On 11th January 2018, the Australian Department of Home Affairs (DHA) published clarification of various recent and upcoming changes to the skilled visa regulations, including new details on the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa which is due to replace the Subclass 457 visa in March 2018.
Below, we look at the key updates from the DHA.
Updates to skilled occupation lists
Updated occupation lists for temporary and permanent skilled visas will come into effect on 17 January 2018, but will not apply to pending applications.
For further details, please see this DHA summary of 17 January 2018 changes to the lists of eligible skilled occupations.
The next occupation list instruments will be published in March 2018 for the Employer Nomination Scheme visa (subclass 186), the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS) visa (subclass 187) and the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa consistent with the broader legislative changes being implemented at that time.
Same-sex married couples should now indicate ‘spouse’ instead of ‘de facto partner’ on their visa application forms.
Incomplete 457 visa applications
From 15th January 2018, incomplete 457 incomplete visa applications may be refused without requests for further information being first issued, after a grace period of two calendar days.
This new rule does not include cases where health and character documentation, or a related nomination or sponsorship application, are pending, or where a reasonable and satisfactory explanation for the incompleteness is provided.
Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement
From 1st January 2018, an amended Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) came into force, which exempts citizens, nationals and permanent residents of Singapore from the subclass 457 visa Labour Market Testing (LMT)
DHA reminds interested parties that the TSS visa program will encompass three options:
- Short-term stream – this is for employers to source genuine temporary overseas skilled workers in occupations included on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) for a maximum of two years (or up to four years if an international trade obligation applies)
- Medium-term stream – this is for employers to source highly skilled overseas workers to fill medium-term critical skills in occupations included on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) for up to four years, with eligibility to apply for permanent residence after three years
- Labour Agreement stream – this is for employers to source overseas skilled workers in accordance with a labour agreement with the Commonwealth, on the basis of a demonstrated need that cannot be met in the Australian labour market and standard visa programs are not available, with the capacity to negotiate a permanent residence option
A number of measures are planned to streamline processing of temporary skilled work visas, including the new TSS visa. These include:
- A new standard five-year sponsorship agreement period
- Auto-approval of complete streamlined lower-risk nomination applications lodged by accredited sponsors
- A new streamlined renewal process for existing sponsors
- Employers who are already approved standard business sponsors for subclass 457 will be able to sponsor skilled overseas workers under the TSS visa program.
- If subclass 457 nomination and visa applications are both lodged prior to TSS implementation, they will be processed under the current framework.
- If a subclass 457 nomination application is lodged without an associated 457 visa application being lodged before the commencement of TSS, it will become ‘redundant’, as subclass 457 nominations cannot be linked to TSS visa applications, even where the nomination has already been approved. Withdrawal and refund requests for lodged 457 nominations will be available. Employers are encouraged to lodge 457 nomination and visa applications prior to the end of February 2018 or to lodge the applications together under TSS once it takes effect.
- Dependent family members will be able to lodge TSS dependent visa applications linked to pending 457 visa applications or existing 457 visa holders. The validity period of the TSS visa will match the expiry date of the subclass 457 primary visa holder.
- Subclass 457 visa holders whose visa is not expiring but wish to change employer after the implementation of TSS, can get their new employer to lodge a TSS nomination application to facilitate this as per current arrangements and link this to the existing 457 visa.
- Subclass 457 visa holders who wish to change occupation or need a new visa (for example: with longer validity) will need to lodge a new TSS visa application referencing a new TSS nomination application.
Labour Market Testing
Labour Market Testing (LMT) exemptions based on occupation will not be available under TSS. More details will be provided in February 2018.
Employers with pending and upcoming applications for 457 visas, and those already employing 457 visa holders, should consult their Newland Chase immigration specialist for the latest information about these reforms.
For advice and information on Australian immigration in general, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.