Australia’s new immigration minister reveals visa priority

Australia’s new immigration minister reveals visa priority

David Coleman said his priority is to get migrants to struggling regional communities. But, he hasn’t forgotten about controversial plans to toughen citizenship requirements.

Australia’s new Immigration Minister David Coleman has flagged a revamp of regional visas, saying some towns are begging for migrants.

“That’s something I’m looking at very closely at the moment,” Mr Coleman told on Wednesday.

“There are a number of different regional visa classes at the moment and one of the things I’m assessing is the effectiveness of each of those programs and potential ways of improving those.”

Currently, there are several visas available to migrants to fills skills shortages in rural and regional Australia.

Towns including Warrnambool in Victoria, the Goldfields region of Western Australia and the entire state of South Australia are asking for thousands of migrants, according to Mr Coleman.

“There are lots of examples at the moment of regions that are seeking additional immigration to fulfil economic needs,” he said.

“We have quite a few regional gaps in employment right now.”

According to figures compiled by the Department of Home Affairs, 10,918 places were awarded under the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme in the 2016-17 financial year.

Along with the 1,670 Skilled Regional visas, they formed about 10 per cent of permanent migration visas.

The former Assistant Finance Minister holds the marginal Sydney seat of Banks and was elevated to the outer ministry after the Liberal leadership spill last month.

The 44-year-old MP served as an assistant finance minister in the Turnbull Government and was first elected to the House of Representatives for Banks, New South Wales, in 2013.

The immigration portfolio was separated from Peter Dutton’s Home Affairs ministry and given to Mr Coleman, as well as the Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs ministries.

“Immigration has been so fundamental to our success as a country,” he said.

“The history of our nation is one of immigration because, apart from Indigenous Australians, we’re all immigrants.”

Fourty-four per cent of his electorate is overseas-born, with people of Chinese ancestry being the largest migrant group.

On the issue of Australian citizenship, the minister would not go into specifics about the government reviving plans to change the requirements to become a citizen.

The controversial plans to introduce a tougher English language test, increase residency requirements and requiring applicants to sign an ‘Australian Values statement’ were quashed by the Senate late last year.

While he didn’t go into detail about English language requirements, Mr Coleman reiterated the importance of learning English.

“Having some English is obviously a good thing in Australian life,” he said.

“The more English people are able to speak, the more they can contribute in Australian life.”

Mr Coleman said the government was “in consultations” about re-introducing elements of the legislation.

 

 

Is Canada a viable option for applicants struggling to get PR in Australia?

 

Following the recent changes to Australia’s visa system, there are many skilled migrants who are struggling to get Permanent Residency (PR) in Australia. But can immigration to Canada be an option for these applicants?

If you are a skilled worker with the right experience, skills and background, you may be able to make Canada your permanent home through its Express Entry Program.

Like Australia, Canada’s skilled migration program is also a points-based system which is designed to attract highly qualified and experienced professionals to best meet its skills needs.

Following the recent changes to Australia’s visa system, there are many skilled migrants who are struggling to salvage their dream of becoming Australian permanent residents*.

Migration experts believe the ‘visa changes’ have adversely affected the chances of these applicants in the skilled visa categories.

Many applicants who are struggling to meet the desired standards for PR in Australia now aim to move to Canada. But is Canada a viable option for these applicants?

A migration agent in Melbourne says many of his clients are worried due to these changes.

“The visa sector has seen huge changes in the last two years. Some of our clients are now extremely distressed about their prospects in Australia and aim to apply for Canada in high hopes,” he told .

“We’ve seen an impact due to the changes to the skilled occupation lists and state nomination criteria. Some applicants also had their hopes shattered due to the abolition of 457 visas and more recently, due to an increase in points threshold from 60 to 65 for skilled visas.”

He suggested that Canada’s skilled migration program is quite similar to Australia.

“There is not much difference in terms of the point system designed for various skill subsets, job experience and the English language capacity of the prospective applicant,” he says.

“But there are certain occupations that are in high demand where applicants can or may benefit from Canada’s Express Entry program.

“For an example, the transport industry is in a booming stage in Canada so potentially experienced truck drivers should explore this promising opportunity.”

Australia can be a bigger country’: Scott Morrison’s new Population Minister reveals he DOESN’T want to reduce immigration

Australia can be a bigger country’: Scott Morrison’s new Population Minister reveals he DOESN’T want to reduce immigration

Scott Morrison’s new Population Minister reveals he DOESN’T want to reduce immigration
New Minster for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population Alan Tudge has outlined his plan for immigration policy which focuses on a ‘bigger Australia’ with more decentralised population areas.

‘My view has always been that Australia can be a bigger country. But ideally you have a broader distribution rather than very rapid growth in some areas,’ Mr Tudge told.

New Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Mr Tudge are shifting the focus away from reductions to immigrant numbers and towards a redistribution of where they are settled.

Mr Tudge has said that he is in favour of population growth, however, the areas where new immigrants are settled must be broader and not focused in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne

‘I’m not suggesting that for a second that it’s migrants’ fault – not at all,’ he said.

‘If you’ve got regions that can’t find workers and smaller states that want more people, then the immigration program is something that should be looked at.’

He did, however, not comment on a specific plan that would require new migrants to settle in regional areas for five years as a condition of their visas.

A decision on the time period for mandatory settlement was due to go to the Turnbull cabinet last week, but the leadership spill put that discussion on hold, The Australian reported on Wednesday.

The proposal has yet to be put to Scott Morrison’s new cabinet, and the prime minister’s office would not comment on the development of the policy.

It is understood a new visa class would apply to the skilled and family migration program but could also apply to refugees.

Almost 90 per cent of new migrants are settling in metropolitan areas such as Melbourne and Sydney.

A population package put before Government before last week’s leadership spill included the proposal for new migrants to be settled in regional areas for a period of up to five years – after this migrants could choose to relocate.

The newly appointed PM has created a separate portfolio of population to be lead by former Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge.

Department of Home Affairs figures revealed by The Australian showed that of the 112,000 skilled migrants that arrived in the country over the previous financial year, 87 per cent settled permanently in Sydney and Melbourne.

Mr Tudge has previously said that the number of incoming migrants was not the only factor in growing population pressures, but rather where these migrants were settling and the distribution being focused in major cities.

‘If the population was distributed more evenly, there would not be the congestion pressures that we have today in Melbourne and Sydney,’ Mr Tudge told a forum in Melbourne.

‘Nor would there be if the ­infrastructure was built ahead of demand,’ he said.

New visa could keep migrants in regional Australia

The Turnbull government was already working on visas to force migrants to stay in the bush for longer, but Scott Morrison may put his own twist on the plan

The Morrison government is expected to forge ahead with new skilled and family visas that force migrants to spend years in regional areas before they can move to a city like Sydney or Melbourne.

The previous Turnbull government had long flagged new visas to “bind” migrants to the regions, with data from the Home Affairs department suggesting one in 10 who come under existing rural visas then move to a city within 18 months.

New prime minister Scott Morrison is yet to comment on the visas, but his recent cabinet reshuffle suggests the policy could be tweaked or integrated in a broader population policy.

The minister working on the visas was then-multiculturalism minister Alan Tudge, who has now been appointed to the new position of minister for cities and population in the reshaped Morrison cabinet.

The Australian reported a proposal for visas that locked migrants into the regions for five years was due to go to cabinet before the Liberal leadership spill, but is yet to be considered by the new team.

Mr Tudge’s office would not comment on the matter.

David Coleman has been appointed the new minister for immigration. His office told SBS News he was not yet in a position to comment on the policy either, having only just been sworn in.

The move takes immigration policy out of the responsibilities of Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton, with the exception of the Border Force, and could see a shift in emphasis.

Business lobby Ai Group said it hoped immigration would again be seen as an “economic portfolio”.

The business community reacted with anger when the Turnbull government revealed permanent migration – made up of skilled and family visas – had fallen to its lowest rate in 10 years.

James Pearson, head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the regions were “paying the price” for a failure of infrastructure planning in the capital cities.

Australia already has a number of visa programs designed to bring migrants to the bush, including the Skilled Regional (887) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (187).

But the schemes bring in relatively few migrants, despite the acute population decline and skills shortages in some regional areas.

More than 90 per cent of permanent arrivals choose to settle in the big cities on Australia’s east coast.
Moreover, there is little employers can do to stop migrants leaving for a city once their permanent residency has been granted.

In the visa world, the “regions” normally include smaller cities like Adelaide, Darwin, Canberra and Hobart. The government reclassified Perth as a metropolis in November last year.

Questions remain over how the government can force migrants to stay in the regions without running into legal disputes by restricting freedom of movement.

Labor frontbencher Richard Marles questioned how the visas would function in practice.

“I’m not sure that mandating new immigrants living in regional Australia is going to work,” Mr Marles told .

“I’m not actually sure there is the power to put that in place, to actually mandate that they do live there,” he said.

“So I am a little worried about the particular prescription they are putting in place to bring this about.”

The coalition is putting the early squeeze on foreign workers

The 457 visa for temporary workers won’t be officially abolished until March 1, but the number granted has already fallen by more than a third – heralding a squeeze on foreign workers by the coalition.

Australian National University researcher Henry Sherrell has found the number of primary 457 visas granted in the 2017 September quarter was down by 35.7 per cent on the same period of 2016.

