By Peregrine

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) have begun to clarify the changes to permanent employer-sponsored skilled visa programmes that were announced on 18 April 2017.

Significantly, DIBP has announced transitional or ‘grandfathering’ arrangements to permit individuals who held, or had applied for, a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017 to access certain existing provisions under the Temporary Residence Transition stream.

Data Matching and Sponsor Sanctions

From 31 December 2017, the DIBP will commence the collection of Tax File Numbers for permanent employer-sponsored skilled visa holders, and data will be matched with records held by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to ensure that visa holders are not paid less than their nominated salary.

Breaches of sponsorship obligations can result in sponsor sanctions. DIBP has powers to impose a range of penalties depending on the severity of the breach and or number of breaches.

Changes to Permanent Employer-Sponsored Skilled Visa Programmes (ENS and RSMS)

The following changes to the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) will apply from 1 March 2018:

  • Occupation ListsOnly jobs on the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) will be available on the Direct Entry stream for both ENS and RSMS, with some additional occupations available through the RSMS to support regional employers.
  • Residence RequirementThe eligibility period to transition from temporary to permanent residence (TRT) will be extended from the current two years to three years (unless the individual is eligible under transitional or ‘grandfathering’ arrangements – see below).
  • AgeApplicants must be aged under 45 years, rather than the current 50 years, at the time of application, unless transitional arrangements apply.
  • Training RequirementEmployers nominating a worker for an ENS or RSMS visa will be required to pay a contribution to the Skilling Australians Fund (SAF), which replaces the current training obligation requirements. The contribution will be payable in full at the time the worker is nominated, and is set at AUD 3000 for small businesses (those with annual turnover of less than AUD 10 million) and AUD 5000 for other businesses.
  • Work ExperienceAt least three years of work experience relevant to the particular occupation will be required.
  • Minimum market salary rateEmployers must pay the Australian market salary rate and meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (et at AUD 53,900 as at 12 April 2016).

Transition Arrangements

People who held, or had applied for, a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017 will be able to access certain existing provisions under the Temporary Residence Transition stream:

  • Occupation requirements remain the same (i.e. there are no restrictions as long as the nominee continues to work in the same position for the same employer as approved for their subclass 457 visa);
  • The age requirement will remain at less than 50 years of age; andThe work experience requirement, and the requirement to have worked at least two out of the three years prior to nomination on a subclass 457, will remain at two years.

Action Items

  • Employers are advised to work with an immigration specialist to prepare for these changes and to avoid non-compliance.