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End of Financial Year – An Update on Australian Immigration

By 19 June 2023No Comments

It has been a big year so far for Australian employers and the immigration world. To make sure you are across all the immigration changes and updates for the new financial year, we have provided the below update of where things are at and what is to come:

  1. Migration review
  2. Processing backlogs
  3. Permanent Residence pathways
  4. Increase in TSMIT, FWHIT and government fees reminder
  5. Third onshore TSS visas for certain short-term TSS visa holders
  6. Cessations of employment for sponsored workers – increased time to obtain a new sponsor
  7. Australia & UK Free Trade Agreement – what does this mean to Immigration
  8. Australia & UK Free Trade Agreement – Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot (IECSEP)
  9. EOFY staff reviews & TSS visa holders
  10. Working Holiday Makers – updates
  11. Student visa conditions – work limits re-introduction
  12. Graduate visas  – 485
  13. Pandemic event visa – to stay or to go?
  14. New Zealanders & Australian citizenship

Migration review
The Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Clare O’Neil released the final report on the Review of the Migration System in April 2023. Whilst some changes have been confirmed as announced (set out below), we are yet to see the specific details of the government’s full raft of changes expected over coming months and years.

Processing backlogs & frustrations
We have seen an enormous improvement in processing times since last year. The caseload has reduced from 960,000 applications to around currently 550,000 on-hand applications. We are now estimating processing times as:

 Visa type  Processing timeframes
 Subclass 400  1-3 weeks
 Subclass 482 (accredited sponsors)  1-4 weeks
 Subclass 482 (non-accredited sponsors)  1-2 months
 Subclass 186 (employer sponsored permanent residency)  8-13 months

Permanent Residence pathways
On 27 April 2023, the government made a significant announcement regarding expanded pathways to permanent residence for employer-sponsored temporary skilled visa holders. As a recap:

  • The Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream of the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa will be available to all Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa holders whose employers wish to sponsor them.
  • Applicants will need to continue to work in the occupation nominated on their TSS visa.
  • Occupations eligible for TRT will not be limited to the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).
  • Eligibility for the TRT stream will be reduced from 3 years to 2 years employment with the sponsoring employer.
  • Applicants will need to meet all other nomination and visa requirements for the TRT stream of the Employer Nomination Scheme visa such as English, health and character requirements.
  • There are no further updates such as changes to the age requirement.

Employers will need to take into account a number of considerations with a summary of these available in our earlier update: To PR or not to PR – Employers’ considerations when supporting permanent residence applications

Increase in TSMIT, FWHIT & government fees reminder
The beginning of a new financial year usually sees an increase in government visa application fees and the Fair Work High Income Threshold (FWHIT). This year, for the first time in ten years, we will see an increase to the TSMIT to $70,000 (excluding super) with the effect that:

  • From 1 July 2023, the TSMIT will increase from the current $53,900 to $70,000.
  • New nomination applications lodged after this date will need to meet the new TSMIT of $70,000 or the annual market salary rate, whichever is higher.
  • The government has confirmed this change will not affect existing visa holders and approved nominations lodged before 1 July 2023. It will only affect nominations lodged after this date.

We expect the Fair Work High Income Threshold to increase on 1 July, although the amount is yet to be announced.

Government fees are expected to go up from 1 July by 6% or more.  The exact amounts are yet to be released.

Third onshore TSS visas for certain short-term TSS visa holders
The Department will allow short-term list TSS visa holders to be able to apply for third TSS visas from onshore (i.e. without departing Australia).  This will be done to enable those short term TSS visas to apply for PR under the new rules above.  This is yet to come into effect.

Cessations of employment for sponsored workers – Increased time to obtain a new sponsor
In a speech last week, the Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles announced the Government will make changes to the law to allow TSS visa holders an increased timeframe to find new sponsorship where they are no longer employed by their original sponsor, stating that:

People working on Temporary Skilled Shortage visas will have six months instead of 60 days to be without an employer.

During this period, they will have work rights. This is one of the raft of measures being implemented by the Government to address migrant worker exploitation however there is no date for the introduction of these changes.

Australia & UK Free Trade Agreement – what does this mean to Immigration
The entry into force of the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (Australia-UK FTA) on 31 May 2023 means:

  • From 1 July 2023, UK passport holders will be able to apply for a Working Holiday visa between the ages of 18 and 35 years (i.e. must lodge the application before their 36th birthday).
  • From 1 July 2024, UK passport holders can be granted up to 3 Working Holiday visas without having to meet any specified work requirements (for example, without having to work in regional areas of Australia).
  • No Labour Market Testing (job advertising) will be required for when nominating UK passport holders or nationals for TSS visas.

