NEWS Skilled Visa E-news February 2018

Skilled Visa E-news February 2018

Welcome

This edition of the Skilled Visas E-news is focussed on upcoming changes to the skilled visa programs for March 2018.

This includes the implementation of:

  • the new Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482) (referred to by the Department as the ‘TSS visa’)and
  • related changes to the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) (subclass 186) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) (subclass 187) visa programs

consistent with the Government's announcement of 18 April 2017.

The Department of Home Affairs is in the final stages of preparing for implementation of these changes in March 2018, with the exact implementation date impacted by legislative and systems release processes and timeframes.

We will continue to use this newsletter to share more detailed information with registered migration agents when available to be shared publically, taking into account the progress of related legislation and approval processes for regulatory amendments. More information is available - see Australia's skilled visas.

Update on implementation timeframes

The Department will be deploying all relevant systems functionality in March 2018, but access to new functionality will not be available to agents until the commencement of the regulations, with the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) and associated online forms continuing to be available until this time. The implementation date will be confirmed as soon as possible and published via the Department's website and/or an update to this newsletter.

Note: Some additional information is also provided at the end of this newsletter in relation to separate useability changes to ImmiAccount that will be deployed in March.

Upcoming information sessions

Many agents will be attending the Department's Skilled Visa Changes Information sessions in late February. These sessions are now full. 

It is important that you note that all confirmations of places have now been sent by email. If you have not received a confirmation from 457 Program Management, please do not attend. As demand exceeded available places, it was not possible to accommodate every request to attend.

In addition to the information sessions, the Department is committed to ensuring that you are provided with all the information you need including through:

  • online copies of relevant presentations (with voice-over)
  • publishing of questions and answers from the roadshow in this newsletter and
  • post-release webinars or similar online session to be held in late March 2018 (subject to technical constraints) to talk through issues and answer common questions.

Occupation updates

Updated skilled occupations lists will accompany the other broader changes to the temporary and permanent skilled visa programs. Agents should be aware that:

  • additional skilled occupations will be made available to employers in regional areas for certain visa programs
  • to support the introduction of new regional occupations, some existing occupations may be moved between the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL)
  • there will also be changes to caveats, as well as to the specific lists that apply to particular visa programs
  • these changes will not impact pipeline applications
  • there will continue to be ‘individual lists’ (via legislative instruments) for separate visa programs. For user convenience, there will, however, still be one combined list published on the website for simplification
  • there will be no new skilled occupation list instrument released for the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) program at this time, as new applications will be closed from the date of repeal
  • for the labour agreement streams of both the ENS and TSS visa programs, the occupations available will continue to be those specified in the relevant labour agreement.

Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa update

Reminder regarding transitional arrangements

The tables below summarises the transitional arrangements that are expected to be in place:

How will pipeline applications be processed after the implementation date of TSS?
Standard business sponsorship (SBS) applications lodged before the implementation datewill continue to be processed under the old rules subject to minor transitional arrangements to the benefit of employers (example: will move to new five year periods, and training benchmarks will not apply subject to the Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) arrangements having come into effect – see below).
Subclass 457 nomination applications for existing subclass 457 visa holders lodged before the implementation datewill be processed under ‘old rules’
Subclass 457 nomination applications for visa applicants lodged before the implementation date
  • if a related visa application was also lodged before implementation date – both nomination and visa applications will be processed under ‘old rules’
  • if no related visa application was lodged before implementation date – the nomination application will be administratively finalised and the nominee fee refunded (without a written request for a refund).
Subclass 457 visa application lodged before the implementation datewill be processed under ‘old rules’ and if satisfied, a subclass 457 visa will be granted.
I haveI can
an existing SBS sponsorship
  • nominate overseas workers under the new TSS visa program, including existing subclass 457 visa holders for whom a new TSS nomination is required to facilitate a change of employer or occupation
  • lodge a new renewal form prior to the expiry of my sponsorship as long as I am an Australian business
an approved subclass 457 nomination that has not ceased
  • not lodge a TSS visa application without lodging a new TSS nomination first
  • request my approved nomination for a visa applicant be withdrawn and the fee refunded, if I was not able to lodge a related subclass 457 visa application before the implementation of the TSS visa (i.e. not available if nomination related to an existing subclass 457 visa holder)
a subclass 457 visa in effect
  • ask a new employer to lodge a TSS nomination application if I want to change jobs
  • ask my current employer to lodge a TSS nomination application to change my skilled occupation
  • lodge a TSS subsequent entry visa application for members of my family unit where required
  • lodge a new TSS visa application prior to the expiry of my subclass 457 visa
  • Note:  time on my subclass 457 visa will not ‘count’ in terms of the onshore renewal rules for the TSS visa.

