Major changes to immigration regulations in Australia could impact businesses aiming to send staff to work Down Under this year.

A range of immigration updates are in the pipeline in the country, where net immigration rose by 27 per cent last year as the population edged ever closer to a record 25 million.

So businesses should consider the implications as the Australian government considers ways to slow the rise

Australia has always been a popular destination not just for people from the UK looking to relocate but also for businesses sending assignees to work there.

However there are some major changes ahead because the current subclass 457 visa is being abolished on March 1 to be replaced by the temporary skilled shortage visa programme.

Depending on the type of role, a visa may be issued for either two or four years but the route to permanent residence will be more restricted.

For an employee to relocate to Australia they will need to be sponsored by their employer and rules around that are being tightened too.

Some of the new rules which may affect businesses include:

  • Employers must register as an authorised sponsor with the Australia Border Force before they can sponsor a new arrival from abroad. If they are not registered they cannot sponsor foreign employees for visas. New streamlined processing will allow sponsorship to be valid for a period of five years.
  • Employers nominating an employee for an ENS or RSMS visa will be required to pay a contribution to the Skilling Australians Fund (SAF). This replaces the current training obligation requirements. The contribution will be payable in full at the time the employee is nominated, and is set at AUD 3000 for small businesses (those with annual turnover of less than AUD 10 million) and AUD 5000 for other businesses.
  • Sponsors must also pay a Minimum Market Salary Requirement. This means employers are required to pay the Australian market salary rate and meet the temporary skilled migration income threshold which was AUD 53,900 as at April 12 2016.

 

In relation to the visa requirements the prospective role must fit with the Occupation skills lists. Only jobs appearing on the Medium and Long Term Skills List (MLTSSL) will be available on the Direct Entry stream for ENS and RSMS.

There will be some additional occupations added through the RSMS to support regional employers. The most recent occupation skills list was published on January 11 and further updates will be released in March – which will apply to the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) Subclass 186, the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS) Subclass 187 and the TSS visa.

There are significant implications for employees too, especially those who may see a short-term assignment in Australia as a possible step towards a permanent role in future.

For a start, assignees will need at least two years of relevant work experience and a mandatory police clearance certificate; and they must complete an English language proficiency test.

For those looking for a longer stay a visa can be granted for four years and may lead to employer-sponsored residence after three years. However the applicant would need to be under the age of 45 on the date of their application, which is important to consider.

After March 2018, applicants will not be able to apply for permanent residency unless their occupation is on the ‘long and medium term occupation’ list’ (although an exception is made for those who applied for or held a 457 visa from April 18, 2017).

A bill to make partner visa sponsorship stricter is also in the pipeline, so it looks like a year of immigration change in the region. Keeping up to date with those changes will be vital for businesses looking to send assignees to work there.