The Department of Immigration & Border Protection (DIBP) has made some important changes in November, including:

-       Postponing the introduction of the new Sponsored Parent visas;

-       Changes to the Public Interest Criterion ‘4020’ (fraud);

-       New requirements for health insurance and not having a health care debt

-       New conditions requiring temporary residents to use a single identity in dealing with Government departments and not to engage in criminal conduct in Australia.

Temporary Sponsored Parent Visa Update

The Government previously announced the introduction of temporary sponsored parent visas in November 2017.

The relevant legislation - the Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 has not passed the Senate and has been referred to a Senate Committee for Consideration.

Further updates are expected in 2018.

Changes to Public Interest Criteria (PIC) ‘4020’ (Fraud)

Significant changes have been introduced to the 4020 Public Interest Criteria (PIC).

PIC 4020 can result in refusal of a visa application if false or misleading information is provided.

Previously, Immigration would look at information provided in either:

-       the current application being processed; or

-       a visa which has been held by the applicant within the last 12 months; or

-       an application which has been refused in the last 3 years (or 5 years in some cases).

The changes will mean that an application can be refused if false or misleading information is provided for:

-       Visas held; or

-       Visas applied for within the last 10 years.

Therefore, if false or misleading information is provided in a visa application, it could affect future applications for up to 10 years.

Previously, it was possible to withdraw a visa application if false or misleading information had been provided and this would not necessarily result in 4020 refusals for future applications. This will no longer be the case as 4020 will apply for any visa applications made within the last 10 years, whether the application is granted, refused or withdrawn.

One of the commonly encountered issues with 4020 is the failure to declare past criminal records when making a visa application. Generally, a declaration about previous offences is included in the visa application form. If this is not correctly completed, it can enliven 4020 issues. This would affect both the current application, and potentially any future applications for the next 10 years.

Public Health Care Debts

A new visa condition ‘8602’ requires visa applicants for temporary visas not to have an outstanding public health debt. This would apply to medical costs owing to either Australian state, territory or federal governments. If a temporary visa holder incurs a public health debt, this could result in cancellation of their current visa and also make it more difficult to obtain subsequent visas.

Health Insurance Requirements Clarified

Many temporary visas have a requirement that the applicant hold suitable health insurance for grant and that they continue to do so whilst in Australia on their visa.

A definition of "Adequate arrangements for health insurance" has been added to the Migration Regulations. The definition allows the Minister to specify what kind of health insurance will meet visa requirements.

Single Identity Condition 8304

A new visa condition 8304 has been created which requires temporary visa holders to:

-       Use a single identity when dealing with Australian State, Territory and Federal Governments; and

-       If the visa holder changes name, to notify the relevant Australian government agencies they deal with as soon as practicable and ensure that the change is given effect

Criminal Conduct Condition 8564 and Violent/Disruptive Activities Condition 8303

Condition 8564 forbids the visa holder to engage in criminal activities in Australia. Previously it only applied to Bridging Visa E (BE) visas. The condition will now apply to a wide range of temporary visas.

-       Condition 8303 has been broadened to prohibit activities which endanger or threaten individuals. Previously, it only applied to violent or disruptive activities affecting the Australian community more broadly.

-       As a result it will be easier for Immigration to cancel temporary visas of people engaging in criminal or other dangerous activities in Australia.

For further information, advice and assistance, please contact the experienced team of Immigration Lawyers and Registered Migration Agents at Nevett Ford Lawyers Melbourne:

Telephone: + 61 3 9614 7111

Email: melbourne@nevettford.com.au

 

Australian citizenship changes – again!

On 20 April 2017, the Australian Government announced a series of changes to the Australian citizenship requirements.

After the legislation necessary to implement these changes was introduced into Parliament it became clear that the government would not receive sufficient support to have the legislation passed and so, on 18 October 2017, proposed amendments to the Bill were announced.

Subject to the passing of the proposed amended legislation, the new requirements for citizenship will come into effect on 1 July 2018 and include:

  • increasing the general residence requirement, which means applicants for Australian citizenship will need to have a minimum of four years permanent residence immediately prior to their application for citizenship with no more than one year spent outside Australia during that period
  • completing a separate English language test, where applicants will need to demonstrate English language listening, speaking, reading and writing skills at the modest level before applying for citizenship by conferral
  • strengthening the Australian values statement to include reference to allegiance to Australia and requiring applicants to undertake to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community
  • strengthening the test for Australian citizenship through the addition of new test questions about Australian values and the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship
  • a requirement for applicants to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community
  • strengthening the pledge to refer to allegiance to Australia, and extending the requirement to make the pledge to applicants aged 16 years and over for all streams of citizenship by application, including citizenship by descent, adoption and resumption.

What does this mean for persons who have already applied for citizenship?

Applications for Australian citizenship lodged up to 30 June 2018 will be assessed against the eligibility criteria in place when the application was made.

