Upcoming Changes to the Australian V&I Program

Contributor:This post is provided by Global Expertise; a leader in global immigration resources:

As you may know there have been some changes already made and further changes announced to the Australian visa system.

Announcement of changes

On 18 April the Government announced that the 457 visa programme was to be reformed.  The proposed reforms include abolishing the existing 457 visa and replacing it with a new Temporary Skills Shortage Visa (TSS visa) in March 2018.  The changes commenced on 19 April and will continue to be implemented until March next year.

Changes effective on 19 April 2017

The list of occupations eligible for inclusion in the 457 visa programme was reduced, with 216 occupations being removed from the list.  Another 59 occupations were left on the occupations list subject to conditions. This means that some occupations which were previously eligible for the 457 programme are no longer eligible, while others remain eligible but subject to caveats, for example specified periods of experience, for example, two years full time work experience in the same occupation.

The remaining occupations are divided between two lists:

  1. The Short- term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL); and
  2. The Medium and Long Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL)

The lists are to be regularly reviewed to ensure that they reflect skills shortages in the Australian workforce.

The maximum duration of 457 visas issued from 19 April for occupations that are on the STSOL will be two years with capacity for only one onshore visa renewal.  Occupations on the STSOL will not be eligible to apply for permanent residency.

Visas issued for occupations which are on the MLTSSL will be eligible for 4 year visas, can be renewed onshore and provide a pathway to permanent residency on the basis that occupations on the MLTSSL have been assessed as being of high value to the Australian economy and aligning to longer term training and workforce strategies.

Nomination and visa applications approved prior to the changes made to the occupation lists on 19 April 2017 will not be affected by the changes to the occupation lists UNLESS the visa holders apply for a further 457 visa or change their occupation or employer, in which case the new occupation lists will apply.

Changes from 1 July 2017

From 1 July 2017 there will be further changes made to the existing 457 visa.  These will include:

  • The further review of the occupation lists;
  • The removal of the English language testing exemption which exempts applicants from the English language testing requirements if their salary is over AU$86400.  So, in summary, from 1 July English language test results will need to be provided for all visa applicants unless they have a passport from Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America or one of the other (very limited) exemptions apply.  (It is not clear if this will impact on applications lodged after 1 July or also capture applications lodged prior to, but not decided at, 1 July) ;
  • Clarification of policy regarding training benchmark requirements.  In an update issued on 5 May the Department indicated that this would be a tightening of existing training benchmarks with the Department setting out the types of funds eligible for training benchmark A and the types of expenditure on training which are acceptable for training benchmark B.  Note the impact of changes from March 2018 proposed by the Government on 9 May regarding this (see below);
  • Mandatory provision of penal clearance certificates for visa applicants over 16 for all countries in which they have lived for an aggregate of 12 months within the ten year period before the visa application (it is not clear if this will impact on applications lodged after 1 July or also capture applications lodged prior to, but not decided at, 1 July);
  • Expansion of skills assessment requirements – it appears that there will be an expansion of mandatory skills assessments to cover areas in which it is felt that there is an integrity risk however as at 5 May the Department had not made a final decision regarding the ambit of this

Changes from 31 December 2017

The Department will start collecting Australian tax file numbers for 457 visa holders and will match this against the Australian Tax Offices records to ensure that visa holders are being paid their nominated salary.

Changes from March 2018

On a date yet to be announced in March 2018 the 457 visa will be abolished and replaced with the TSS visa.  It is proposed that the TSS visa will have two streams – a short term stream of up to two years and a medium term stream of up to four years.  There will be different requirements for each stream, for example, different levels of English ability.

Applications will also require:

  • Work experience of at least two years relevant work experience;
  • Labour market testing (query what this will involve);
  • Payment of the Australian market salary rate for the position (as now);
  • Provision of penal clearance certificates
  • Non discriminatory workforce test (query what this will involve)
  • Strengthened training requirement

Further details regarding the above are presently being finalised by the Department and unfortunately aren’t available at the moment.

Changes proposed to the training benchmarks from March 2018

On Tuesday 9 May the Government announced that from March 2018 a levy will replace the training benchmarks which currently apply to the subclass 457 and permanent employer sponsored visa programmes. The levy will be paid into a fund which will be used to upskill Australians.  It is proposed that businesses with turnover of less than $10 million per year will be required to make an upfront payment of $1,200 per visa per year (or part thereof)for each employee on a TSS visa and make a one-off payment of $3,000 for each employee being sponsored for a permanent Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa.
Substantive detail for the changes that are to be made on and after 1 July are not yet available so it is difficult to provide specific advice for applications which it is proposed will be made or processed on and after 1 July.