Skilled Visa E-News - Changes to Eligible Postcodes in Regional AU
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Changes to Eligible Postcodes in Regional Australia

 Regional boundary changes for Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS)

As of 17 November 2017, a new legislative instrument (IMMI/059) commenced. This amends the geographic boundaries for RSMS to exclude Perth and surrounding area. The list of Regional Certifying Bodies (RCBs) has also been updated. Due to these changes, employers can no longer utilise this visa program for positions in Perth and surrounding area. The following Western Australia postcodes will remain eligible:

  • 6041 – 6044
  • 6083 – 6084
  • 6121 – 6126
  • 6200 – 6799

Only applications lodged on or after 17 November 2017 are affected to these changes. Current applicants must be aware that the WA Department of Training and Workforce Development (Perth RCB) stopped processing RCB assessment requests submitted on or after 13 March 2017. This is only applicable for nominated positions within the Perth Metropolitan Area. The Department is unable to approve nominations for which there is no RCB advice. 

Please be reminded that this change may affect age exemptions for applicants in the Temporary Residence Transition stream, as this requires certain nominated positions and employment to be located in regional Australia. Further information is available at Age skill and English language exemptions – Permanent Employer Sponsored programme.

Caveats on occupations – Subclasses 457 and 186

This is a reminder to agents that the definition of regional Australia for RSMS purposes impacts regional caveats for visa program subclasses 457 and 186. As a result, employers cannot utilise any occupations affected by these caveats for positions located in Perth and surrounding area. This affects applications lodged on or after 17 November 2017. Caveats on occupations are available here. 

 

Health-related Matters 

Subclass 457 health insurance requirements

As of 18 November 2017, visa subclass 457 applicants are no longer required to provide evidence, or a letter from an insurer to confirm their health insurance coverage as part of the visa application process.

Applicants now only need to indicate in their online application form that they have made adequate arrangements for health insurance for their intended period of stay in Australia. The online visa application form has been updated to reflect this.

This requirement applies to the following:

  • All applicants for visa subclass 457 – This includes family members and subsequent entrants.
  • Applications that have been lodged, or are still pending a decision, on 18 November 2017.

 

Introduction of new visa condition 8602

As of 18 November 2017, the new visa condition below shall be added to Schedule 8 of the Migration Regulations.

8602 – The holder must not have an outstanding public health deb 

“You must not have an outstanding public health debt while in Australia including the cost of any health related services received in Australia. This does not include health costs otherwise covered, such as by health insurance, Medicare (if eligible), or treatment for certain community health risks such as tuberculosis. If you incur a debt that is left unpaid, your visa eligibility may be affected.”

Outstanding public health debt – a debt involving public health or aged care services, which has been reported to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) as outstanding by a Commonwealth, State or Territory health authority. This is made through an agreement between the authority and the Department.

If a visa holder or applicant has an outstanding public health debt, they will need to contact the relevant health provider to clear the debt. Arrangements to pay the debt can only be agreed between the parties to the debt. If a person breaches condition 8602, the power for visa cancellation action will be enacted. The ideal outcome is for this debt to be repaid as soon as possible. This will prevent any visa cancellation options or visa processing delays.

Visas granted in the subclasses below where the application was lodged on or after 18th November 2017 will be imposed with Condition 8602.

Condition 8602 is mandatory for these visa subclasses:

  • Subclass 188 (Business Innovation and Investment)
  • Subclass 300 (Prospective Marriage)
  • Subclass 400 (Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist))
  • Subclass 403 (Temporary Work (International Relations)) (Domestic Worker (Diplomatic or Consular) and Seasonal Worker Program streams only)
  • Subclass 405 (Investor Retirement)
  • Subclass 407 (Training)
  • Subclass 408 (Temporary Activity) other than those granted on the basis of:
  • 227(a)(ii) – Staff exchange  – government agency
  • 227(a)(iii) – Staff exchange – foreign government agency
  • 229 – Australian Government endorsed event
  • Subclass 410 (Retirement)
  • Subclass 417 (Working Holiday)
  • Subclass 457 (Temporary Work (Skilled))
  • Subclass 461 (New Zealand Citizen Family)
  • Subclass 462 (Work and Holiday)
  • Subclass 476 (Skilled – Recognised Graduate)
  • Subclass 485 (Temporary Graduate)
  • Subclass 489 (Skilled – Regional)
  • Subclass 500 (Student)
  • Subclass 590 (Student Guardian)
  • Subclass 600 (Visitor)
  • Subclass 601 (Electronic Travel Authority)
  • Subclass 602 (Medical Treatment) (with the exception of persons who meet the ‘unfit to depart’ provisions)
  • Subclass 651 (eVisitor)
  • Subclass 676 (Tourist)
  • Subclass 771 (Transit)
  • Subclass 773 (Border)
  • Subclass 988 (Maritime Crew)

Condition 8602 is discretionary for these subclasses:

  • Subclass 403 (Temporary Work (International Relations)) (Government Agreement, Foreign Government Agency and Privileges and Immunities streams)
  • Subclass 408 (Temporary Activity) where visa granted on the basis of:
    • 227(a)(ii)  – Staff exchange  – government agency
    • 227(a)(iii) – Staff exchange – foreign government agency
    • 229 – Australian Government endorsed event
  • Subclass 602 (Medical Treatment) (persons who meet the ‘unfit to depart’ provisions)
     

Character-related Matters

Initiating penal clearances before lodging a visa application

Agents must provide the following details if seeking a letter from the Department to initiate penal clearances from certain countries:

  • Completed form 956
  • Passport bio-data pages for every applicant aged 16 years and above
  • Given names, family names, and dates of birth for every applicant aged 16 years and above; All aliases must be included.

