Reforms to the Permanent Employer-Sponsored Visa Program

The Australian Government has announced reforms to the permanent employer-sponsored visa program to be introduced on 1 July 2012.

The key changes
• collapsing the existing visa subclasses from six to two
• removing the existing distinctions between in and outside Australia
• replacing the permanent labour agreement visa with streams in the ENS and RSMS
• introducing a simplified pathway to PR for 457 visa holders
• raising the upper age limit to less than 50 years
• changes to key visa criteria including English language and skill requirements
• introducing one consolidated sponsored occupation list
• integrating a skilled migrant selection model—SkillSelect,

A new visa structure
The current employer-sponsored visa classes and subclasses will be replaced with two new visas:
• Employer Nomination (Class EN) Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186)
• Regional Employer Nomination (Class RN) Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187).

Within each of these visa subclasses there will be three streams:

1. The Temporary Residence Transition stream is for subclass 457 visa holders who have worked for their employer for at least the last two years and the employer wants to offer them a permanent position in that same occupation.

These visa applicants will not need to have their skills and qualifications assessed for the permanent visa because of their prior employment and continuing employer sponsorship.

2. The Direct Entry stream is for applicants who are untested in the Australian labour market and have not held a subclass 457 for at least the last two years or are applying directly from outside Australia.

Visa applicants applying through the Direct Entry stream will have an untested relationship with their sponsor and limited familiarity with Australian working conditions. To ensure these visa holders are able to achieve the best workplace and settlement outcomes they will be expected to meet more stringent English language proficiency and skill requirements.

3. The Agreement stream is for applicants who are being sponsored by an employer through a highly scrutinised and negotiated labour agreement or regional migration agreement. Applicants applying under this stream will need to meet the requirements outlined in their nominator’s labour agreement. A labour agreement is a formal arrangement negotiated between an employer and the Australian Government and will only be considered where genuine skills shortage exists and there are no suitably qualified or experienced Australians readily available.

Exceptional circumstances versus exemptions – Note to Michael – you can cut this paragraph if you really have to.
The existing subjective exceptional circumstances provision will be replaced with more objective exemption categories. This reform will provide more clarity and certainty to applicants, while ensuring the visa programs are still able to respond flexibly to unique cases. There will be exemptions available for age, skills and English language ability in the Temporary Residence and Direct Entry streams. Exemptions will be based on a person’s nominated occupation, salary or the time they have been employed with their nominator.

Benefiting regional Australia
An employer located in regional Australia who chooses to use the RSMS will:
• have access to a broader range of occupations at ANZSCO 1 – 3 skill level
• have reduced application fees
• have relaxed skill requirements for prospective migrants
• not have to meet relevant training criteria.

These changes will coincide with the implementation of SkillSelect on 1 July 2012. SkillSelect is the new skilled migration selection process, based on an expression of interest system, which aligns the best available prospective skilled migration candidates with the fluctuating demands of the labour market. As part of the introduction of SkillSelect sponsors and visa applicants will be able to apply for the new permanent employer-sponsored visas online.