Australian Immigration Update – August 2018

Global Talent Scheme (GTS) Pilot Launched

The GTS pilot was launched on 1 July 2018 and will run for 12 months, with the first GTS agreement already in place.

Where no suitable Australian employees are available, businesses will now be able to sponsor highly-skilled overseas workers with niche skills that are not covered by the short-term and medium-term streams of the Subclass 482 (TSS) visa program.

The GTS will have two streams:

  • Established Business stream allows employers who are accredited sponsors to employ highly-skilled individuals with cutting-edge skills to contribute to innovation in an established business, and help make Australian businesses and their Australian employees the best at what they do.
  • Start-up stream allows employers to sponsor highly-skilled individuals with cutting-edge skills to contribute to Australia’s start-up ecosystem and bring new ideas, new jobs, new skills and new technology for Australia. This stream is for start-ups operating in a technology based or STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related field. Start-ups must be endorsed by the independent start-up advisory panel.

In both streams, a four-year TSS visa will be issued with the option to apply for permanent residence after three years.

The Fair Work High Income Threshold (FWHIT) Increase

The Fair Work High Income Threshold (FWHIT) was increased on 1 July 2018 from AUD142,000 to AUD145,000.

Skilled Australians Fund (SAF) Levy

The Migration (Skilling Australians Fund) Charges Bill 2017 and Migration Amendment (Skilling Australians Fund) Bill 2017 passed Parliament on 9 May 2018 and is expected to come into effect on 12 August 2018.

There will be no exemptions for the SAF levy, except for religious workers nominated under the Labour Agreement streams of the TSS or ENS visas. All other sponsors, including those who are party to a labour agreement, must also pay the SAF levy.

On the date of implementation, additional changes to the TSS program will also be implemented which are expected to include:

  • changes to Labour Market Testing (LMT) arrangements, with an instrument published to specify the form in which LMT must be undertaken (removing current policy discretion in this space)
  • some increased flexibility to allow for part-time work under the TSS program under limited circumstances
  • requiring nominations to be withdrawn or refused where a concurrent sponsorship application or labour agreement request is refused – ceasing the current practice of ‘otherwise finalising’ nomination applications in these circumstances
  • ensuring that an approved nomination does not cease before processing of an associated TSS visa application is completed, including merits review.

It is noted, however, that requirements relating to the manner in which LMT must be conducted have already been implemented under policy.

TSS Visa Processing Times

The processing times for the new Subclass 482 (TSS) visa are much quicker than for the previous Temporary Work (Skilled) (Subclass 457) visa program – with 75% of applications currently being processed within:

  • 57 days for the short term stream
  • 55 days for the medium term stream
  • 28 days for the labour agreement stream.

Priority processing request arrangements will be reviewed by the Department of Home Affairs in the coming months as high levels of these requests continue to be received and impact resources available to devote to processing.

General Skilled Migration Changes

As of 1 July 2018, the pass mark for the skilled migration points test is 65 points.

The maximum age for claiming points for skilled partners has also been reduced from under 50 to under 45 years of age.

Intending migrants who were invited to apply for a visa before 1 July 2018, based on achieving a score of 60 and/or claiming points for a skilled partner who is under 50 years of age, will still be considered against the pre 1 July 2018 provisions.

The subclass 189 points tested visa stream and subclass 489 invitation rounds have traditionally been run fortnightly. The Department has reviewed this process and will now extend invitations on a monthly basis. The invitation numbers will be increased accordingly, to ensure the number of applications received will maintain a strong pipeline for the skilled program. There are no other changes being implemented aside from moving to a monthly invitation process.

Beneficial interpretation of ENS/RSMS nomination provisions – TRT stream

The Department continues to apply a beneficial ‘wider interpretation’ in relation to the ‘direct control’ provisions (as per Regulation 5.19(3)(a)(iv) and 5.19(3)(i)). Advice on this matter was removed from the relevant Procedural Instruction (PI) on 18 March 2018, but will be returned in the new August decision of the PI and continues to apply during the interim period.

This means that an original Standard Business Sponsor can nominate their subclass 457/TSS visa holder for permanent residence under ENS 186 and RSMS 187, despite work done for an associated entity during the two/three year period working on a subclass 457/TSS visa.

A beneficial approach will also be taken in relation to the interpretation of regulations 5.19(5)(b) and 5.19(5)(f), where a subclass 457/TSS visa holder obtains a further approved nomination, but certain elements of the nominated position have changed. In these circumstances, the period worked before the change in the position can also be counted towards the two/three year eligibility requirement. This could include where the new nomination is under the same four-digit ANZSCO code, but:

  • the position has changed slightly in terms of title and tasks or
  • the salary has increased over time.