Applications on or after 1 July 2018 (subject to the passage of legislation)

From 1 July 2018 (subject to the passage of legislation), the new requirements for Australian citizenship will take effect. If you apply for Australian citizenship on or after this date, your application will be assessed against the new requirements.

Further information

Please contact us if you require more information.

457 Visa Update – October 2017

As previously flagged in one of our earlier updates, the 457 visa program will transition to the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) Visa from March 2018.  It is expected that there will be ongoing changes to the requirements businesses need to meet in order to nominate visa holders. This update relates to some of the recent changes for businesses and 457 visa holders.

Changes to Market Salary Rate Requirements

The Department of Immigration & Border Protection (DIBP) has strengthened ‘market salary’ requirements, meaning employers will need to provide additional documentation to show they are paying their visa holders equivalent market salary rates to local workers.

In an initiative to prevent visa holders from being exploited where there is no Australian-equivalent employee, employers will need to:

§  Provide a written statement outlining how they have determined the pay for an equivalent Australian worker

§  Prepare references to the job outlook and prospects of the role in the Australian market.

This extra documentation is required in addition to the usual evidence requirements businesses must show to ensure Australian market salary rates have been met.

Labour Market Testing Evidence Arrangements

Businesses who have lodged a nomination application on or after 1 October 2017, will need to provide additional evidence to show they have adequately tested the local labour market.

The main changes for businesses are as follows:

§  A copy of relevant advertisements will need to be provided, including evidence of the duration of the advertising period;

§  Receipts for any advertising fees paid to be submitted at the time of application;

§  Advertisements also need to be nationally accessible, for example through a service such as SEEK, MyCareer, LinkedIn, Gumtree and alike;

§  The Domestic Recruitment Table will no longer be accepted by DIBP as a way of demonstrating that the Australian labour market has been tested.

 

When the 457 visa program transitions to the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) Visa in March 2018, businesses may need to meet additional labour market testing requirements. Further information is expected from DIBP in coming months.

The DIBP states that these changes aim to ensure overseas professionals are nominated for positions which demand skills and experience that are difficult to source locally.

Permanent Residence Prospects for Employees Currently on a 457 visa

We can confirm existing subclass 457 visa holders or applicants as at 18 April 2017 will continue to have access to an employer sponsored pathway to permanent residence, however the policies governing the transitional provisions are yet to be confirmed by DIBP. The DIBP has stated it hopes to advise of this before the end of the year.

Managing the 457 visa changes

To support businesses throughout the 457 changes, Nevett Ford Lawyers can advise your business on how to manage and prepare for the additional requirements to nominate visa holders.

Contact us today and speak to one of our team of immigration lawyers and registered migration agents for more information:

Telephone: +61 3 9614 7111

Email: Melbourne@nevettford.com.au

Australia may introduce ‘mandatory’ provisional visas before permanent residency

Migrants coming to Australia may have to spend a certain period of time on mandatory provisional visas before they are granted a permanent residency. The Immigration Department is exploring this possibility in a visa transformation discussion paper by inviting submissions from the public.

The number of persons in Australia applying for permanent residence has grown substantially over the last two decades. In 2015-16, around half of all permanent visas were granted to people already in Australia on a temporary visa.  This means that temporary residence is increasingly becoming the first step to living in Australia permanently.

It has also been argued that it’s in the national interest to facilitate a pathway to permanent residence for the “best and the brightest” international students and “skilled workers” and that some permanent visas include mandatory provisional visa stages.

However, under most of the permanent visa categories, migrants do not have to spend any time in Australia before they are granted permanent residency, which the discussion paper says is inconsistent with “like-minded countries”, such as the UK, the Netherlands and the US that have a more formal assessment process and period for evaluating those who seek to stay permanently.”

Though introducing such a probationary period for permanent migrants is likely to deliver budget savings, concerns have been raised that it could create a divide in the Australian society. The proposed reforms could undermine Australia's social cohesion and potentially increase the risk factors that may lead to violent extremism by creating a two-tier society where migrants are treated substantially differently to Australian citizens.

Major changes being discussed include slashing the number of visa categories from 99 to about 10 and making the visa system flexible so the government can respond more quickly to local and global trends.

Would you like to know your eligibility for a visa or seeking permanent residence? Call our office today.

Subclass 187 RSMS is an alternative solution to Permeant Residence

The RSMS (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme) has significant benefits as compared to other skilled migration pathways. RSMS has the widest occupations list of any skilled migration visa type. Any occupation at ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 or 3 can be used to apply for an RSMS visa.
The RSMS Occupations List includes the following occupation categories:

  • Skill Level 1: Management and Professional occupations requiring a bachelor degree or 5 years of work experience
  • Skill Level 2: Associate Professional occupations requiring a diploma-level qualification or 3 years of work experience
  • Skill Level 3: Technician and Trade occupations requiring a Certificate III which includes 2 years of on-the-job training or a Certificate IV

The RSMSOL includes 224 occupations which are not on either the STSOL (used for 457 and ENS visa applications) or the MLTSSL (used for Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visas). These include occupations such as:

