SUMMARY

October saw a number of reforms to the Employer Sponsored immigration system announced but few changes implemented.

The reform most relevant to employers was the amendment of the Subclass 400 Short Stay Work visa to increase the maximum visa period to 6 months and entry date to 6 months from grant. Other conditions will remain the same and the changes take effect from 23 November.

It is expected that minor reforms to the 457 programme will be implemented before the end of the year with more substantial changes to occur in 2015.

SUBCLASS 400 VISA - INCREASED DURATION & ENTRY PERIOD

The Subclass 400 Short Stay Work visa was amended on the 30th of October to allow for entry within 6 months of grant (in lieu of 3 months) and an increased maximum duration of 6 months. Where employers are seeking a visa period of more than 3 months a strong business case will be required. Other visa conditions remain the same, including the 6 week work period.

The changes will go some way to improving flexibility for employers. The 3 month window has caused businesses numerous difficulties with timing the delivery of work and meeting contractual obligations.

Processing times for the visa remain lengthy in many cases and times may vary between offices. Employers are encouraged to plan ahead wherever possible to ensure 400 visas are available in an appropriate timeframe.

The changes will take effect from 23 November 2014.

INDUSTRY INNOVATION AND COMPETITIVENESS AGENDA

The Australian federal government has announced a raft of regulatory reforms under the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda. The reforms are designed to improve Australia’s economic competitiveness by lowering costs through decreased regulation, increasing skills in the labour market, improving infrastructure and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.

INNOVATION AGENDA – 457 VISA REFORMS

One of the initiatives announced in the Agenda is the enhancement of skilled migration programme through changes to the 457 visa programme and investor visas. These reforms are intended to improve the skills in the local labour force and attract high quality international talent to Australia.

The government has advised that initial legislative and regulatory reforms will commence immediately with implementation to continue into 2015.

The reforms to the 457 visa programme were drawn from the recently released ‘Robust New Foundations’ report. The report made 22 recommendations and some of these have been accepted by the government as part of the Agenda.

The accepted recommendation which will be implemented include:

  • streamlining the processing of business sponsorship, nomination and visa applications based on risk factors with a focus on targeting high risk applications;
  • reforming sponsorship requirements to reduce cost and time for businesses;
  • refocusing compliance and monitoring activities on high risk applicants;
  • greater flexibility in relation to English language requirements based industry standards;
  • increasing the sponsorship period for start-ups from 12 to 18 months;
  • Retaining the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold at $53,900 for 2 years pending a review.

INNOVATION AGENDA – SIV REFORMS & LAUNCH OF PREMIUM INVESTOR VISA

Innovation Agenda announced a number of reforms to the Significant Investor Visa (SIV), many of which were drawn from the outcomes of a review into the Business Innovation and Investment Programme which was released on the 14th of October.

The most substantial change is the launch of a new Premium Investor Visa (PIV) which will require a $15 million investment, have no residency requirement, and require nomination by Austrade. The PIV will allow holders to apply for Permanent Residence after 12 months.

The current SIV will be reformed to establish a residency requirement of 180 days per year for secondary visa holders, allow primary and secondary visa holders to ‘role swap’ to meet residency requirements, enable nomination by Austrade as well as the states and territories, and streamline visa processing.

AUSTRALIAN STARTUPS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

The difficulty Australian start-ups face with the 457 visa programme has been raised by Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar. Describing the current system as ‘byzantine’ Farquhar stressed the need for reforms which reduce the cost and complexity of employer sponsored visas for technology start-ups.

As part of the Innovation Agenda the government announced some changes to the 457 programme which will reduce the burden on start-ups, including increasing Business Sponsorship periods to 18 months. However it is clear that further amendments are required to truly address the challenged faced start-ups attempting to use employer sponsored visas. 

Under the current system start-up businesses should make the necessary enquiries to determine whether the Employer Sponsored visas will work for them. Among the factors to be considered start-ups should assess the additional costs associated with the visa such as immigration fees, salaries, and training. Businesses should also ensure they have sufficient resources to implement appropriate systems and processes to manage the paperwork required by the Department and meet compliance obligations.

Unfortunately limited alternatives to the 457 visa exist. In some, highly limited, circumstances start-ups may be able to fulfil short term goals through the Working Holiday visa programme. Despite the recent reforms the 457 visa remains challenging for many start-ups.

FUTURE SKILLED MIGRATION & 400 VISA SERIES REFORMS

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection released a discussion paper in September this year to seek advice from interested parties on the future of the Skilled Migration Programme in Australia.

The scope of the review IS substantial, covering all skilled migration to Australia including the 400 series ‘Activity’ visas such as temporary and short stay work, trainee, graduate, and academic visas. The review is intended to implement reforms to ensure Australia’s Skilled Migration Programme is effective over the next 20 years.

Eventus Immigration was one of only 35 groups nationally to make submissions to the Department about the reforms. It is expected that the Department will call for a second round of submissions in 2015 once it has developed a draft framework. Due to the depth and breadth of the reforms changes are not expected for some time.

OTHER IMMIGRATION NEWS

2 October – ACT State Sponsorship system updated

2 October – VETASSESS launches new Trades Recognition Service

9 October – DIBP announces Subsequent Temporary Application Charge Exemption for Student visa applicants due to Education provider default

9 October – DIBP announces Bridging Visa A, B, and C applications for ENS / RSMS applicants must now be made in person or by mail

23 October – Work & Holiday agreement signed between Australia & Israel