1 July 2017 changes to skilled visa programs

A number of changes to temporary and permanent skilled migration programs, including the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) program, were implemented on 1 July 2017. A summary of these changes is provided below.

These changes form part of a package of reforms to the subclass 457 visa program announced on 18 April 2017, see:  Abolition and replacement of the 457 visa – Government reforms to employer sponsored skilled migration visas.

Lists of eligible skilled occupations

Changes have been made to the list of eligible skilled occupations. See: Summary of 1 July 2017 changes to the lists of eligible skilled occupations.

For further information about the impacted subclasses, occupations, related caveats and arrangements according to the date of lodgement see lists of eligible skilled occupations.

Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457)

English language requirements

The English Language Salary Exemption Threshold (ELSET) which exempted applicants (whose salary was over AUD$96,400) from the English language requirement has been removed for applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017.

As a result, English language test results must be provided for applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017 unless:

  • the person is an employee of an overseas business who is coming to Australia to work for that company or their associated entity and they have a nominated base rate of pay of at least AUD$96,400
  • any of the other current English language exemptions apply (for example, certain passport country holders who do not require English language testing).

For further information about the English language requirements and exemptions, see Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457).

Training benchmarks

As per the Government’s announcement, from March 2018 sponsors will no longer be required to meet the current training benchmarks requirements with these arrangements to be replaced by a requirement to pay a contribution to the new Skilling Australians Fund (SAF).

To improve the integrity of the current arrangements in the interim, a new instrument outlining the training benchmarks has been published on 1 July 2017 which will impact applications lodged on or after this date. For more information, see Subclass 457 Visa Legislative Instruments.

Character

The provision of penal clearance certificates will become mandatory for all visa applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017. This reform will bring the subclass 457 visa program in line with most other visa programs, which are not exempted from providing penal clearance certificates, see Character and police certificate requirements.

Mandatory skills assessments

The Department of Education and Training’s Trades Recognition Australia (TRA) 457 skills assessment program  will be expanded to include some additional nationalities for a small number of existing occupations. TRA’s website is being updated to reflect this reform which will only impact on applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017. Where required, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection retains its discretion to request skills assessments for any pending or new applications.

Visa validity

Visa validity policy now specifies that a subclass 457 visa may be granted for up to 4 years for occupations listed on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) if requested by the sponsor and required to meet international trade obligations.

For further information see: Combined list of eligible skilled occupations.

New sponsorship accreditation arrangements

The characteristics for sponsorship accreditation approval will be expanded to accommodate certain low risk sponsors who only use the subclass 457 program occasionally. This will ensure that gaining access to regular priority processing will no longer only favour large volume users of the program, see Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457).

Employer Nomination Scheme visa (subclass 186) and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187)

A number of reforms for July 2017 were previously announced in Fact sheet two: Reforms to Australia’s permanent employer sponsored skilled migration program (615KB PDF).

The information below elaborates further on these reforms as well as additional changes which come into effect on 1 July 2017 for the permanent Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa (subclass 186) and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) visa (subclass 187).

English language requirements

Applications for ENS and RSMS made under the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream lodged on or after 1 July 2017 will require, at a minimum, an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) (or equivalent test) score of 6 in each component (Competent English).  For more information see English language requirements.

The English language skills exemption for both ENS and RSMS has been removed for those who have nominated earnings at least equivalent to the current Australian Taxation Office top individual income tax rate (AUD 180,001). The salary based exemption will continue to apply to applications lodged before 1 July 2017 that have not been finally determined.

Skill exemption

The exemption from a skills assessment for applications made under the Direct Entry (DE) stream of both ENS and RSMS has been removed for those who have nominated earnings at least equivalent to the current Australian Taxation Office top individual income tax rate (AUD$180,001). The salary based exemption will apply to applications lodged before 1 July 2017 that have not been finally determined.

Age

From 1 July 2017, applicants for the ENS and RSMS DE stream must be under 45 years of age. This applies to visa applications lodged on or after 1 July 2017.  Current age exemptions will still be available.

The age requirement for the TRT stream will remain under 50 years of age until 1 March 2018 when the under 45 year age limit will become effective.

Genuine need

From 1 July 2017, all ENS and RSMS TRT stream and DE stream nominations must provide evidence of ‘Genuine need’ for the person to work in the nominated position.

Nominee to be identified

From 1 July 2017, ENS and RSMS DE nominations must include information about the identity of the nominee.

New Zealand pathway

An additional pathway to permanent residence for New Zealand Special Category visa (SCV) holders has been introduced. This pathway is included in the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) as a new stream, and applications can only be made online. For more information see An additional pathway to permanent residence for New Zealand citizens.

Changes to points-tested skilled visas

From 1 July 2017, visa applicants must be under 45 years of age at the time of invitation for the following points-tested skilled visas:

Further information regarding these changes is available on the individual visa program web pages above, as well as within SkillSelect.