  • Various Specialist Managers such as PR managers, Policy and Planning Managers, Production Managers, Procurement Managers, Wholesalers and Importers or Exporters
  • Hospitality, Retail and Service Managers such as Retail Managers, Call or Contact Centre Managers and Financial Institution Branch Managers
  • Occupations in the Arts such as performers, authors, directors
  • Human Resources occupations
  • Sales Representatives in Industrial, Medical and Pharmaceutical Products
  • Air and Sea Transport Professionals such as pilots, ships engineers etc
  • Science occupations such as biochemists, metallurgists, research and development managers
  • Various engineering professional, technician and drafting specialisations
  • Office Managers and Practice Managers
  • Receptionists, secretaries and personal assistants
  • Child Care Group Leaders
  • Various trades

However, from March 2018, the selection of occupations for RSMS will be much more limited. Most applicants will need to have an occupation on the MLTSSL - at 183 occupations; this is much shorter than the RSMSOL which has 673 occupations. Additional occupations may be available for regional positions, but at this stage it is not clear how many extra occupations will be available.

Training Requirement

 

Unlike the 457 and ENS programs, the employer does not need to show that they have met the training benchmarks to be able to sponsor for RSMS. Establishing compliance with the training benchmarks is generally the most involved part of applying for 457 and ENS, so this is of great benefit.

From March 2018, a training levy will be payable when applying for an RSMS visa. For businesses with under AUD 10 million in turnover, the training levy will be $3,000. For larger businesses, the levy will be $5,000. It is not yet clear if this can be paid by the individual applying for the RSMS visa, or whether it must be paid by the employer.

Skill Level and English Requirement

Most applicants only need to meet the ANZSCO skill level for their occupation to meet the skill requirement for RSMS. Either a formal qualification or work experience is generally sufficient to meet the ANZSCO skill level, though registration is also necessary if this would be required for the position.

Unlike general skilled migration or the ENS Direct Entry Stream, a formal skills assessment is not in general required. This would normally only be necessary where nominating a trade occupation and where the applicant does not have an Australian trade certificate.

In terms of minimum work experience, this is currently not required if you hold a relevant qualification. This means that international students can potentially qualify for an RSMS visa without any work experience. 

From March 2018, a minimum of 3 years of work experience in the occupation will be required when applying for an RSMS visa.

For the Direct Entry RSMS pathway, Competent English is sufficient to qualify (6 in each band) - this is similar to what is required for the ENS visa, but significantly easier than the requirement for General Skilled Migration.

To meet the pass mark of 60 points for General Skilled Migration, many applicants will need Proficient English (7 in each band of IELTS or equivalent). Many applicants in pro rata occupations need 65 or 70 points to receive an invitation for a Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visa - these applicants may need to get full points for Superior English (8 in each band or equivalent).

The RSMS visa is a permanent visa which allows you to live in Australia indefinitely. This is more beneficial than the 457 visa, which for most occupations is now valid for only 2 years. It is also more beneficial than the Skilled Regional Provisional Subclass 489 visa, which is a 4-year visa which requires you to live and work in a regional area for 2 years before being eligible for permanent residence. However the RSMS visa can be cancelled if you do not commence work with your employer or if you do not stay with the employer for 2 years. However, if this is due to circumstances beyond your control (eg business went into liquidation, redundancy etc.), your visa is unlikely to be cancelled, particularly if you do continue to live in a regional area.

Lastly the RSMS is a highly beneficial visa which in many ways is easier to qualify for than the 457, ENS and General Skilled programs.

However, from March 2018, many applicants will no longer be eligible for the RSMS visa - particularly if your occupation is not on the MLTSSL or if you do not have 3 years of skilled work experience.

Contact Nevett Ford Lawyers if you require advice or assistance.

457 Visa - Training Benchmark changes

Changes continue to be rolled out by the Department of Immigration & Border Protection (DIBP).  A recent change relates to the training benchmarks that 457 business sponsors are obliged to meet - this article explains how the changes impact employers.

Benchmark A - Payments to a Training Fund

This involves paying 2% of payroll to an industry training fund. From July 2017 payments may be made to one of the following:

  • Industry training fund
  • Fund managed by recognised Industry Body
  • Scholarship fund operated by Australian TAFE or University.

The following types of expenditure are now not eligible:

  • Funds operated by RTOs or private individuals
  • Funds paying commissions or offering refunds if application fails

The main impact of this change is that the previous practice of private education providers accepting payments for Benchmark A will be discontinued.

Benchmark B - Expenditure on Training Australians in the Business

This involves spending 1% of payroll on training Australians in the business. From July 2017 payments may include:

  • Apprentices, trainees or recent graduates
  • RTO's delivering face-to-face training which contributes to formal qualification
  • e-Learning or training software
  • Formal courses of study + associated costs (e.g. travel)
  • Training officers - must be "sole role" of the employee (to train other employees in the business)
  • Attending conferences for Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

 

The following types of expenditure are now not eligible:

  • Salaries of staff attending training
  • Membership fees - this was previously counted
  • Books, journals or magazine subscriptions - this was previously counted
  • Conferences for purposes other than CPD
  • Hiring a booth at trade show, conference or expo On-the-job training - previously, structured on-the-job training could be counted in some circumstances
  • Training not relevant to business' industry - it is not clear how closely related the training must be to the industry
  • Training of principals or family members - previously, training of family members could be counted providing it was also made available to other employees
  • Induction training.