Not providing all of this information with your request will slow down processing times.

Skilled via applicants with extensive travel histories in the past 10 years

Visa subclass 457 applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017 must provide police certificates for every country the applicant/s has lived in for a cumulative period of 12 months or more, within the past 10 years, since turning 16 years of age, if their planned stay in Australia will exceed 12 months.

Applicants for visa applications subclass 457 are required to provide the following:

  • Details of any overseas travel in the past 10 years, to any countries outside of their country of residence, since turning 16 years of age
  • Details of all countries where the applicant/s has spent a total period of time of 12 months or more in the past 10 years since turning 16 years of age

For applicants with extensive travel histories, completing the travel forms can be arduous, especially for travel that does not reach the 12-month threshold. Taking this into account, the Department from now only requires applicants for skilled visa programs to manually enter these details of countries in ImmiAccount, where the 12-month threshold is likely to be met.

Applicants must still provide a full list of their complete travel history with all dates, to all countries within the past 10 years, in a separate document and attach it to ImmiAccount.

Not providing all of this information with your request will slow down processing times, reflecting a failure to declare all relevant information to the Department.

Separate documentation must not be emailed to the Department.

Penal clearances and incomplete applications 

There have been concerns raised by some agents that their skilled visa applications may be considered ‘incomplete’ and refused if they have not provided a character clearance upfront at the time of application. These will not be considered an incomplete application if an explanation and other required documentation are provided.

Further information will be provided on the penal clearance waiver process for visa subclass 457 later. 

Visa integrity

As of 18 November 2017, new changes regarding Character integrity will come into effect, enhancing visa integrity and clearly communicating what is expected from temporary visa holders while in Australia. These include:

  • New regulations requiring temporary visa holders to comply with strengthened visa conditions
  • Tightening existing regulations which prevents non-citizens from avoiding cancellation processes
  • Continued discouragement of bogus documents and misleading information being provided in visa applications

These changes impact visa subclasses lodged on or after 18 November 2017.

Permanent Skilled Visas Update

RSMS and ENS processing

Currently, RSMS and ENS processing times are affected by some factors including:

  • High on-hand RSMS/ENS caseload, which is worsened by a high number of lodgements over the past few months (In June 2017 alone, there were 16,000 applications lodged, and this is equivalent to an average of four months’ worth).
  • Increase levels of non-genuine applications or those with integrity concerns, requiring a higher level of scrutiny
  • Incomplete visa applications

Processing has never stopped on these cases, and the Department continues to work with the caseload as fast as possible.

 

Labour Market Testing (LMT)

LMT for non-migration purposes 

Other Australian laws may impose labour market testing requirements for particular industries. This is to ensure that priority is given to Australian workers. This is aside from the immigration visa application context.

 

Singapore–Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA)

October 2016 – The governments of Singapore and Australia agreed to amend the SAFTA. This is expected to come into force on 1 December 2017, and Singaporeans will be exempted from labour market testing under visa subclass 457 program. The commencement date of the amended SAFTA will be available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website shortly.

 

 

December 2017 Changes – Reminder

 Additional changes to visa program subclass 457 are due to be implemented before 31 December 2017, subject to legislation passing. These include:

  • Collection of Tax File Numbers (TFN) for subclass 457 visa holders to enable data matching with the Australian Tax Office (ATO)’s records. This is to ensure that visa holders are not paid lower than their agreed salary
  • Publication of details of sponsors sanctioned for failing to meet their obligations under the Migration Regulation 1994 and related legislation
  • Clarification of review rights for applicants of visa subclass 457

The above reforms are included in the Migration and Other Legislation Amendment (Enhanced Integrity) Bill 2017, which was presented into parliament on 16 August 2017.

 

 

March 2018 Changes – Update on Transitional Arrangements

 Subclass 457 visa holders applying for permanent residence after March 2018

There have been some questions put forward by agents about how recent reforms would impact visa subclass 457 holders who are applying for permanent residence after March 2018. Additional questions and answers relating to these arrangements have been added at: Impacts for existing 457 visa holders wishing to apply for permanent residence (250KB PDF)

Note: Advice on transitional Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream arrangements for individuals who have held, or applied for a subclass 457 visa, on 18 April 2017. This includes information relating to age requirements and the length of time required on subclass 457 visas, prior to changing to permanent residence.

Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) – transitional arrangements

Subject to the passing of legislation, current ‘training benchmark’ requirements will cease in March 2018, with a contribution to the SAF required to be paid instead at the time of lodging a nomination application for the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS), subclass 186 and 187 visas.

Some agents have enquired about transitional arrangements relating to the SAF payment, particularly on how sponsorship applications lodged before March 2018 will be assessed.

Arrangements have yet to be finalised and are subject to agreement by Government.  Transitional arrangements are expected to provide that sponsors will not be required to meet the training benchmarks for periods where SAF charging has begun.

 

 

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