Round-up of the major changes in migration legislation in 2017

Find out what has really changed and how Australian employers have been affected.

 

 

Another year is coming to an end, and there were a lot of changes to Migration Legislation for Australia in 2017. We are presenting a round-up of the changes that affect and worry people the most:

 

Same-sex Marriage is now possible: Even though this is not a Migration Legislation change per se, the Australian Government has made possible for same-sex couples to get married in Australia. If same-sex marriage is now legal, this trickles down to Migration Law and these marriages will also be valid under the Migration Act. This means that they will be valid for Visa Application purposes.

 

So where a same-sex couple in the past could not get married, their only option when applying for a Partner Visa was to do it under a De-Facto Relationship.

 

A De-Facto Relationship is one where the couple has been living together for 12 months before lodging the visa application, or if they have been living together for less than 12 months, where they registered their relationship with the State or Territory where they reside.

 

The problem is, some states don’t accept the registration of a relationship, such as Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

 

But now, same-sex marriage is legal, and this means same-sex couples can also get married before they apply for a Partner Visa. This change also means that same-sex couples can apply for a Prospective Marriage Visa, which was not possible before.

 

The Prospective Marriage visa is for couples who are engaged and have met in person, and the non-Australian applicant comes to the country on a nine months visa to live here with their partner and then get married.

 

So, great news all around for same-sex couples and visas!

 

There is also good news for New Zealand Citizens!

 

New Zealand Citizens now have a pathway to apply for Permanent Residence

 

A new stream of the Permanent Skilled Independent 189 visa came into effect on the 1st July 2017.

 

It is called Skilled Independent 189 New Zealand Stream and it does not require a points test as the other stream for the 189 visa does, and it does not have an age limit of 45 years, as the other stream for the 189 visa has.

 

Applicants must have:

 

– been in Australia on or before the 19 February 2016 (when this visa was announced);

– must hold a Special Category (subclass 444) visa. Most Kiwis do hold this visa;

– must have been living here for a continuous period of five years immediately before applying for the visa;

– must have been earning a minimum taxable AUD$53,900 per year since 2013/14;

– must be of good health and character.

 

Remember however that New Zealand Citizens who arrived in Australia before 1994 might also be eligible for a Resident Return visa (subclasses 155 and 157).

 

And New Zealand Citizens who arrived in Australia before 26 February 2001 may already be considered permanent residents for the purpose of applying for Australian citizenship.

 

So New Zealanders applying for this visa don’t have an age limit, but on the other hand, another big change this year did involve age issues:

 

– Reduction of the Maximum Age for some visas:

 

The maximum age for Skilled Permanent and Temporary Visas have been reduced from 50 years to 45 years. The only exception is the Subclass 485 Graduate Skilled Visa –where the maximum age is still 50 years.

 

The Subclass 186 ENS and the Subclass 187 RSMS Employer Nomination Visas have also had their maximum age reduced to 45years – if you are applying for these visas via the Direct Entry Stream.

 

Applicants using the Temporary Residence Transition Stream (TRT) who had a Subclass 457 before the changes announced on the 18th April can apply if they are under 50 years of age.

 

Which takes us to the biggest change in Migration Regulations this year, and the biggest change this decade:

 

– Changes to the 457 Visa Program

 

On the 18th April, the Prime Minister announced major changes to the 457 Visa Program and the shock-waves are still being felt now, eight months down the road. The big bulk of the changes will come into effect on the 1st March 2018 though.

 

In our newsletter this month we are trying to summarise the most important changes in and for the 457 visa we think that they are:

 

– 216 Occupations were completely removed from the Employer Migration Program on the 19th April. Occupations such as Medical Administrator, Sports Administrator, Travel Agency Manager, Human Resource Adviser, Market Research Analyst, Legal Executive and Intellectual Property Lawyer were removed.

 

– Some occupations were removed in April and were put back on the program in July – maybe the government saw the damage this would cause and changed their minds? Or was it pressure from certain Industries?

 

– Some occupations that returned to the program were Chemical Engineers, Electronic Engineers, Industrial Engineers, Research and Development Managers and Stonemasons.

– In April the government cancelled the CSOL, the list of occupations used in the whole Employer Migration Program. They have replaced it with the STSOL and the MLTSSL – the Short Term and the Medium and Long-Term occupation lists.

– People whose occupations are in both these lists continued to be granted Subclass 457 Sponsorship Visas, but those with occupations on the STSOL (the short term list) are only being granted 2 year-duration 457 visas only. Those with occupations on the MLTSSL, the medium to long term visa, are being granted 4 year-duration 457 visas.

