. This data will be used to monitor the visa employee’s salary as against the approved Nomination.
  • Publication of adverse information for employers found to have breached their Standard Business Sponsorship obligations.

Further changes to be implemented by March 2018 (dates to be confirmed)

  • Only the MLTSSL occupation list will apply for new applicants.
  • Minimum market salary thresholds (currently $53,900).
  • Minimum 3 years employment (up from 2) before becoming eligible to apply for permanent residency under the transitional stream provisions.

We will keep you updated as further updates are announced but please don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with any queries in the meantime.