IMPACT – MEDIUM

The Australian Government continues to provide updates on skilled visa programmes and other immigration initiatives. Recently announced changes will affect the visa application process for same-sex partners, the processing of incomplete Subclass 457 applications and will help employers prepare for a major visa overhaul in March.

Among key developments:

  • The Department of Home Affairs has changed visa processes for applicants in same-sex marriages. Applicants in same-sex marriages can now apply for visas as their partner’s “spouse” rather than “de facto partner.” This move followed a vote in Parliament to recognise same-sex marriage in Australia. The change applies to Partner visas (subclasses 100, 309, 801 and 820) and any other visa in which spouses can be listed in an application. Applicants in same-sex relationships can also apply for a Prospective Marriage visa (subclass 300) if they genuinely intend to marry their partner while in Australia.
  • The Department has changed how it will handle incomplete Subclass 457 applications. From 15 January, the Department will refuse applications that are incomplete because of a lack of supporting evidence provided (1) no “natural justice obligations apply” and (2) more than two days have passed since the application was lodged. Officials said this rule would not be applied in certain cases, including cases where health and character documentation is still pending, where a related application that must be finalised is still pending, or where a reasonable explanation is provided for the missing documentation.
  • New occupation lists will take effect. Australia has committed to updating its occupation lists for temporary and permanent skilled visas every six months. New lists are due to come into effect 17 January, but there will likely be little (if any) change. As BAL reported earlier this week, officials recently said they will not make changes to the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) at this time, saying they have “prioritised continuity” after the list was significantly altered in April and July of 2017. It is not yet clear whether any changes will be made to the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), but if changes are made they will likely be relatively minor.
  • The Department is preparing to launch the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa programme. The programme will replace the Subclass 457 visa progamme in March. While many details have yet to be finalised, officials recently provided updates on plans for streamlined processing measures, transitional arrangements, labour market testing and salary requirements. Read BAL’s full news alert on this topic here.
  • Officials have issued a reminder about important changes to permanent employer-sponsored skilled categories. These changes will also take effect in March, but transitional provisions will apply to certain subclass 457 employees applying for permanent residence after March. Read BAL’s full news alert on this topic here.

BAL Analysis: Australia’s immigration policies continue to change at a rapid pace. BAL continues to work with clients and to lobby Government officials, aiming to ensure that client interests are represented as immigration rules change. Those with questions or concerns about how any of the recent changes will affect their company or their employees should not hesitate to contact BAL.