And the dive was not because some jobs – most famously, “goat farmer” – have been ruled ineligible. In a paper published by the Parliamentary Library, the ANU Development Policy Centre research officer reports only a fifth of the decline in 457s came from the scrapped occupations.

Eight of the top 10 occupations for primary 457 visas had significant double-digit declines. Developer programmers were down by 42 per cent to 350 in the quarter, ICT business analysts plunged 49 per cent to 238, resident medical officers dropped 18 per cent to 436 and the top 457 job, cook, was off 29 per cent to 452.

Given the near-record employment growth last year, the sharp reduction in 457s appears to have nothing to do with demand for labour, but a response by employers and would-be employees to hiring and gaining permanent residency being made more difficult and expensive.

The size of the fall and the breadth of occupations to experience it during a period of very fast employment growth should raise some interesting questions about the nature of the Australian workforce and how 457s have been used.

From March 1, the 651 occupations eligible for 457 visas will be formally replaced by 435 occupations eligible for Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) visa, which comes in two flavours: a two-year visa that can be extended only once and offers no pathway to permanent residency; and a four-year visa that can lead to permanent residency. There are only 183 occupations eligible for the four-year visa.

The possibility of permanent residency seems to make an immediate difference to applications. Sherrell notes that while cook 457s plunged, visas granted to chefs rose slightly. Chefs are in the pot for four-year visas, cooks are left in the two-year pan.

“The increase in chefs could reflect genuine growth in employer demand for chefs,” Sherrell writes. “However, it may also reflect employers who previously nominated cooks now nominating chefs as this is a more advantageous occupation for migrants and employers given visa conditions. If the job being performed in the business has not changed, this might be called ‘occupational inflation’, as employers upgrade their occupations to take advantage of more beneficial immigration policy settings.”

Visa requirements tighten further from March. For the shorter TSS, applicants will need at least two year’s work experience – wiping out many of the foreign students and backpackers that have been transitioning. Employers will be subject to greater scrutiny, higher visa costs and a new training levy. There are stricter English language requirements and a lower maximum age for the four-year visas.

Sherrill notes a lack of other useful data on 457s, such as salary figures and the number of applications that are rejected, and warns that isolating the effects of specific policy change is difficult amidst multiple factors, but he suggests the eligibility changes could further reduce demand for TSS visas.

Before anyone gets too excited thinking fewer overseas workers will mean higher wages, Sherrell’s isn’t the only interesting paper to consider. Slate.com reports an American study that has relevance here on why workers aren’t getting decent wage rises despite jobs growth and falling unemployment.

The study suggests it’s not so much a matter of an excess of workers holding down wages, but a shortage of employers.  The idea is that in various geographical areas and fields, hiring is concentrated among a relatively small number of businesses resulting in a monopsony problem – a lack of competition among employers.

“Monopsony is essentially monopoly’s quieter, less appreciated twin sibling,” Slate explains. “A monopolist can fix prices because it’s the only seller in the market. A monopsonist, on the other hand, can pay whatever it likes for labour or suppliers, because it’s the only company buying or hiring.”

Given the limited number of players in key Australian industries, it’s not impossible to think monopsony develops whereby it’s not in those players’ interests to compete too hard for workers, or to at least not compete on price.

Meanwhile, back at the 457s, Sherrell says there’s a lack of analysis of the changes but cites an August report by the Australian Population Research Institute’s Bob Birrell – a campaigner against present migration levels.

Birrell called the 457 changes “the first serious sign that either major political party is prepared to tackle the immigration issue”.

“Make no mistake about the significance of the rest,” he wrote. “When fully in place from March 2018, the flagship ENS (employer nomination scheme for permanent residency) program will fall to less than a third of its recent size of 48,250. The number of TSS visas will also fall sharply relative to the current number of 457 visas being granted.”

Birrell expects further reforms by the government to make their immigration policy change more obvious to the public.

The apparent contradiction here is that while fewer 457/TSS visas would mean a relatively small reduction in the number of people in the country, there’s been no sign of a change in the permanent visa quota of 190,000, plus humanitarian admissions. Family reunions – mainly spouses – get 60,000 places and skilled migrants and their families the rest.

Whether the 130,000 should come as “newbies” based on their qualifications or those given a trial run through temporary work is a matter of further debate.  The Productivity Commission has argued that temporary workers here should not be given an advantage in the selection process, but the Lowy Institute’s Peter Mares makes a casefor the two-step temporary-to-permanent pathway having significant benefits for productivity because it facilitates better matching of skills to positions.

“Before the introduction of 457 visas, skilled migrants would often be granted a permanent visa before arrival in Australia,” Mares wrote. “Visas would be issued under the points system, which was the government’s attempt to match the annual skilled migration intake to its expectation of the number and types of professionals the economy would need in the year ahead. Migrants would often land in Australia and then search for a job to match their qualifications.

