The 2023-2024 financial year is well and truly underway, and the demand for skilled immigration is as high and many reports refer to an Australian labour recession.
This week, our Federal Treasurer confirmed the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Clare O’Neil ‘will release the Migration Review before long as well, and we’ll do that in conjunction with the Employment White Paper – is to try and make sure that we are creating a workforce which is big enough to support an ageing population, and well trained enough to adapt and adopt technology. That’s a big part of the task before us. Migration has a role to play’
As we wait for this announcement, we have prepared the below summary to help keep you across all the recent, upcoming and proposed immigration changes and updates:
- Reminder of increase to TSMIT, FWHIT and visa application charges
- Permanent residence pathways
- Applying for a third short-term TSS visa onshore
- Australia & UK Free Trade Agreement
- 400 visa scrutiny
- Work limitations – Students and Working Holiday Makers
- ‘Covid’ visa
- Extension of 485 Graduate visa validity period
- Australian citizenship for New Zealanders
- English tests for Australian visa purposes
- Department website updated with employer resources
- New case officers – processing issues
- The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) was increased to $70,000. The guaranteed annual earnings (excluding super) for all positions nominated under the TSS program must meet the TSMIT and almost all must also meet the market rate (unless over $250,000).
- The Fair Work High Income Threshold (FWHIT) was increased to $167,500.
- Visa application charges (VAC) have increased by approximately 6% to 40% depending on the visa subclass. For employer sponsored visas, the increase is about 9.5% (e.g. the VAC for a 4 year subclass 482 TSS visa increased from $2,770 to $3,035). Nomination fees and the training levy amounts have not changed.
2. Permanent residence pathways
On 27 April 2023, the government made a significant announcement regarding access to employer-sponsored permanent residence for subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa holders.
No further updates have been made, including the date these changes will be introduced, or if there will be any other concessions made (e.g. changes to the age requirement).
A recap of what we know so far:
- The Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream of the subclass 186 Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa will be available to TSS visa holders in all occupations, including those on the short-term “2 year” list, whose employers wish to sponsor them.
- Eligibility for the TRT stream of the ENS visa will be reduced from 3 years to 2 years of employment with the sponsoring employer as a TSS visa holder.
- Applicants will still need to meet all other nomination and visa requirements for the TRT stream such as age, English, health and character requirements.
Employers will need to take into account a number of considerations when deciding whether to support permanent residence applications – a summary from our 22 May 2023, newsletter is available for review here.
3. Applying for a third short-term TSS visa onshore
The concession allowing applicants to apply for a third short-term TSS visa onshore, if they spent at least 12 months in Australia between Feb 2020 – Dec 2021, ended on 30 June 2023.
To facilitate the new PR pathway mentioned above, the Government stated that it would be removing limits on the number of short-term stream TSS visa applications that visa holders can make in Australia. However, as this change hasn’t been formally implemented yet, the validity of lodging a third short-term TSS visa onshore is still unclear.
4. Australia & UK Free Trade Agreement
As of 1 July 2023, the age limit for UK passport holders to apply for a Working Holiday visa was increased to 35 (i.e. applicants can apply up until their 36th birthday).
Despite some initial confusion, it has also been confirmed TSS nominations for UK citizens are exempt from the Labour Market Testing (job advertising) requirement.
Finally, applications for the opening round of the Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot (IECSEP) can be submitted online from Monday 25 September 2023. A summary of the IECSEP can be found in our update from 19 June 2023, available for review here.
5. 400 visa scrutiny
Over the last few months we have noticed increased scrutiny on 400 visa processing as well as processing delays. This scrutiny is likely due to the Department’s concerns that the 400 visa is being used in cases where the TSS visa is more appropriate. Our team is taking extra care with these applications and adjusting (on a case-by-case basis) what we request from employers and applicants to submit the applications.
Since 1 July 2023:
- Student visa holders are again subject to a work limitation, which is capped at 48 hours per fortnight while their course is in session (excluding students working in the aged care sector – their work rights remain uncapped until 31 December 2023). Students who are studying a Masters of Research or PhD will continue to be able to work full time.