– The government also introduced caveats (restrictions) to many of the occupations that stayed on the lists. These restrictions can be about:

 

o The Minimum Salary on offer: instead of the $53,900.00 minimum salary some occupations such as Marketing Specialist, Customer Service Manager and Technical Sales Representative require a minimum salary offer of $65,000.00 – but wait for it: some occupations such as General Manager require now a salary package offer of $180.000,00;

o The sponsoring company itself: some occupations such as Corporate Service Managers and Accountants can only be sponsored if the company has a minimum annual turnover of 1 million dollars;

o In other cases the company needs to employ a minimum number of employees to be approved, such as it is in the case of Recruitment Consultant and Transport Company Manager;

o Some occupations must require at least 2 years of work experience, for example, Graphic Designers and University Lecturers;

o Other occupations can still be sponsored, but only if the position is based in a regional area, such as Wine Maker and Sports Centre Manager;

o Some occupations have very detailed restrictions about the nature of the position and the job description.

 

No more 457 in 2018

 

The biggest change of all – all these smaller changes are part of the government’s decision to completely abolish the 457 Sponsorship Visa. On the 18 of April, the Prime Minister announced via a video posted on his Facebook Page, that he was abolishing the whole program.

 

He will be abolishing the 457 from the 1st March 2018 but he will be replacing it with another temporary visa for workers to fill the demand for overseas skilled labour.

 

That visa will be called the TSS (Temporary Skill Shortage Visa) and will work in pretty much the same way as the 457 but with certain differences:

o It will require work experience – at the moment if you have the right qualification only you can get a 457 Visa without having work experience in the field and if you get a job offer;

o It will require higher levels of English (according to the Prime Minister);

o It will require Labour Market Testing when the employer is required to post job ads and show evidence that they tried to hire an Australian, before offering the job to an overseas worker;

o It will not necessarily lead to a permanent employer visa

 

– Changes to Permanent Employer Visas

 

The change that will cause the biggest impact, in our opinion, is the fact that from 1st March 2018 fewer people will be eligible for PR after a 457 or TSS visa.

 

At the moment people are able to apply normally for the ENS 186 and the RSMS 187 visas, via the Temporary Residence Transition Stream (the TRT) or the Direct Entry Stream in some cases.

 

From March 2018 onwards however, people holding the future TSS visa and people holding 457 visas granted after 19 April this year, whose occupations are on the STSOL, will NOT have access to a permanent employer nomination visa ENS 186 or RSMS 187 via Temporary Transition anymore.

 

Only those whose occupations are on the MLTSSL will have that option. These people are lucky but, they will have to wait 3 years after getting a 457 or a TSS to be able to apply for a permanent employer visa, instead of the 2 years that are required now.

 

The Direct Entry option will be limited as well, as the Department said they would apply the MLTSSL to this stream from March onwards.

 

We have had a lot of people contacting us at Bravo Migration, asking what will happen with their options for permanent residence after 1 March 2018, if they had a 457 granted before 18 April 2017. There was a lot of confusion due to a lack of information provided by the department.

 

But finally, earlier in November, the Department of Immigration confirmed that people who held, or had applied for, a 457 Sponsorship visa on or before the 18 April 2017, will still be able to apply for a Permanent ENS Visa via the Temporary Residence Transition stream, regardless of the changes coming in March 2018.

 

There will be Transitional Arrangements for people wanting to apply for permanent residence under an ENS or RSMS visa via the Temporary Residence Transition Stream. So some people can breathe again, but we will be posting more details about this pathway once legislation becomes available.

 

Now, there have been some proposed changes, which never actually happened.

 

– Changes proposed to Citizenship Requirements

 

In April, the Australian Government proposed changes to Citizenship Requirements, which were later in the year opposed by the Labor Party.

 

Finally, in October, the Senate rejected all the changes and they did NOT become law.

 

The 2 major changes proposed were:

 

– The current requirement is for people to reside in Australia for 4 years while holding any visa, being that at least for 1 year you must hold a permanent visa. The government proposed to change that to 4 years residing in Australia with a permanent visa during those 4 years.

– Requirement to have “Competent” English.

At the moment applicants for Australian Citizenship need only to demonstrate “Basic Knowledge” of English. The proposed changes would require applicants to have “Competent” English.

There is no definition yet of what competent would mean, but if you look at other areas of Migration Law, you will see that this could mean an IELTS score of 6 in each component.

These changes didn’t go ahead, but, something very important: the government already said they will try to bring about those changes again in 2018 around July – so if you qualify for Citizenship – APPLY NOW!

 

These are in our opinion the biggest and most important changes in migration legislation we saw in 2017. It’s our edit to you, to help you make sense of all of them.

 

Be ready because 2018 will bring about more changes, but we will be here ready to inform you with facts, in a straightforward manner.

 

Please contact us on visas@bravomigration.com.au if you want to assess your eligibility in relation to an Australian visa or find out more about changes in legislation and how they affect you.

 

We take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a fabulous 2018!!!!