IMPACT – HIGH
A host of changes to Australian immigration systems are set to take effect 1 July 2017. Some of the changes were announced in April, when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia would abolish the Subclass 457 Temporary Skilled Work visa and replace it with a new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa stream. Others were included in the Federal Budget, which was released in early May. And still others were included in amendments to regulations that were announced later in May.
Key Changes as of 1 July:
- Police clearance. All 457 visa applicants, including accompanying family members aged 17 years or older, will be required to provide mandatory police clearance certificates for those countries they have spent a significant period living in in support of their application. This requirement will also apply to all 457 visa applications that have already been submitted, but not yet received a decision prior to 1 July 2017.
- English language requirements. The current exemption to English language requirements for Subclass 457 visa applicants who earn at least A$96,400 per year will end. Applicants in this high-salary earner category will have to meet the same Vocational English language requirements as other 457 applicants. Additionally, an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) (or equivalent test) score of 6 in each component will be required for all permanent employer-sponsored skilled visa programmes.
- Occupations lists. The Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) will be further reviewed and revised based on the feedback and outcomes from the Department of Employment and the Department of Education and Training. The two lists replaced the old Skilled Occupation and Consolidated Sponsored Occupation lists in April, when 216 occupations removed from the set of occupations eligible to be filled by foreign nationals under the 457 visa program.
- Visa Application Charges. The Application Charge (VAC) increases for a number of Australian visas, including Subclass 457 visas. A complete list of the new VACs is available here.
- New Visa stream for New Zealanders. A new permanent visa stream has been created for certain New Zealanders residing in Australia. The stream under the Subclass 189 (Skilled – Independent) visa category will be available to New Zealanders holding a Subclass 444 (Special Category) visa, who were usually resident in Australia on or before 19 February 2016, who have continued to reside in Australia for at least five years and meet minimum income requirements.
- Subclass 189 and Subclass 186 – Direct Entry Stream maximum age requirement. The maximum age for Subclass 189 (Skilled – Independent) points-based applicants will be lowered to 45 years of age, down from 50, at the time of invitation. A maximum age requirement of 45 at the time of application will also apply to Direct Entry stream applicants for the Subclass 186 visa.
- Passenger cards. Travellers departing Australia will no longer be required to fill out outgoing passenger cards, because the information collected on these cards will be collected through other means.
- Online APEC Business Travel Cards. Eligible Australian business travellers will be able to apply for an APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) online. The cards reduces costs of travelling, including visa applications fees, and time associated with immigration processing among APEC countries. Additional information is available on this link to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.
BAL Analysis: Employers and foreign nationals should familiarise themselves with the changes outlined above. Those preparing, or who have recently lodged, a 457 visa application should make sure they have obtained the requisite police clearance certificates and satisfy the English language requirements. Companies may need to make slight adjustments to their budgets to account for the increased VACs, whilst the new Subclass 189 New Zealand stream will make it easier for some eligible New Zealand passport holders to become Australian permanent residents. BAL Australia will be holding a webinar in July that will cover the outcome of the immigration changes listed above, as well as additional changes scheduled to take effect in March 2018. Further details of this event will be announced soon.
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