- Working Holiday visa holders are again restricted to only working for one employer for 6 months (with limited exceptions)
- Any work that is carried out before 1 July 2023, will not be counted towards the 6 month limitation period. This means that from 1 July 2023, onwards, Working Holiday visa holders may work for any employer for up to an additional 6 months even if they worked for that same employer before 1 July 2023.
7. ‘COVID’ visa
The ‘Australian Government endorsed events (COVID-19 Pandemic event)’ stream of the subclass 408 visa remains available to eligible applicants working in all sectors. Whilst this visa has been a practical solution for employers and individuals, the Government has advised that this visa stream will be abolished and that this change is ‘imminent’, however no update has been provided on when this might happen. Those considering applying for this visa should be aware that it could be closed at any time.
Also worth noting is that any time worked under the COVID visa will not count towards the 3 year (proposed 2 year) employment requirement with the sponsor for permanent residence applications under the Employer Nomination Scheme (TRT stream). Time worked on the COVID visa maybe ‘wasted’ time.
8. Extension of 485 Graduate visa validity period
As of 1 July 2023, some subclass 485 Temporary Graduate visa holders/applicants in the Post-Study Work stream can/will have their visa duration increased by two years. This extends post study work rights from:
- Two years to four years for select Bachelor degrees
- Three years to five years for select Masters degrees
- Four years to six years for all Doctoral degrees.
The full list of courses that allow extended post-study working rights can be found here and targets the skills Australia needs most, including health, teaching, engineering and agricultural fields.
9. Australian citizenship for New Zealanders
As of 1 July 2023, New Zealand citizens holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV) who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001, will be eligible to apply directly for Australian citizenship if/when they have been living in Australia for four years or more. They will no longer need to first obtain a permanent residence visa.
The Department released further information about the impact to family members of New Zealand citizens on 1 July 2023, here, including confirmation that any child born in Australia on or after 1 July 2022, to an SCV holder may automatically acquire Australian citizenship at birth. This update also includes information about withdrawal options for New Zealand citizen SCV holders with a pending Partner, Parent, Child or Other Family type visa application.
10. English tests for Australian visa purposes
From 26 July 2023, TOEFL iBT will no longer be offering English language tests for Australian visa purposes until further notice. This is because of revisions being made to the test that are currently being reviewed by the Government.
TOEFL tests taken for Australian visa purposes before 25 July 2023, will remain valid (provided the test was taken within the required timeframe for the relevant visa – in most cases, 3 years before the visa application date).
Employers and visa applicants should also be reminded that:
- The Department does not accept test results from TOEFL iBT – Special Home Edition, OET@Home, IELTS Indicator, and IELTS Online or any other ‘at-home’ or ‘online’ tests.
- The Department will accept IELTS test results that include One Skill Retake (OSR) (which allows test takers to retake one of the four test components in either reading, writing, speaking or listening) for all visa applications except for 476 (Engineering Graduate), 482 (TSS) and 485 (Graduate) visa applications. Applicants who need to meet the English requirement for a 476, 482 or 485 visa and wish to rely on the IELTS test need to meet the minimum scores in a single sitting/attempt.
11. Department website updated with employer resources
The Department has updated their website information for employers wanting to employ a visa holder already in Australia, or looking to sponsor an overseas worker. This includes advise on how to check work rights and step-by-step guide to ongoing responsibilities. The updated information can be found here.
12. New case officers – processing issues
The Department of Home Affairs has appointed a lot of new case officers who are inexperienced and currently undergoing training. We have noticed increased inconsistencies and unusual requests including requesting information already provided at time of lodgement or not usually required under their policy (but that they have the discretion to request). Ajuria Lawyers will continue to work with employers on providing as much evidence as possible to avoid delays in processing and provide feedback to and/or request clarity from the Department.
DISCLAIMER This information is current as of 29 August 2023 and is subject to change with little notice. This publication is of a general nature only and should not be used as legal advice. To the extent permissible by law, Ajuria Lawyers and its associated entities shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, defects or misrepresentations in the information or for any loss or damage suffered by persons who use or rely on such information. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.