IMPACT – HIGH
What is the change? The Australian Government has made further changes to the lists of skilled occupations that can be filled by foreign nationals under the Temporary Work (Skilled) (Subclass 457) visa, the Training (Subclass 407) visa, the Employer Nomination Scheme (Subclass 186) visa and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (Subclass 187) visa programmes. The Government also moved to end an exemption from skills assessment and English-language requirements for primary Subclass 186 and Subclass 187 visa applicants applying under the Direct Entry Stream whose earnings would be equal to or greater than the Australian Tax Office’s top individual income tax rate.
What does the change mean? The changes to the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) will affect what occupations foreign nationals can be nominated into for certain skilled Australian visa programmes, and, in some cases, the validity period for which a temporary visa will be issued. The end of the exemption from meeting skills assessment and competent English-language criteria for high-earning Subclass 186 and Subclass 187 applicants will add to the requirements these applicants must fulfill before application criteria will be met. The removal of the high-salary exemption will apply not only to Subclass 186 and Subclass 187 nomination and visa applications filed under the Direct Entry Stream on or after 1 July, but also to those applications that were filed before 1 July but that had not yet been finally determined by that date.
Background: The MLTSSL and STSOL replaced the Skilled Occupation and Consolidated Sponsored Occupation lists in April, when 216 occupations were removed from the set of occupations eligible to be filled by foreign nationals under certain skilled visa programmes. Officials said at the time that the MLTSSL and STSOL would be reviewed and that additional adjustments would be made. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection released the adjusted lists Friday. On the whole, more than 30 occupations were added to the lists. Others moved between the two lists, and 12 were removed altogether.
MLTSSL occupations that were on the removed list or not previously eligible for the 457 visa programme
Applicants with pending Subclass 457 visa applications whose occupation is no longer eligible will have the opportunity to withdraw their application and request a refund. Subclass 457 visas will be granted for up to two years unless the occupation is on the MLTSSL, in which case the visa may be granted for a period of up to four years. Foreign nationals whose occupation appears on the MLTSSL will have a pathway to Australian permanent residency through Employer Sponsored visa programmes post March 2018, which will coincide with the implementation of the new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa programme.
Officials have indicated that the occupation lists will be regularly reviewed every six months, with a view to support the changing needs of Australian industry and Australian workers. The next scheduled review and update to the occupation lists is expected to occur on 1 January 2018.
BAL Analysis: While the addition of occupations to the MLTSSL and STSOL and the movement of a number of occupations from the STSOL to the MLTSSL are welcome developments, the end of the skills assessment and competent English-language exemptions for high salary earners under the Direct Entry Stream of the Subclass 186 and Subclass 187 visa programmes will make obtaining a permanent Australian visa more difficult for certain foreign nationals. The changes are just some of a host of immigration changes that are being undertaken in Australia this year and next year. BAL Australia is hosting a webinar 12 July that will cover key immigration developments in 2017, including the numerous changes that took effect on 1 July and those on the horizon for 2018.
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