Visa Changes - What do they mean for your business?
Following the rushed changes to the employer sponsored visa programs in April, the 1 July changes has seen some reprieve, especially in terms of the occupation lists. Large organisations, industry bodies and other stakeholders have been vocal in demonstrating the significant impact the proposed changes will have on productivity, growth and expansion, and the changes in the occupation lists reflect that the Government was listening.
Regardless, the 1 July changes have again reinforced the Government’s intention to continue to create uncertainty in the employer sponsored visa programs, bringing both instability to employers and visa applicants.
A BREAKDOWN OF THE 1 JULY CHANGES
The amendments to the occupation lists corrected some clear unintended consequences of the April changes.
From 1 July 2017 the 457 program and ENS Direct Entry Stream share the same occupation lists.
The new occupation lists apply to 457 applications lodged and not yet finalised as well as new applications lodged after 1 July 2017.
Occupations are still deemed either to be Medium to Long term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) occupations or Short Term Skill Occupation List (STSOL).
Caveats now apply to 67 occupations, and apply to both the 457 program and Subclass 186 applications - Direct Entry Stream. Occupations cannot be used if the caveats cannot be met.
Certain occupations have been removed from the lists entirely, a number of occupations have been added, and some occupations have been moved between the STSOL and MLTSSL.
Removed occupations include: Equipment Hire Manager; Fleet Manager; Picture Framer; Property Manager; Psychotherapist; Real Estate Agent Principal; Real Estate Agent; Real Estate Agent Representative; Ship’s Engineer, Ship’s Master; Ship’s Officer and University Tutor.
A combined list of eligible occupations can be found here.
Some of the occupations that have been moved from the STSOL to the MLTSSL include senior management positions, environmental scientists and university lecturers.
Some of the occupations which were removed from the occupation lists in April 2017, have now been included back on the occupation lists. These occupations include air transport professionals, R&D Managers, life scientists, ICT support roles and horse trainers.
Changes to English Exemption
The exemption to demonstrate English where the salary was above $96,400 was removed for applications lodged after 1 July 2017.
A new exemption commenced on 1 July 2017 for employees of overseas businesses or an associated entity, who will receive $96,400 or more.
Mandatory police clearances
Police clearances will be required for all applicants aged 17 or over for 457 applications lodged from 1 July 2017. Clearances are required from each country the applicant has been resident in for a period of 12 months or more (cumulatively) over the past 10 years, or since turning 16.
Expanded Skills Assessments
The occupations and countries requiring mandatory skills assessments has been expanded.
Training Benchmarks A and B have been tightened and the acceptable training expenditure and training funds has been further clarified. The range of authorised training funds has been reduced and acceptable training has been limited, in particular it removes training expenditure for principals of the business being included.
Expanded criteria for Accreditation
An expanded range of criteria will enable a larger number of sponsors to obtain Accreditation. There are now four categories a business can apply under. Accredited sponsors receive priority processing.
EMPLOYER NOMINATION SCHEME SUBCLASS 186 VISA
Subclass 186 Direct Entry Streams- Skill and English Exemption
The skill and English exemption for nominees with a salary above the ATO highest tax bracket has been removed, and applies to applications lodged from 1 July 2017.
This was originally introduced to impact applications not yet finalised, however this was further amended on 11th July to only apply to applications from 1 July 2017.
Age requirement- Subclass 186 Direct Entry Stream
For applications lodged after 1 July 2017, applicants must be under the age of 45. Certain exemptions apply.
Subclass 186 - Temporary Residence Transition Stream (TRT)
The English requirement for applications lodged after 1 July 2017 is competent English.
Employers must now show that there is a genuine need for a paid employee in the position.
As outlined above, there has been changes to the occupation lists and the same occupation lists applies to the 457 program and Subclass 186 - Direct Entry stream.
Changes to the occupation lists will not apply to already lodged Subclass 186 applications.
The occupation caveats will now apply to 186 applications lodged under the direct entry stream from 1 July.
Age for Direct Entry (DE) stream
For 186 DE stream visa, applicants must be under 45 at the time of application.
Certain exemptions apply.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Whilst the 1 July changes saw some welcomed and much needed inclusions to the occupation lists, the frequent review of the occupation lists and the fact that it applies to 457 applications lodged and not yet finalised, makes it challenging for businesses to manage their recruitment and talent needs.
The current processing times on the DIBP website is 4-7 months. Whilst in reality, applications are often finalised a lot more quickly than this, applications are still taking a considerable time to be processed.
Given the purpose of the 457 program is to fill an immediate and short term skills shortage, the processing times are not making the 457 program responsive and allowing businesses to focus on productivity, growth and expansion.
Mandatory police clearances will also further contribute to delays in the 457 programs. Police clearances can be difficult to obtain from certain countries and processing times can be extensive.
A key issue for employers is to be able to attract and retain talent, with the reduced visa validity and extremely limited permanent residency pathways proposed from March 2018, this is going to become increasingly difficult. In the last 10 years there has been a significant shift from Australia focusing on growth, talent and attracting the “best and brightest”, to turning away much needed skills and talent. The highly skilled potential employees, often leaders within their field, have many more choices than Australia for employment opportunities. Several factors come into the decision to move to Australia, often also focused around lifestyle, and as such, one of the drawcards for employers has always been permanent residency options. With this drawcard significantly reduced, employers have a challenging time ahead.
Businesses are often competing for global talent in industries where there is a global skill shortage, and unfortunately the changes to the visa program has resulted in Australia not being an enticing option for many potential employees.
The changes will continue to impact businesses in their ability to attract and retain talent, and continued feedback from stakeholders and industry bodies continues to remain important if it is to influence Government policy in any upcoming and future changes
As the employer sponsored visa program becomes much more complex, employers need to be getting expert advice and consulting to manage their strategies and employees moving forward.
Contact SCA Connect today for an expert advice on strategic visa solutions to address the recent and upcoming legislative changes to migration.