What is the change? The Australian Government has reversed its decision to retrospectively apply the elimination of the high-salary exemption for employer-sponsored permanent visas under the Employer Nomination Scheme (Subclass 186) and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (Subclass 187) Direct Entry streams.

What does the change mean? Applicants who filed before 1 July and who have not received a final decision remain eligible for the high-salary exemption (at least A$180,001 per year) from skills assessment and competent English language requirements. Applicants who filed on or after 1 July are no longer eligible for the exemption.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: Subclass 186 and Subclass 187 Direct Entry streams.
  • Who is affected: Primary Subclass 186 and 187 Direct Entry Stream applicants seeking an exemption from skills assessment and English language testing based on annual earnings of at least A$180,001.  
  • Business impact: The change in the effective date of the elimination of the exemption will affect hundreds of applicants whose applications would have been invalidated had the elimination applied to applications that had been filed prior to, but not yet decided by 1 July 2017.

Background: On 1 July, the Government announced the removal of the exemption and indicated at that time that it would apply retrospectively to applications filed before 1 July that had not yet been decided.

On Tuesday 11 July, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection announced it had changed its mind as to whether the removal of the exemption would apply to applications that had been filed prior to 1 July 2017. The department indicated that the removal of the exemption was designed to prevent applicants from inflating their income to avoid a skills assessment or English test, and that applications lodged before 1 July will be subject to further scrutiny.

BAL Analysis: The reversal will benefit hundreds of applicants and their accompanying family members who filed their employer-sponsored permanent visa applications before 1 July, and were relying on this exemption from having to meet relevant skills assessment and English language testing requirements. Companies and individuals should note that the removal of the exemption, as well as other changes announced 1 July, including reduction of the upper age limit from 50 to 45 for Subclass 186 and 187 Direct Entry stream applicants, will apply for applications lodged from 1 July onwards.

This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact

MARN: 0101248

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