IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? The Australian Government has provided new information about the forthcoming Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa programme, which will replace the Subclass 457 visa programme in March.

What does the change mean? Among key information made available through the Government’s Skilled Visa newsletter are additional details on visa validity period, streamlined processing measures, transitional arrangements, labour market testing and salary requirements. Many details are not yet finalised, but the information that is available should help employers begin to plan for the switch to the new visa programme in March.

  • Implementation timeframe: Between now and March 2018.
  • Visas/permits affected: Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visas.
  • Who is affected: Employers planning on recruiting foreign workers on TSS visas.
  • Next steps: Additional information on the TSS visa programme will continue to come out in February and March. BAL will continue following developments and will alert clients to additional changes once they are announced.

Key information: The Australian Government announced in April 2017 that it would abolish the Subclass 457 Temporary Skilled Work visa and replace it with the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa programme with an eye toward tighter controls over migration and the hiring of skilled foreign workers. This week, officials released some information that should help employers begin to prepare for the switch. Some key points, as highlighted in the Government’s Skilled Visa newsletter for January, are as follows:

  • The TSS visa programme will, as expected, be launched in March. The TSS visa programme will include separate streams for short-term work, medium-term work and work completed pursuant to labour agreements in Australia. When TSS nomination applications are lodged, employers will be required to select an employment period of one or two years for the short-term stream and one, two, three or four years for the medium-term or labour agreement stream.
  • The TSS visa programme will include streamlining initiatives. These initiatives include:
    • A standard five-year sponsorship agreement period, including for start-up companies.
    • Auto-approval of low-risk nomination applications that are submitted by accredited sponsors.
    • A quicker renewal process for existing sponsors, including a shorter application form and, potentially, auto approval of some sponsorship renewal applications.
    • New online forms for the TSS visa programme and a review aimed at ensuring that TSS correspondence templates are easy to use and understand.
  • Transitional arrangements will be put in place. These arrangements are still being finalised, but it is anticipated that:
    • If Subclass 457 nominations and visa applications are both lodged before the TSS programme is implemented, they will be adjudicated against current criteria (i.e., Subclass 457 criteria).
    • If, at the time of the switch, a Subclass 457 nomination is lodged but the associated visa application is not, the nomination will not be considered and will have to be resubmitted under new guidelines.
    • Secondary visa applicants will be permitted to lodge dependent TSS applications if the primary visa holder has a current or pending Subclass 457 visa. The validity period of the dependent TSS visa will be linked to the expiry date of the primary visa.
    • Subclass 457 visa holders with valid visas will be able to change employers after the transition to TSS, provided the new employer lodges a TSS nomination application.
    • Subclass 457 visa holders who want to change occupations, however, will be required to have their employers lodge a TSS nomination application and will be required to submit a new visa application.
  • Labour market testing requirements will become more stringent. As BAL reported in October, Labour Market Testing will be mandatory for TSS visa applications. Exact requirements have not been determined, but authorities previously indicated that sponsors who want to ensure they meet the criteria once they are established should consider: (1) advertising positions for a reasonable period of time before seeking to fill positions with foreign workers; (2) ensuring that advertisements specifically mention the nominated position, including the terms and conditions that are eventually offered to a foreign worker; and (3) ensuring that advertisements can be accessed nationally. Additional details are expected in February.
  • Employers will have to meet salary requirements. Current arrangements require sponsors that employ foreign workers at an annual salary of less than A$250,000 to establish that they are paying a market rate salary. Changes are planned to (1) clarify the meaning of key terms such as “base rate of pay” and “guaranteed annual earnings”; (2) ensure that salary requirements more properly reflect pay disparities from industry to industry; (3) take steps to ensure that foreign workers understand salary requirements so that it will be harder for unscrupulous employees to take advantage of them; (4) make clear to sponsors that they must comply with all applicable labour laws, as well as immigration rules. Additional details are expected in February.

BAL Analysis: Employers are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the information that is available about the forthcoming TSS visa programme. The streamlining measures will help ease visa processing for some sponsors and are a reminder of the benefits of becoming an accredited sponsor.