New Extended Period of Stay
Effective 23 November 2014, it is now possible to apply for a Subclass 400 visa with a six month period of stay. The period of first entry may also occur within a six month period. Previous regulations only allowed a maximum 12 week stay.
The Subclass 400 visa is a short term work visa for highly specialised assignments where the individual is often required at short notice. The visa does not require employer sponsorship and has far less onerous requirements than the longer term Subclass 457 Temporary Work (Skilled) visa. Many passports holders (e.g. United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates) can also apply for this visa online.
In order to access the six month visa period, a strong business case must be put forward. Applicants requesting a stay period of more than three months will be required to provide evidence that their activities will not adversely impact Australian workers, including being remunerated in accordance with Australian wages and conditions.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will consider any of the following:

  • Evidence about the nature, size, duration and importance of a project to the local community and any potential impacts to the business/community should the project not be able to proceed, including employment opportunities for Australian workers;
  • Evidence that specialist advice/expertise from overseas is required – this may include evidence from an employment agency of a shortage of similarly qualified persons in Australia;
  • Whether there are contractual obligations relating to the installation/servicing of a piece of equipment; any evidence provided by the applicant's proposed employer that they have tried unsuccessfully to hire an Australian to do the proposed work (for example, evidence of job search, training programs, letter of support from relevant union);
  • The number of Australians being employed on the project and/or by the business;
  • Whether there is enough time available for an Australian to be trained to do the proposed work over a longer period; and
  • The employment conditions of the applicant, including, their salary arrangements and whether they are in accordance with local labour market requirements.

Subclass 600 Visitor Visa Applications - Online Option
Also effective 23 November, Chinese passport holders may lodge an online offshore application for a Subclass 600 Visitor visa through the services of an agent (e.g. travel agent).
Previously, applications had to be lodged over the counter at the local Australian mission.
China - Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA)
For the purposes of immigration, the ChAFTA has been designed to improve temporary access to Australia and China. Of particular interest are the following provisions:

  • Australia to provide guaranteed access to Chinese citizens in the following circumstances:
    • Intra-corporate transferees and independent executives for up to four years (including executives, managers and specialists);
    • Contractual service suppliers for up to four years; including guaranteed access for up to a combined total of 1,800 per year in four occupations: Chinese chefs, WuShu martial arts coaches, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners and Mandarin language tutors (subject to meeting standard immigration requirements);
    • Installers and servicers for up to three months;
    • Business visitors for up to 90 days, or six months for business visitors who are service sellers; and
    • Entry and stay for dependants of Chinese citizens that have been granted entry, in accordance with the agreement, for a period of longer than one year
  • Chinese owned companies registered in Australia undertaking large infrastructure development projects above $150 million will be able to negotiate, similarly to Australian business, increased labour flexibilities for specific projects. This will be done on a case-by-case basis within the framework of the Subclass 457 visa scheme.
  • Alongside the ChAFTA, Australia and China have also completed negotiations to allow Chinese nationals to apply for a Work and Holiday visa. Under this scheme, Australia will grant up to 5,000 visas annually to Chinese nationals.

It is yet unknown when the provisions in the agreement will be introduced into Australian legislation or how long this process will take.