More about the new sponsorship renewal process

Post implementation of the March changes, existing sponsors will be able to complete a very short form in ImmiAccount to ‘renew’ their sponsorship for a further five years. The same fee will need to be paid but the data entry has been significantly reduced, and the renewal application should ‘auto approve’ unless one of the following applies:

  • there are integrity concerns
  • the sponsor is seeking accreditation for the first time or
  • the sponsor declares they no longer meet accreditation criteria.

Sponsors are encouraged to utilise these new arrangements and apply for renewal before their current sponsorship expires to ensure that any existing nomination applications can continue to be processed as normal and current issues around ‘linking and unlinking’ of applications are avoided.

It is recommended that sponsors lodge a renewal form approximately two months prior to the expiry of their sponsorship. Lodging a renewal application ‘too early’ will not be of benefit, as the new agreement end date will be five years from the date the renewal is approved, not an additional five years on the end of the expiry date of their current sponsorship.

Note: From March 2018, sponsors will also be able to see the expiry date of their approved sponsorship application in ImmiAccount and will not need to contact the Department for this information if they failed to keep a record of this date. Information about sponsorship renewal will be available on the Department’s website.

Upcoming changes to sponsorship accreditation

The Department is again revising the accreditation arrangements. This is to ensure that more employers can get the benefits of these arrangements, including priority processing of nomination and visa applications, as well as, auto-approval of nominations that meet certain criteria from March 2018 onwards. The new sponsorship accreditation criteria will be specified in the new TSS Sponsorship Procedural Instructions. Updated information about sponsorship accreditation will also be available on the Department’s website from the implementation date.

Labour Market Testing (LMT) for TSS

LMT settings for the new TSS visa will seek to balance prioritising Australian workers and recognising industry practices, and will be informed by the approach taken by comparable countries. 

LMT testing will be mandatory unless international trade obligations apply. Where LMT is required, the Government has indicated its intention that:

  • multiple methods of LMT will be recognised, and could include national recruitment websites and print media/radio, but are not expected to include a general classifieds website
  • LMT will need to be undertaken for a minimum duration and to have occurred within a specified period before lodging the nomination
  • the advertisement will need to be in English and
  • current policy flexibility will continue in respect of nominations for an existing visa holder due to a change in business structure or the pay rate of the position, and for talent-based position (e.g. athletes / sports-people, top-talent chefs, eminent academics and researchers).

More details advice on the above policy settings will be provided to agents when available.

Work experience requirements for the TSS visa

As per the Government’s 18 April 2017 announcement, TSS visa applicants will be required to have worked in the nominated occupation, or a related field, for at least two years. Work experience related caveats that apply at the nomination stage for the subclass 457 visa will not apply to TSS nominations.

Policy settings will be outlined in the TSS visa Procedural Instructions that will be published on the implementation date. Interim guidance for agents is provided below:

  • Work experience will be considered flexibly in the context of the nominated occupation and industry practices
  • The work experience should have been undertaken in the last five years and would need to be calculated in terms of full time work. Part time work experience may be considered
  • Experience gained as part of the research components of a Masters and/or PhD may be considered as work experience for relevant occupations, such as medical and research occupations
  • Experience gained through clinical placements and internships may be considered as work experience for medical practitioners, including Resident Medical Officers (RMOs)
  • The internship component of the Professional Year Program may be considered as work experience for relevant occupations
  • Performance experience gained while studying may be considered for applicants with a performing arts occupation.

