C&C Global: Australia

On April 18, 2017, Australia's Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, announced major changes to the Temporary Residence Subclass 457 program. The changes will also affect the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) permanent residence visa program for skilled workers.

The 457 Visa will be phased out and replaced with a Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa, which will comprise two streams: Short-Term (2 years) and Medium-Term (4 years).

With immediate effect, the Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL) will be renamed as the Short-Term Skill Occupations List (STSOL), which will be reviewed every 6 months.

Over 200 occupations have been removed from that list. As the change is immediate, all 457 applications currently being processed related to occupations that have been removed from the list will not be approved and applicants will be afforded the opportunity to withdraw the applications and receive a refund of the filing fee.

Conversely, any applications filed on or after April 19, 2017, must nominate occupations on the STSOL or on what is known as the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).

Visas granted on or after April 18, 2017, relating to nominations of occupations on the STSOL, will only be granted for a two-year period. After two years, a further and final period of two years may be sought. As of March 2018, visa holders can only be sponsored for a permanent visa if they are nominated for a position appearing on the MLTSSL.

457 Visa applicants granted visas on or after April 18, 2017, and holding MLTSSL positions may receive a four-year visa. Holders of the four-year visa will be able to be nominated for a permanent visa after a three-year period of employment with the sponsor.

Also as of March 2018, visa applicants will need to have at least two years of work experience prior to applying for a 457 visa before any nominated position. Apparently those nominated for STSOL positions will be required to demonstrate an intention to remain temporarily only in Australia.

Effective immediately are caveats that add layers of requirements on work experience or are occupation-specific. For example, in certain instances, employers may only nominate certain occupations if the employer is able to demonstrate a turnover of a $1 million per annum and a workforce of at least five.

Below is a timeline of these changes.

April 19, 2017

  • 216 occupations removed from CSOL with 24 occupations restricted to regional Australia.
  • CSOL re-named as STSOL and MLTSSL introduced.
  • Visa applicants nominated for MLTSSL occupations to receive a four-year visa while those nominated for STSOL will be limited to two years. A second two-year visa may be applied for at the end of the first term.
  • At present persons nominated for permanent visas under the direct stream of the Subclass 186 (ENS) may be nominated for a position from either list. This will cease in March 2018.

July 1, 2017

  • Occupation Lists to be reviewed.
  • The current English-language salary exemption threshold of $96,400.00 will be removed. This means that all 457 Visa applicants will be required to have the equivalent of IELTS Level 5. It is assumed that the current country-of-origin exemption will apply.
  • Training benchmarks will be clarified.
  • Police Clearance Certificates will become mandatory.
  • Regarding ENS, IELTS level 6 in each component is required.
  • Also regarding ENS, a maximum age requirement of 45 (time of application) will apply to Direct Entry Stream applicants. The current 50-year age limit will continue for Temporary Transition applicants.

December 31, 2017

  • The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will begin collecting Tax File Numbers for all 457 holders and other employer-sponsored migrants. These data will be matched with Australian Tax Office records to check that 457 visa holders are not underpaid.
  • The Department will publish details of sponsors sanctioned for failing sponsorship obligations.

March 2018

  • The 457 Visa will be abolished and replaced by the TSS Visa, which will have two streams: the Short-Term Stream of up to two years and a Medium-Term Stream of up to four years.
  • The Short-Term Stream (STS) will include the following criteria:

(i)    Renewal: Onshore renewal once only.

(ii)   Occupations:

(1)  For non-regional Australia – STSOL will apply.

(2)  Additional occupations available for regional employers.

(iii)  English language requirement: Minimum IELTS of 5 with a minimum of 4.5 in each component.

(iv)  Genuine entry: A genuine temporary entrant requirement.

  • The Medium-Term Stream (MTS) will include the following criteria:

(i)    Renewal: May be renewed onshore; pathway to permanent residence available after three years.

(ii)   Occupation:

(1)  MLTSSL applies with additional occupations for regional employers.

(iii)  English language requirement:   IELTS Level 5 with 5 in each test component.

  • Eligibility criteria for both streams:

(i)     Work experience of at least two years.

(ii)    Labor market testing mandatory subject to international trade obligations.

(iii)   Salaries to be paid must meet market rate and the Temporary Skill Migration Income Threshold (currently $53,900.00).

(iv)   Characterclearance certificates are required.

(v)    Introduction of a non-discretionary workforce test, details of which are unknown.

(vi)   Training requirement to be strengthened.

  • ENS March changes:

(i)    MTSSL only applies with additional occupations available for regional Australia;

(ii)   Salaries must meet Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold and market rate;

(iii)  PR period extended from two to three years;

(iv)  Must have three years of relevant work experience;

(v)   Must be under 45 years of age at time of application;

(vi)  Training requirements are strengthened.