Last month the Government announced sweeping changes to the temporary work visa in Australia. This suite of changes is complex and affects every business that uses temporary employer-sponsored work visas or may like to do so in the future. Here, we set out the seven key changes that you need to know about. Pay attention to the dates – some changes are already in effect, others occur in July 2017, December 2017 and March 2018.

For further information on how the changes affect your business, let us know and we will point you in the direction of an immigration specialist.

1. The qualifying occupations for temporary work visas have changed

Starting from 19 April 2017, the Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa is now being approved only for occupations on two new lists; the Short-term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) and the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL). With these new lists, 651 occupations have been reduced to 435. In addition, 59 of those occupations have had restrictions added and 24 are restricted to regional Australia. The restrictions are important. For example, ‘Café or Restaurant Manager’ is on the STSOL but the category explicitly excludes work in takeaway food services and coffee shops.

The occupations in the new lists will be subject to change, with the STSOL to be updated every six months based on information from the Department of Employment.

2. Some temporary work visas now have a reduced length

Since 19 April 2017, subclass 457 visas for occupations on the STSOL now have a maximum duration of two years. The maximum length of subclass 457 visas for occupations on the MLTSSL is now four years.

3. English language requirements will soon be tougher

From 1 July 2017, visa applicants with a salary of over $96,400 will no longer be exempt from English language requirements.

From March 2018, a higher level of competence in English (as tested by the International English Language Testing Scheme) will be required for all temporary work visas.

4. Universal character requirements

From 1 July 2017, all visa applicants will be required to provide penal clearance certificates which list any criminal convictions that the applicant has.

5. A new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa

In March 2018, the subclass 457 visa will be replaced with a new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa. The TSS visa will have one stream for occupations on the STSOL and one for occupations on the MLTSSL.

Important requirements of the new visa include:
• At least two years of relevant work experience for applicants
• Labour market testing by employers
• Salary at an Australian market rate and at least at a minimum income threshold (currently set at $53,900)
• A test ensuring that the business is not discriminating against Australian workers.

6. Employers must train Australian workers

Businesses will be required to contribute towards training Australian workers from March 2018. Detail on this training requirement has not yet been revealed.

7. Tax File Numbers to be collected and reporting of employer non-compliance

Before 31 December 2017, the Government will start collecting Tax File Numbers and match data with the Australian Tax Office to ensure visa holders are paid the correct salary. Also from this date, details will be published of any employers sanctioned for breaching visa rules.

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