Based on current information, it appears that payment of external providers to deliver training for Australian employees, is excluded unless it leads to a formal qualification. This would form the bulk of the training expenditure of most businesses and so many will need to restructure their training to comply with the new Benchmark B. Once further clarity is available we will let you know.

What is also unclear at the moment is whether 457 business sponsors who have been calculating their training benchmark expenditure on the previous training benchmark provisions will be deemed to have satisfied the requirement. 

We are awaiting further clarification on these points from DIBP and will provide further updates once available.

Calculating 'Payroll'

As a general rule, payroll includes:

  • wages and salaries as per state payroll legislation, and
  • payments made to contractors or subcontractors if the work completed is related to services or products provided by sponsor

If the business does not have ‘a payroll’ they are expected to count Directors' salaries, fees and drawings, or the profit of the business.

Timing of Training Activities

Payroll and training expenditure must be for the same period.

From July 2017, it has been clarified that this expenditure may be for the 12 months prior to lodgement of an application, or for the previous full financial year - this should help employers to gather relevant information and documentation.

Start-up businesses operating for less than 12 months will be required to show they have an auditable plan to meet these benchmarks.

We will provide ongoing updates as information becomes available, including the training requirements from March 2018 when the new ‘Temporary Skills Shortage’ (TSS) visa commences (replacing the current 457 visa).
Whether you are an individual visa holder considering how these changes affect you personally or an employer wondering how these and the further proposed changes affect your ability to recruit globally please feel free to contact us at Nevett Ford to see how we are able to assist. 

Employer Nomination Scheme S/C 186 Visa - Changes Commence

Further to the announcement earlier in the year by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) the first wave of amendments to the Employer Nomination Scheme have been released, with most changes taking effect from 1 July 2017. 

The major talking points from these amendments include:

  • The reduction of the upper age limit from 49 to 44 years of age for an applicant (Direct Entry Stream);
  • The removal of the exemption from providing a skills assessment due to earnings being above the high income threshold (Direct Entry Stream);
  • The removal of the exemption from providing evidence of competent English due to earnings being above the high income threshold (Direct Entry Stream);
  • A change in the level of English Language Skill required by primary applicants (Temporary Residence Transition Stream).  This change has increased the requirements from vocational to competent which in practice this means an IELTS test score of at least 6 in all bands (or equivalent test); and
  • The introduction of specific requirements, for particular occupations (known as caveats) for applications made under the Direct Entry program.  This now mirrors that which applies under the Temporary Work 457 visa program which was originally introduced in April 2017. 

High Income Threshold Exemptions
While most of the above reforms apply on to applications lodged after 1st July 2017, both the English Language and Skills Assessment exemptions where the High Income Threshold was met were retrospectively applied to applications lodged but not finally determined by that date.  The subsequent media release made by the DIBP clarifying that these amendments would not be applied to applications lodged before 1 July 2017 has not yet been backed by formal legislative amendment supporting this statement.

Reforms Overall
In an earlier blog post we outlined the timetable of changes which is taking place.  The above represents step one of the broader reform agenda due to affect both the Temporary Work Visa program (Subclass 457) and the Employer Nomination Scheme (Subclass 186). This agenda will see changes rolled out on an on-going basis until March 2018, by which time all announced reforms will have been implemented. 

Whether you are an individual visa holder considering how these changes affect you personally or an employer wondering how these and the further proposed changes affect your ability to recruit globally please feel free to contact us at Nevett Ford to see how we are able to assist. 

 

Change to age limits for Working Holiday Maker Visas

The eligible age for Subclass 417 Working Holiday will be amended to be:

  • aged at least 18 and no more than 35 years old. If an age younger than 35 is specified in an instrument for a specified passport, that younger age limit will be applied

Subclass 462 Work and Holiday visas:

  • the increase to the age limit of 35 years is only available for those countries where Australia has negotiated a similar bilateral age increase.

These amendments apply to visa applications made on or after 1 July 2017.

Subclass 602 Medical Treatment visas

There has been an amendment to the migration regulations which removes barriers to applicants applying for medical treatment visas onshore by removing the current ‘Schedule 3’ requirements. These are replaced by the requirement to provide legislatively specified documentation.

This documentation is designed to ensure only applicants with genuine medical conditions may apply for this visa and will include the additional Form 1507 which must be signed by a registered medical practitioner.    

These amendments apply to medical treatment visa applications made on or after 1 July 2017.

