You may have heard a lot about the upcoming changes to our migration intake in Australia as well as the changes to a lot of rules. Today we look at the employer-sponsored visas, and what are some of the anticipated changes that are about to come out.
But first, let us go through some of the changes that took place in the last 6 years and how the upcoming changes will redirect the course from there.
A bit of history and how we got here:
If you have been following the migration scene for the last five to ten years, you would definitely remember this infamous day: 18th of April 2017.
It was the first working day after the Easter long weekend. Everyone has come back to work on Tuesday, just going about their business. But for anyone who was involved with migration at the time, whether as an immigration lawyer, migration agent, a migrant on a work visa, or an employer that relies on sponsored workers, that day was far from normal and was the beginning of a series of cataclysmic changes to migration.
Announcements came down that changes are in the pipeline. There was going to be no more certainty for work visa holders who were going to transition to permanent residency after two years of work for their sponsor on an employer sponsored visa. Skilled Occupation Lists were rewritten with hundreds of occupations culled in one fell swoop. Pathways that were available were no more for several cohorts, and some applications in the pipeline were even detrimentally affected.
The changes were implemented over the course of a year in tranches, with the following changes being the main ones:
Changing the “try before you buy” required period for temporary employer-sponsored visa holders with their sponsors from 2 to 3 years before the sponsor can nominate them for the transition stream of permanent residency.
Creating two new Skilled Occupations Lists for the employer-sponsored visas, the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and the Short-Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), which created a two-tier system in the employer-sponsored visas for the first time.
Confining eligibility for the employer-nominated permanent visas to those whose occupation is on the MLTSSL.
Restricting occupations on the STSOL to a maximum of 2-year visa term for temporary employer-sponsored visas, with a maximum of two visas to be applied for onshore before the person would have to depart Australia, effectively capping most people on this occupation list to four years before they have to depart Australia.
Announcing the creation of the Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) and the imposition of a levy on all employer sponsored visas at the time of application to cover the costs of skilling Australians. Sponsorship costs would go from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars instead.
With some of those changes (albeit not all), there were some transitional arrangements grandfathering existing visa holders, nevertheless, the overall remained to be quite harsh.
As the announcements continued to unfold, it became an absolute nightmare for anyone involved in or adjacent to the migration profession. Employees who were awaiting visa grants or counting the days till their PR eligibility had their hopes shattered. Employers were rightfully concerned about not being able to retain their existing sponsored staff or sponsor further staff members. On top of it all, all immigration lawyers and migration agents were in damage control mode, taking endless calls from panicked sponsors and employees.
As the government works on the post-COVID economic recovery, an important part of the recovery plan is overhauling migration and ramping up the migrant intake. It is anticipated that the upcoming changes as well as the increase to the migration programme annual planning levels to allow more skilled migrants in.
Some of the changes include:
Reverting to a single occupation list for employer sponsored visas, doing away with the multi-tier system, which would simplify the employer sponsored pathways.
Allowing employers to nominate any employee who has been on a temporary employer-sponsored visa for a permanent one, regardless of their occupation, which would give both sponsors and overseas workers more certainty about their future.
Reducing the time required on a temporary employer-sponsored visa before applying for an employer nominated permanent one back to 2 years.
Abolishing the 2x2 limit (two visas, two years each) on the current STSOL occupations, which was a great deterrent to a lot of overseas workers who did not want to relocate to Australia on the proviso that they would have to depart within 4 years.
There have been discussions as well about a possibility of changing the SAF Levy payment from an upfront payment to monthly instalments, thus allowing businesses to sponsor staff without impacting their cashflow with a large upfront levy.
How do these changes affect me as a sponsor or a migrant?
As you may have noticed, the changes are mostly about reverting to the pre-Easter 2017 situation when the employer sponsored program was much simpler and far more straight-forward. This will help the Australian economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic border closure which have detrimentally affected the labour market in Australia.
As the case is with all changes, there may be some hiccups and unintended consequences of legislation once they come out, and – at the moment – the legislation has not yet been released. There may be some impacts on existing sponsored employees who are not eligible currently for a further visa and/or permanent residency, which might allow them a pathway otherwise.
How can we help you?
At Longton Legal, we can help you with all employer-sponsorship matters. Our Immigration team comprises of highly experienced practitioners who can help with any matters.
Whether you are a business that needs assistance with the process of sponsoring employees, an employee who is sponsored and wishes to work on their pathway to permanent residency, or a prospective sponsored employee that needs to strategise their migration journey, we can definitely assist you.
If you are considering sponsoring an employee, have an existing employee that you wish to ascertain how to keep them for a further visa term or even permanently, or require immigration assistance with any sponsorship matter, we can definitely assist you.
If you are a visa holder who wishes to remain in Australia, or a prospective migrant who wishes to explore their options, we can definitely help you with your roadmap and explore the available options.
*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice before taking any course of action.*
Registered Migration Agent
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