Visa determined by nomination

Under the new TSS arrangements when implemented, the employer will select in the nomination form:

  • the nominated occupation – which will determine the stream of the related visa application
  • an employment period – which will be a period of 1, 2, 3, or 4 years subject to the stream of the visa that they are nominating an overseas worker for. The employment period will then determine the length of the visa that is granted to the nominated overseas worker.

Repeat TSS visas

In general, all applicants for a TSS visa (i.e. primary and secondary) can either be inside or outside Australia. If the application is for a Short-term (ST) stream visa, however, the primary visa applicant must be offshore if all of the below apply:

  • they have held more than one ST stream TSS visa
  • they were in Australia when the application for their most recent TSS visa was made and
  • this requirement would not be inconsistent with any international trade obligation (ITO).

Holders of two ST stream TSS visas in a row (where the second application was made in Australia) can apply for a further visa TSS ST stream visa offshore. They should, however, be aware that their immigration history may be relevant in terms of whether they are considered to have met the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement for this visa stream. Further guidelines on this matter will be provided in the procedural instructions on TSS visa applications.

What is condition 8607?

Condition 8607 is a new condition that it is anticipated will apply to all primary TSS visa holders. It is similar to condition 8107, which currently applies to subclass 457 visa holders. Subject to final drafting of the regulations, however, condition 8607 will require TSS visa holders who wish to change occupation (as opposed to employer), to have a new nomination approved and a new visa granted before they start work in a new occupation.

Where can I find more detailed advice after implementation?

New TSS specific web pages will be available on the Department’s website. In addition, new procedural instructions will be available to agents via Legendcom. These will cover:

  • the processing of standard business sponsorship applications
  • TSS nomination processing
  • TSS visa application processing
  • condition 8607
  • occupations (Note: this includes information on eligible occupations for all skilled visa programs, including caveats)
  • adverse Information (Note: this will cover the interpretation of regulation 1.13A and 1.13B for both TSS, ENS and RSMS visa programs).

Note: agents seeking advice regarding the processing of pipeline subclass 457 applications should generally consult the relevant Legend historical stack. Some transitional information will, however, be provided in the new procedural instructions related to the processing of standard business sponsorship applications.

Permanent skilled changes for March 2018 

Changes being introduced for March 2018

The key changes being introduced in March 2018 for the ENS and RSMS visa programs, subject to the transitional arrangements and the final drafting of regulations, are:

  • Skilled occupation lists: The MLTSSL will apply to the ENS and the RSMS, with additional occupations available through the RSMS to support regional employers
  • Salary arrangements: the new market salary framework planned to be introduced for the TSS visa will also apply to ENS and RSMS, including Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) requirements
  • Residency: The eligibility period to transition to permanent residence will be extended from two to three years
  • Work experience: At least three years’ work experience relevant to the particular occupation will be required
  • Age: All applicants must be under the maximum age requirement of 45 years at the time of application.

Will there be changes to existing exemptions for age or English for March 2018?

Existing exemptions for age or English will continue.

Will there continue to be a Direct Entry stream for the RSMS/ENS visa programs?

Yes.

Will an ENS/RSMS nomination application lodged prior to March allow you to lodge an ENS/RSMS visa application after March?

Yes. The regulations will specify which ‘rules’ apply in this scenario.

Reminder regarding transitional arrangements for Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream - subclass 457 visa holders and applicants applying for permanent residence after March 2018

Agents are reminded that an updated table has been released by the Department clarifying the cohorts of clients able to access transitional arrangements. This has been replicated below to ensure all agents are aware of the proposed arrangements.

Client CohortTRT requirements expected to apply
Client held a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017 and continues to hold this visa or a 457 visa/TSS visa/related bridging visa at time of applicationNew requirements apply subject to the transitional provisions outlined below:
  • occupation list requirements will not apply
  • the age requirement will remain at less than 50 years of age with existing age exemptions still available, and
  • the minimum period an applicant is required to have been employed in their nominated occupation as the holder of a subclass 457 or TSS visa will remain at two years.
Client lodged a subclass 457 visa application on or before 18 April 2017 which was subsequently granted and continues to hold this visa or a 457 visa/TSS visa/related bridging visa at time of application
All other applicantsNew requirements apply (e.g. new age requirements and three year transitional period on a temporary visa).

Where can I find more detailed advice after implementation?