Please contactNevett Ford Lawyers Melbourne for advice and assistance

NEW Temporary Sponsored Parent visa

The new temporary sponsored parent visa will be introduced in November 2017, with 15,000 visas to be made available annually. This visa will allow the temporary stay of sponsored parents in Australia for periods of up to three or five years. The visa may be renewed from outside Australia to allow a cumulative stay of up to ten years.

Temporary sponsored parent visa holders will not be eligible to apply onshore for a permanent parent visa. The visa holder’s sponsor, their Australian child, will have legal liability for any public health expenditure (including aged care arrangements) incurred by the visa holder in Australia.

The Department has confirmed that it will undertake a review of this new visa at the end of the first program year.

* Existing contributory and non-contributory parent visas will remain unchanged and open to new applicants.

Please contact Nevett Ford Lawyers Melbourne for advice and assistance.

Partner visa changes

The Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016  proposed that partner visa sponsorship applications would need to be lodged and approved before the overseas partner visa application could be made.

The Bill has not been enacted as it is still before the Senate. Therefore, this requirement will not commence on 1 July 2017 as previously announced and has been deferred until 2018.

Please call our dedicated team of immigration lawyers and agents if you have any questions or queries.

New Permanent Residence Pathway for New Zealand Citizens from 1 July 2017

Residence Requirement

The new pathway is only available to NZ citizens who started living in Australia on or before 19 February 2016. You will need to show that you were usually resident at this time. If you were in Australia for a short visit for a holiday or business would not suffice. On the other hand, if you were temporarily outside Australia on 19 February but were usually resident before this, you may well be eligible.

You will need to show that you have been usually resident in Australia for a continuous period of at least 5 years prior to applying. This continuous period of residence would need to have started on or before 19 February 2016. Showing that you are usually resident would normally involve 2 factors:

  • Physical presence in Australia; and
  • An intention to reside in Australia

Short visits outside Australia (eg holidays) would be acceptable, providing there is an intention to reside in Australia and you spend a significant amount of time in Australia. If you take up a job or permanent home outside Australia, this could affect your ability to show continuous usual residence in Australia.

You would need to have held a Special Category Visa (SCV Subclass 444) for the 5 years - this is the visa NZ citizens are usually granted on entry to Australia.

Income Requirement

You would need to provide ATO Notices of Assessment showing that you have earned annual taxable income at least equivalent to TSMIT (Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold) for the last 5 financial years.

The TSMIT has been $53,900 since 1 July 2013, but was $51,000 from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013.

Limited exemptions to the income requirement will apply - those currently announced include:

  • Maternity, paternity or carers leave - application of this exemption is discretionary; or
  • Inability to depart Australia due having been assigned primary care of a child by the Family Court of Australia and the child cannot be removed from Australia; or
  • Currently receiving compensation for injury and ongoing rehabilitation or compensation would be discontinued if departing Australia

Age Requirement

Unlike other skilled visas, there is no age limit for the NZ stream of the 189 visa. The age limit for the subclass 189 visa will otherwise reduce to 45 from 1 July 2017, and will be reducing to 45 for permanent employer sponsored visas by March 2018 so this is a significant advantage for older applicants.

Including Family Members

Even if they are not NZ citizens, spouses and dependent children can be included in the application. If applying onshore, they must hold a substantive visa or Bridging A, B or C visa.

Health and Character Requirement

All family members included in the application must meet health and character requirements.

The waivable health criterion 4007 applies - this means that if you have a health condition which involves significant cost or use of scarce medical or community services, you can still be granted permanent residence provided the cost is not undue. For instance, if you have significant assets or solid health insurance, and can prove that you can meet your own medical costs, you may still be successful in your application.

Most other permanent visas require family unit members to complete health and character, whether they are included in the application or not. This is not the case for the new application pathway - only family members included in the application need to complete health and character.

Application Fees

Application fees are in line with current fees for the Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visa. However, only 20% of the application fee needs to be paid at lodgement. The balance of fees would only be payable once you have met all other criteria and are likely to be granted the visa.

Fees payable are below:

Main Applicant
At Lodgement $720
Prior to grant $2,880
Total $3,600

Dependants 18 or over
At Lodgement $360
Prior to grant $1,440
Total $1,800

Dependants under 18
At Lodgement $180
Prior to grant $720
Total $900

Unlike other permanent skilled visa types, there is no English Language Charge for applicants with less than Functional English.

Conclusion

For NZ citizens who were living in Australia on or before 19 February 2016, the new permanent residence pathway is extremely beneficial. In particular:

  • There is no English language testing, skills assessment, points test, or sponsorship by an employer
  • There is no age limit
  • The income level is relatively moderate - and exemptions apply for people on parenting or carer leave
  • There is a health waiver for applicants and family members with health conditions
  • The bulk of the application fee is only payable once the requirements have been assessed and the visa is about to be granted

New Zealand Citizens who meet the criteria should consider applying for the new pathway as it offers very favourable access to permanent resident status. Given the current political climate, the opportunity may only be available for a limited time.

