As many visa applicants may be aware, the Turnbull Government announced significant changes to the skilled migration policy in April. The changes affect the 457 visa program which is used by employers to sponsor foreign workers to work in Australia and in the process help to fill the skill gap existing in the country.
It is important that owners and managers of businesses sponsoring employees who require visas make an effort to understand these changes for a smoother job recruitment process.
On 1 July 2017, some changes were made to the list of eligible skilled occupations for the subclass 457 programme; they involved additions and some removals from the list, as well as amendments to caveats on some occupations. These changes were mainly targeted at reducing the number of 457 Employee Sponsored Visa applications, although they do affect some skilled visa applicants.
What are the changes and what do they mean?
The new changes also mean that only certain occupations are approved for use under Australia’s permanent and temporary skilled visa programmes, occupations that are listed on the SOL (Skilled Occupation List) and CSOL (Consolidated Skilled Occupation List).
Changes that occurred on 19th April 2017 are as follows:
- Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) replaces the previous ‘Skilled Occupation List’ (SOL), the difference being that 216 occupations, including pilots, biochemists, actors, authors, firefighters, flying instructors, conveyancers and so on have now been removed.
- Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) replaces the previous ‘Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List’ (CSOL)
Also, some occupations that had been removed in the first round of changes announced in April were reintroduced the list; these include;
- Chief Executive or Managing Director 111111 under the MLTSSL List Additions
- Butcher or Smallgoods Maker 351211, ICT Support and Test Engineers NEC 263299 and ICT Support Technicians NEC 313199, all under the STSOL Additions
New and pipeline subclass 457 applications will now be affected by the list of eligible skilled occupations, whereas for subclasses other than 457, only applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017 will be impacted by occupation list changes.
Experts believe the shortened list will raise the bar on the eligibility criteria of those applying for not just under employer-sponsored subclasses but also general skilled migration
Mandatory Skills Assessments
In the new policy, the Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) 457 skills assessment programme will be expanded to include some more nationalities such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan concerning a small number of existing occupations.
Changes to Training Benchmarks
Starting March 2018, it will no longer be necessary for sponsors to fulfil the training benchmarks. Instead, employers will be required to contribute to the new Skilling Australians Fund (SAF).
Current training benchmark requirements have been left more or less intact the only difference being that the immigration department has redefined what can be counted towards training benchmark expenditure.
Examples of these changes include:
From July 2017 payments may cover:
- Formal study courses including associated costs
- Online courses or training software
- RTOs involved in face to face training which has a bearing on formal qualification
- Trainees, apprentices or recent graduates
- Training officers – whose sole role is training
- Conference attendance for CPD
The types of expenditures enumerated below are not eligible:
- On-the-job training that is not identified as applicable expenditure
- Training that isn’t relevant to the business’ industry in which the business operates.
- Training that is undertaken by principals in the business – previously, training of family members was valid providing it included other employees.
- Induction training
- Salaries of staff attending training
- Membership fees – these were allowed previously
- Books, journals or magazine subscriptions – previously allowable
- Conferences attended for purposes other than professional development
- Renting a booth at a trade show or expo.
English Language Testing
From July 1high salary earners ($96,400) who were exempted from English language testing will no longer enjoy the benefit after changes were made to the application rules for the 457 visa. The only way the visa applicant can be exempted is if he currently works for an associated entity of the sponsor overseas.
As of 1 July 2017, those applying for the subclass 457 visa will no longer be exempt from character checks. Applicants will have to adhere to the following:
- A visa applicant will have to submit standard police certificates from each country in which each they have lived in for a cumulative period of 12 months or more, for the last ten years, since turning 16 years of age.
- If they have served in the army of any country in the last ten years, applicants will have to submit a military service record or discharge papers.