Australia & UK Free Trade Agreement – Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot (IECSEP)
The Australia-UK FTA will also launch the ‘Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot’ (IECSEP), which will provides new opportunities for UK citizens to work in Australia by establishing a new and streamlined mobility pathway for early career professionals and demonstrated innovators from the UK.

Under the IECSEP, there are two categories available for UK citizens:

  • The Early Careers Skills stream, which will allow participants to undertake a short-term placement, secondment, or intra-corporate transfer for up to one year in Australia in a position relevant to their field of work in the sending organisation.
  • The Innovation stream, which will allow participants with a demonstrated contribution to innovation to undertake opportunities for up to three years in Australia.

The total visas available under the IECSEP will be 1,000 in the first year, and 2,000 in the second year of operation, during which the program will be reviewed.

To be eligible, applicants must be:

  • For the Early Careers Skills stream:
    • be a UK citizen between 21 and 45 of age at the time of application
    • hold tertiary qualifications
    • have worked for a minimum of 3 months in the UK organisation (including as graduate trainees).
  • For the Innovation stream: be highly experienced and skilled UK citizens in all sectors with a demonstrated contribution to innovation in target areas.

EOFY staff reviews & TSS visa holders
The end of the financial year means staff review time for a lot of businesses.

With 30 June fast approaching, it is important to remind those who employ TSS visa holders that these employees have been approved to work in their nominated occupations only. While a promotion within the same occupational stream (and any associated salary increase) will generally comply with their TSS visa conditions, a move into a different role must be carefully considered.

If a new role for a TSS visa holder would fall into a different occupation, a new TSS nomination and visa application will need to be lodged and approved for the role change can occur.

Please discuss any proposed role changes with your Ajuria adviser to ensure that your visa holders will continue to be compliant.

Employers are reminded to ensure TSS visa holders are paid according to their approved salary and at the Australian market rate for the role.

Working Holiday Makers – updates
The program has expanded over the years with a lot of countries now having agreements with Australia.  This has included:

  • In 2021, a significant increase in the number of Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visas available to Indonesians, with up to 5,766 places in FY2022 (previously only a few hundred were accepted).
  • An agreement to allow 1,000 Indian passport holders to access the Work and Holiday program are also underway with no clear date as to when it will take effect.
  • Increased age cap from 30 to 35 years for Denmark, France, Ireland, Canada and the UK.

Student visa conditions – work limits re-introduction
From 1 July 2023, work restrictions for student visa holders will be re-introduced and capped at 48 hours per fortnight while their course is in session with the exception of students working in the aged care sector that can work uncapped until 31 December 2023.  Students who are studying Masters of Research and PhDs will continue to be able to work full time.

Employers must be vigilant that student visa holders do not work in breach of their visa conditions.

Graduate visas  – 485
From 1 July 2023, some holders of subclass 485 Temporary Graduate visas will be allowed to stay in Australia for a longer period. The change will result in a stay period of:

  • 4 years for a bachelor’s degree graduate, up from 2 years previously.
  • 5 years for a master’s degree graduate, up from 3 years previously.
  • 6 years for a doctoral graduate, up from 4 years previously.

Eligible students who live, work and study in regional areas will also continue to be eligible to get extensions on their visas.

To be eligible, student visa holders must complete a qualification listed on an eligible qualifications list, which are focused on study in the areas of Engineering, Healthcare, ICT, Construction, Food Technology, Education and Agriculture.

Pandemic event visa – to stay or to go?
The COVID-19 Pandemic stream of the subclass 408 Temporary Activity visa remains available to all sectors. At time of application, the applicant must:

  • have evidence of employment or an offer of employment
  • hold a substantive visa with work rights that expires in 90 days or less, or one that expired 28 days ago or less

Whilst this has been a practical solution for employers, the government has indicated it is actively considering phasing this visa out, although no firm date has been provided.

New Zealanders & Australian citizenship
From 1 July 2023, New Zealand citizens who have been living in Australia for four years or more will be eligible to apply directly for Australian citizenship. They will no longer need to first apply for and be granted a permanent visa. These changes apply to New Zealand citizens holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV) who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001.

DISCLAIMER This information is current as of 14 June 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.

Author Lillian Ajuria

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