Upcoming Partner Visa Changes: Separate Sponsor Application, 3-Year Provisional Partner Visa

The Department of Immigration & Border Protection (DIBP) has indicated that upcoming changes to the partner visa program will include requiring sponsors to lodge and be approved for sponsorship before their partners can lodge a partner visa application and increasing the time required on provisional partner visas from 2 years to 3 years. It is expected that the sponsor application will attract an additional application fee.

The changes to the partner visa program have not been formally announced and no date has been given for implementation of the new planned changes, and it is unknown what the financial ramifications of the changes may be. DIBP indicated that they currently have approximately 88,000 partner visas pending in the onshore pipeline, and partner visa application times for first and second stage partner visa applications have increased dramatically over the last 12 months with the implementation of additional character requirements for sponsors.

Grant rates for partner visas are noted at 81% for subclass 820 (compared to 84% last year), 75% for subclass 801 (compared to 78% last year) and 92% for subclass 100. Current schedule 3 affected cases are at 650 compared to 750 last year. The top countries of citizenship for applicants are China, Philippines and Vietnam.

DIBP also noted that when Natural Justice letters are issued to applicants under section 56 of the Migration Act 1958 and an applicant makes a Freedom of Information request to get a copy of their file from DIBP, DIBP is not required to wait for the FOI request to be completed before making a decision on the partner visa. This is of concern to some applicants and agents as the time to process FOI requests has increased substantially over the last 12 months and it can now take several months for FOI requests to be processed by DIBP.

Age Limit for 189 Visa Points Tested Stream Lowered to 45 Years

Recent legislation has lowered the age limit at the time of invitation for subclass 189 points tested independent skilled visas to 45 years, requiring an applicant to be under 45 years of age at the time of invitation in order to make a valid application for this visa under the points tested stream.

Transitional arrangements in the legislation still allow for a person over 45 but below 50 to respond to an invitation if the invitation has already been issued by DIBP, however it is anticipated that with the passage of the new legislation, no further invitations will be issued to applicants who are 45 years of age or older for the points tested stream of this visa.

While the age has been lowered for applicants for the points tested stream of the subclass 189 visa, there is no age limit for the new NZ stream of the subclass 189 visa which NZ citizens holding a subclass 444 visa may be eligible for after being usually resident in Australia for 5 years and meeting income requirements.

Contact Nevett Ford Lawyers Melbourne today for advice and assistance.

Budget Impact on Migration Program

Listed below is a summary of some of the budget announcements which will have an effect on immigration related issues:

  1. Annual intake; there is to be no change to the migration program numbers which will remain at 190,000 places for the 2017/18 year.

  2. Temporary employment visas; as announced prior to the budget there have been significant changes to the 457 scheme; several hundred occupations are no longer eligible for temporary work purposes, the 457 Visa will soon be abolished and replaced by a new visa to be known as the dual stream Temporary Skills Shortage Visa and only those employees whose occupations appear on the new Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List will be eligible for transition to permanent residence after three years of employment with the sponsoring employer (previously two years).

  3. Training benchmarks; a levy, referred to as the Skilling Australians Fund Levy, will replace the current training benchmarks for employers sponsoring workers on 457 and 186 visas. From March 2018, businesses with turnover of less than $10 million per year will be required to make an upfront payment of $1200 per visa per year for each employee on a Temporary Skill Shortage visa. A one-off payment of $3000 will be required for each employee being sponsored for permanent employment under either the Employer Nomination Scheme or Regional Sponsored Migration.

    For businesses with turnover in excess of $10 million the payments will be $1800 and $5000 respectively.

  4. Temporary sponsored parent Visa; this is a new visa to be introduced in November 2017 with an allocation of 15,000 visas annually. It will allow the temporary stay of sponsored parents in Australia for periods of up to three or five years. The visa may be renewed from outside Australia to allow a cumulative stay of up to ten years. The sponsor (the Australian child) will be responsible for any public health expenditure incurred by the visa holder whilst in Australia.

  5. Foreign investors; A Foreign Investors Tax Levy of $5000 per year will be imposed on foreign investors who do not occupy or lease their Australian properties for at least 6 months of the year. In addition, other tax measures aimed at foreign investors -principally dealing with capital gains tax - have been announced.

  6. Age Pension and Disability Support Pension Eligibility; from 1 July 2018 more strict residency rules for new migrants to access Australian pensions will be introduced. Claimants will be required to have 15 years of continuous Australian residence before being eligible to receive the age pension or a disability support pension. Certain exemptions will apply.

New training levy for TSS and ENS programs from March 2018

From March 2018, employers wishing to sponsor foreign workers on the TSS and ENS/RSMS programs will be required to pay a training levy which will go towards the Skilling Australians Fund which will fund training of Australians in apprenticeship and trainee programs.

The payment for TSS visa holders will apply on an annual basis per employee. For ENS/RSMS applicants it will be a one-off payment likely to be collected on application. The amount of the new training levy will depend on the size of the business, to be determined on the annual business turnover. Businesses with a turnover of at least $10 million will pay more.