Updated ENS/RSMS visa web pages will be available on the Department’s website. In addition, updated procedural instructions will be available to agents via Legend.

Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) update

The Bills to implement the SAF levy passed the House of Representatives on 12 February 2018, but are yet to pass the Senate. Policy settings are being finalised and may change. More details will be provided when available.

Labour Agreements

Update on template changes for labour agreements

Updated company specific labour agreement templates are now available and have been sent out to all existing labour agreement sponsors for signature.

Industry templates are also close to finalisation. Updated agreements under these template arrangements are expected to be sent out by the end of February 2018. The Department will keep impacted sponsors updated.

What else do agents need to know?

From the implementation date, subject to the final drafting of regulations, the labour agreement program will officially be a ‘stream’ of both the TSS and ENS programs. The program will not be available under RSMS (as per current arrangements/legislation).

Labour agreement sponsors will be required to pay a nomination fee when lodging an ENS nomination unless they are located in a regional area (in which case there will be nil fee). The SAF levy will also apply.

Updated regulations for March 2018 have ‘mainstreamed’ the labour agreement program – ensuring that regulatory requirements apply to nominations and visa applications under this program, except where the agreement specifically provides for concessions (e.g. the labour agreement provides skill or English concession).

What is new in terms of sponsorship obligations for March 2018

Are there any changes to sponsorship obligations?

Changes to sponsorship obligations are expected to be minimal and largely reflect the changes to the TSS application provisions – for example, changes to the market salary framework.

Notifying the Department of certain events where required

Notification for all visa programs, where applicable, will need to occur via one of two methods from the date of implementation:

  • email to an address specified in the relevant legislative instrument (Note: notification from standard business and temporary activities sponsors will no longer be acceptable by post from the implementation date)
  • by completing the new notification of sponsor changes form via ImmiAccount where available*.

*Sponsors who have had their sponsorship application approved online will be able to use this new form to advise the Department of changes in the following categories from the date of implementation:

  • legal name
  • trading name
  • registration details
  • business structure
  • ongoing communication contact
  • owners/Directors/Principals/Partners
  • business address
  • insolvency / bankruptcy / receivership / liquidation / administration
  • cessation of existence as a legal entity
  • cessation of employment of sponsored person
  • changes in duties of sponsored person
  • sponsored person did not commence employment

The Department considers the initial release of this new form as an important step in terms of more efficient communication with sponsors. Note: not all notifiable events can be communicated via  ImmiAccount in this initial release, this includes notification of paying for return travel costs which is not currently available online.

It is expected that this functionality will be further developed over time to include additional functions – for example, the ability to request withdrawal of a nomination application and/or a refund. Ideally, this form will also provide for further opportunities in the future to reduce data entry for sponsors at the TSS nomination stage.

ImmiAccount changes

ImmiAccount – Important changes, hints and tips

A range of enhancements will be made to ImmiAccount to improve the user experience and support online self-service as part of the Department’s systems release on 3 March 2018.  

In summary, the changes include:

  • significant changes to the user interface to make it clearer what information needs to be provided to progress an application
  • enhancements to the user interface for attaching documents to make it clearer and to reduce the number of steps involved
  • simplification of the correspondence templates for grant letters, bridging visa grant letters and acknowledgement letters
  • verification of email addresses used for correspondence with the Department in relation to  Working Holiday visa, Resident Return visa, eVisitor (subclass 651) visa, General Skilled Migration visas subclasses 476 and 887, and Temporary Graduate visa online application forms and
  • improvements to ImmiAccount and online forms to improve the user experience on mobile devices.

What are the effects on migration agents?

Migration agents will notice improvements to the ImmiAccount interface. The simpler user interface will make it easier to upload multiple documents simultaneously, more easily identify the progress and status of applications, and whether action is required to progress the application. The guides on how to attach documents using the new interface will be published on the Department's website in line with the introduction of the changes on 3 March 2018.

More news

Australia’s business, tax and superannuation systems for visa holders

​As a registered migration agent (RMA), it's important to know what to tell your clients about entering the business, tax and superannuation systems in Australia.

Check your travel facility expiry

Are you a permanent resident travelling overseas these holidays?​