At a Glance

  • New streamlined processing arrangements will be introduced to support the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa when it comes into effect in early March 2018. These initiatives include auto-approval of certain nominations lodged by accredited sponsors and a streamlined sponsorship renewal process.
  • The Department of Home Affairs has also advised that new occupation lists have been introduced from January 17, 2018, and has released information regarding proposed transitional arrangements in the lead up to the TSS implementation.

The situation

The Department of Home Affairs has released initial information about the proposed streamlining initiatives that are expected to reduce the processing times under the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa framework due to come into effect in early March 2018.

  • Streamlined processing arrangements. In its January 2018 'Skilled Visa E-news', the Department has outlined proposed streamlined processing initiatives to support the new TSS framework, including a new standard five-year sponsorship approval period (including for start-ups); auto-approval of complete streamlined lower-risk nomination applications lodged by accredited sponsors; and a new streamlined sponsorship renewal process for existing business sponsors which may include auto-approval of such sponsorship applications.
    • Impact. The Department expects that these streamlining initiatives will reduce processing times of subclass 457 and TSS applications, particularly those lodged by accredited sponsors. This will be welcomed by sponsors who are currently experiencing significant delays in the processing of subclass 457 visa applications. By large, the transitional arrangements should benefit current subclass 457 sponsors and visa holders, however, there is still some ambiguity regarding payment of the Skilling Australian Fund (SAF) levy – the fund to train local workers that will come into effect with the TSS – in cases of TSS nomination transfers.
  • Updates to Skilled Occupation lists. The Department of Home Affairs has advised that updates to the occupation lists took effect on January 17, 2018. However, unlike previous updates, these revised occupation lists will not apply to pending subclass 457 visa applications or Direct Entry stream Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa applications.
    • Impact. Some occupations have become available for short-term sponsorship, such as Property Manager and Psychotherapist, for example. Other occupations have been upgraded to eligibility for a long-term subclass 457 visa, while others were removed from all lists. The new occupation lists will only impact new applications and will not affect pending cases.
  • Further updates ahead. The occupations lists will undergo further revision in March 2018 to coincide with the introduction of the TSS visa and the further tightening of the permanent employer sponsored visa program. The occupation list for the Training (subclass 407) visa will also be revised at that time to align this list with the TSS visa occupations.
    • Impact. This amendment will benefit sponsors of Training (subclass 407) visas, who will have access to a broader range of occupations.
  • Transitional arrangements confirmed. While the legislation is yet to be released, the Department has confirmed that approved subclass 457 business sponsors will be able to sponsor under the TSS visa program and that the following transitional arrangements will likely apply after TSS implementation:
    • Pending subclass 457 nomination and accompanying visa applications lodged prior to TSS implementation will be processed under the current subclass 457 visa framework;
    • Pending subclass 457 nomination applications lodged without an accompanying subclass 457 visa application will need to be withdrawn as they cannot be linked to a new TSS visa application. It is unclear from the Department's newsletter if this will extend to pending nominations where the application will be linked to an existing subclass 457 visa holder, or it only relates to situations where a TSS visa will be applied for post implementation;
    • Employers who wish to employ a subclass 457 holder will be able to lodge a TSS nomination transfer to facilitate this, however, it is unclear from the Department's newsletter as to whether the SAF Levy will be payable in this scenario;
    • Subclass 457 visa holders who change occupations (and as a result fall under a new Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations occupation code) will need to lodge both a new TSS nomination and an accompanying visa application - this will require payment of the SAF Levy;
    • Family members of subclass 457 visa holders will be able to lodge a subsequent dependent TSS visa application, the validity of which will match the subclass 457 visa holder.
  • Other initiatives. The Department will also be implementing new measures on January 15, 2018 to address the high levels of subclass 457 applications being lodged with incomplete documents. The new arrangements will result in the refusal of certain applications which do not meet core legislative requirements at initial assessment stage, and in these situations, the Department will no longer be writing to applicants to provide additional time to submit documents.
    • Impact. A larger number of applications will likely be refused where they are lodged with incomplete documents.
  • Exceptions. The new arrangements will not apply to cases where a health and/or character documentation is pending, or where a reasonable and satisfactory explanation is provided for pending documents.