The training levy will be as follows:

Businesses that turnover less than $10M

TSS $1,200
ENS/RSMS $3,000

Businesses that turnover $10M or more

TSS $1,800
ENS/RSMS $5,000

Changes to Employer Nominated Permanent Residence (Subclass 186 visa)

In addition to the 457 changes recently and unexpectedly announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Permanent Employer Sponsored Skilled Migration Program will also undergo a number of changes. The 457 visa has historically been a pathway to Australian Permanent Residence under this program. 

From 19 April 2017

  • Applicants under the Direct Entry Stream will only be eligible to apply if their nominated occupation is on the MLTSSL or STSOL

  • Applicants under the Temporary Residence Transition Stream can still apply as usual (even if their nominated occupation is no longer on the STSOL or MLTSSL)

From 1 July 2017

  • Occupation lists: The STSOL and MLTSSL will be further reviewed based on advice from the Department of Employment and Department of Education and Training

  • English language requirements: A score of IELTS 6 in each component will be required (or equivalent test)

  • Age: Applicants under the Direct Entry Stream must be under the maximum age requirement of 45 at the time of application. The maximum age requirement of 50 at the time of application will continue to apply to applicants under the Temporary Residence Transition Stream

From March 2018

  • Salary: Employers must pay the Australian market salary rate and meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), currently $53,900 excluding superannuation

  • Residency: The eligibility period under the Temporary Residence Transition Stream will be extended from 2 years to 3 years

  • Work experience: At least 2 years of post- qualification relevant work experience will be required

  • Age: All applicants (under both the Temporary Residence Transition Stream and Direct Entry Stream) must be under the maximum age requirement of 45 at the time of application

  • Training requirement: Strengthened training requirement for employers to contribute towards training Australian workers

Who is affected? 

It is expected that further details and clarifications to be announced by the Government over the coming weeks. 

Individuals who were preparing an application under the Direct Entry Stream and their occupation has now been removed - No longer eligible under the Direct Entry Stream

Individuals turning 45 years old - From 1 July 2017, applicants under the Direct Entry Stream must be under 45 years at time of application. From March 2018, all applicants must be under 45 years at time of application.

Individuals who were preparing applications under the Temporary Residence Transition Stream - Minimal impact if lodged before March 2018 (although new English language requirement applies from 1 July 2017).

Please contact Nevett Ford immigration lawyers to discuss your individual circumstances by telephone + 61 3 9614 7111.

Changes to the Subclass 457 Visa program

Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS visa)

The Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa will be replaced with the completely new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018.

Occupation lists

The occupation lists that underpin the 457 visa have been significantly condensed from 651 to 435 occupations, with 216 occupations removed and access to 59 other occupations restricted.

The Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL) is renamed as Short-term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) and will be updated every six months based on advice from the Department of Employment.
The other occupations list used for skilled migration, the Skilled Occupations List (SOL) is renamed as Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).

Validity period

The maximum duration of 457 visas issued from this date for occupations that are on the STSOL will be two (2) years with an optional two-year extension allowed only once.
Occupations on the MLTSSL will continue to be issued for a maximum duration of four (4) years.

Residency

The two-year short-term visa program will offer no prospect of permanent residency. The four-year medium-term visa holders will be able to apply for permanent residency if certain preconditions are met.

English Requirements

The four-year visas will require a higher standard of English language skills; a minimum of IELTS 5 (or equivalent test) in each test component. English language exemption salary threshold, which exempted applicants whose salary was over $96,400 from the English language requirement, will be removed.

Training benchmarks

Policy settings about the training benchmark requirement will be made clearer in legislative instruments. Training requirement for employers to contribute towards training Australian workers will be strengthened. Please ensure that your clients keep meeting this obligation (training benchmark A or B) as this is expected to be more carefully monitored.

Character

Provision of penal (police) clearance certificates will become mandatory.

Work Experience

Two-years work experience will be required for both visas.

Other documentation

In the majority of cases, mandatory Labour Market Testing (LMT) will be required, unless an international obligation applies. Employers must pay the Australian market salary rate and meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) requirements. A non-discriminatory workforce test to ensure employers are not actively discriminating against Australian workers.

Application fees

$1150 AUD for two-year visa and $2400 AUD for four-year visas apply

Applications already lodged:

457 visa applicants that had lodged their application on or before 18 April 2017 with an occupation that has been removed from the STSOL, and whose application has not yet been decided, may be eligible for a refund of their visa application fee. Nominating businesses for these applications may also be eligible for a refund of related fees.

Please contact us for further clarity about how the changes may affect sponsorship, nomination and visa applications.


 

 

 

Onshore Partner Visa Processing Time

Finally recognising the need to reduce the ever-increasing delays in processing times, the onshore Partner Visa management section of the DIBP recently decided to depart from the usual chronological method of assessing applicants by month of lodgement and favour Partner applications which are potentially of the highest quality and lowest risk.

In other words, priority will now be given  for onshore Partner visa applications to low-risk applicants and those regarded by DIBP as fully front-end loaded with documentation that immediately satisfies Partner criteria.

Currently average processing times for most Temporary Partner and Permanent applications are currently between 16-23 months from date of lodgement (s/c 820) and from date of eligibility (s/c 801/100).

The assistance of migration professionals is imperative if your circumstances require a faster processing time for your onshore Partner Visa application; for instance if you no longer wish to comply with more onerous visa conditions like the ones attached to a Student visa or a 457 visa.

Our expertise will ensure that present DIBP requirements are complied with and your onshore Partner Visa application will be decision ready when the time comes for assessment.

A reminder of the proposed visa for NZ citizens to be introduced in July 2017

An additional pathway to Australian Permanent Residence for ‘non-protected’ Special Category Visa (SCV) holders (subclass 444)

The Australian Government (Department of Immigration & Border Protection) will provide an additional pathway to Australian Permanent Residence, and therefore citizenship, for New Zealand Special Category visa (SCV) holders (subclass 444) who arrived after 26 February 2001, who have lived in Australia for the last five years and shown a commitment and contribution to Australia.

This additional visa pathway will be available from 1 July 2017, for New Zealand citizens who arrived post 26 February 2001, but on or before, the date of the announcement, 19 February 2016.

Estimated number of eligible applicants:

  • Approximately 60,000 – 70,000 of the 140,000 post 2001 SCV holders who have been in Australia for at least five years are expected to be eligible and we can assist.

How this pathway will work

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will have responsibility for implementing the pathway.

The pathway will be made available within the Skilled Independent category of the General Skilled Migration (GSM) stream of Australia's annual Migration Program.

This pathway will allow SCV holders who have been living in Australia for the past five years, and have earned income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) as evidenced by their Australian Taxation Office Notice of Assessment throughout their qualifying residence period, to apply for permanent residency and thereafter citizenship.

The pathway requirements

Requirements for this visa pathway will include mandatory residence, contribution and community protection criteria. This includes:

  • have been resident in Australia for the five years immediately prior to visa application

  • contributed to Australia, demonstrated through income tax returns (Notice of Assessment) for the period of residence evidencing taxable income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT)

  • mandatory health, character, and security checks.

Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) and eligibility

The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) is a salary threshold used by the Subclass 457 program as an indicator that an occupation is ‘skilled’ and to ensure that a visa holder has reasonable means of support whilst in Australia. It is currently set at AUD53,900 (excluding employer superannuation contributions).

This new visa pathway represents a clear concession over existing migration pathways and is consistent with the terms of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA) between Australia and New Zealand.

Exemptions to the income test

It is expected that limited exemptions to the income test requirement will be considered for particularly vulnerable New Zealand citizens.  These exemptions are not yet known but the details will be released by the Department in due course but what is known is that details of how applications for exemptions to the income test will be assessed will be determined between the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and the Minister for Social Services. The mandatory residence criterion, including all other relevant criteria, will still need to be met before a visa could be granted.

Who will be considered a ‘vulnerable individual’

As an example, possible vulnerable individuals may include the primary carer of children who, for reasons of a court order are unable to return to New Zealand with their children, and who as an SCV holder is unable to access working age payments.

Will an applicant who has been on maternity/paternity leave during the qualifying period be ineligible?

If the applicant continued to be employed during that period the Department may take into account and have the capacity to consider other proof of income, for example, a statement from the applicant’s employer covering the period in questions.  There is no further detail on this point at this stage but apparently there is no intention to disadvantage applicants with a consistent record of income and employment but who have taken periods of parental leave.

Visa application charge (VAC)

There will be concessions to the visa application charge (VAC) solely for New Zealand citizens.  At this stage it is expected that the visa application charge will be consistent with the General Skilled Migration Programme:

  • AUD $3,600 per primary applicant with an additional AUD $1,800 for partners, AUD $1,800 per dependent child over 18 and AUD $900 per child under 18.

Applicants will only have to pay 20 percent of the VAC when they lodge their application, with the remainder to be paid before the visa is granted.

Steps to Australian citizenship

New Zealanders taking advantage of this new pathway will usually be able to apply for citizenship after one year of permanent residence, provided they meet the allowable overseas absences requirement.  Note: This requirement means, a person must not have been absent from Australia for more than one year in total in the four year period, including no more than 90 days in the year before applying.

The usual citizenship eligibility requirements will apply such as:

  • be of good character if 18 years of age or over

  • be likely to reside, or continue to reside, or maintain a close and continuing relationship to Australia

  • meet the identity requirement

  • pass the citizenship test if aged between 18 and 59 years or pass a citizenship interview.

What if someone arrived in Australia the day before, or on the day of the announcement, will they be eligible to apply in five years' time?

Yes. They could apply, but the grant of a visa will depend on whether they meet all relevant criteria.

Nevett Ford Lawyers includes a group of highly specialised Immigration Lawyers and Registered Migration Agents (including 2 Accredited Immigration Law Specialists).  We can assist with all visa types including this new category.

Call or email us today if you would like more information.  We offer ‘initial’ consultations if you would like to discuss your eligibility.