“Frequently, however, they might end up taking a position in which their skills were not well utilised. (We are all familiar with the scenario of engineers driving cabs, for example.) This might have been because government assumptions about the labour market were incorrect, or because those assumptions had been overtaken by a change in business conditions.”

p.s. despite the crackdown on goat farmers and kennel handlers,  the list or eligible skilled occupations for foreigners remains somewhat curious. It includes “journalists and other writers”. Anecdotal evidence would point to no shortage.  At least “federal politicians” doesn’t feature.

Changes to Apply from March 2018 to ENS and RSMS

The main changes Changes to Apply from March 2018 to ENS and RSMS which will apply from March 2018 are as follows:

Occupations List

Applicants must in general have an occupation on the shorter MLTSSL (Medium Long Term Strategic Skills List) to apply for an Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa from March 2018. Extra occupations will be available for the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS), but it is not yet clear which occupations these will be. If your occupation is not on the MLTSSL, you may no longer be eligible for permanent residence through the ENS or RSMS program from March 2018
Age

Applicants for ENS and RSMS must be under 45 at the date of application from March 2018. Currently, 457 holders applying for the Temporary Residence Transition Stream can be under 50 when applying
Minimum Salary

From March 2018, applicants must have a base salary of at least Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT – currently $53,900) to qualify. There is currently no minimum salary applicable to ENS and RSMS visas.
Work on 457 Visa – TRTS Requirement

Currently 457 holders who have worked for their employer in their position for the last 2 years may be eligible for ENS or RSMS through the Temporary Residence Transition Stream (TRTS). The TRTS is a streamlined pathway which may not require the same skills assessment, age, English language ability and health requirements as the Direct Entry Stream. From March 2018, 3 years of work experience on a 457 will be required instead of the current 2 year requirement
Training Levy

A training levy will be applicable to all ENS and RSMS applications. The amount will depend on the turnover of the sponsoring business and will be $3,000 for small businesses and $5,000 for businesses with turnover of $10 million or more.
Grandfathering Provisions for 457 Holders or Applicants as of 18 April 2017

The Department of Immigration has announced that 457 holders and applicants as of 18 April 2017 will not need to meet all of the new requirements.
These “grandfathered” 457 holders have access to transitional provisions which would preserve their eligibility for ENS and RSMS through the Temporary Residence Transition Stream.

To be eligible for the transitional provisions, you must either have:

Held a 457 visa as of 18 April 2017; or
Have a pending 457 visa application as of 18 April 2017, and this application was subsequently granted
Grandfathered applicants will not need to meet all the new requirements when applying for Temporary Residence Transition Stream ENS and RSMS visas from March 2018, and in particular:
Occupation: grandfathered applicants will be able to apply even if their occupation is not on the MLTSSL
Age: they will be able to apply providing they are under 50 years
Work Experience on 457 Visa: they can qualify once they have worked in their occupation for their employer on a 457 visa for 2 years

Grandfathered applicants will still need to meet the requirements for minimum salary (TSMIT) and payment of the training levy from March 2018.
RSMS Postcodes

A new legislative instrument has been released yesterday which specifies the postcodes for RSMS, as well as the Regional Certifying Bodies. The Perth Metropolitan Area is now excluded from the RSMS program, though it is still possible to apply if your position is located in a postcode specified in the instrument.
The instrument comes into effect on 17 November 2017.

State Nomination Update August 2017

State Nomination is very beneficial when applying for General Skilled Migration.

Even though the State Migration Plans only reopened in July 2017, there have already been some changes announced by various states and territories.

This article explains some of the recent changes

ACT Offshore Program Closed

Effective 23 August 2017, the ACT offshore program will be more limited.
If you are living overseas, you will need to show “close ties” to the ACT – this could be either:

A job offer in your nominated occupation in the ACT; or
Close family living in the ACT for the last 12 months and who are Australian permanent residents or citizens.
People who are resident in the ACT can still apply for ACT nomination, as can people who have completed a PhD within the last 2 years from a University in the ACT.
Queensland Suspends Processing State Nominations in 24 Occupations

Business and Skilled Migration Queensland (BSMQ) announces on 21 August that they would temporarily suspend processing of nominations in 24 occupations.
The suspension will be until further notice, so it is not yet clear if processing will recommence at some stage during the 2017-18 program year.

Occupations were removed in the following fields:

Accounting
IT
Hospital and Retail Pharmacists
Mechanical Engineers
Public Relations
Interior Designers
Insurance Agents
It is not yet clear if the suspension also applies to PhD graduates from Queensland.

South Australia Program Filling Fast for Popular Occupations

South Australia has been very active in nominating applicants. There are a number of IT specialisations which are now on the “Special Conditions Apply” list – this means that they are only available if you have close ties to South Australia:
261111 ICT Business Analyst
261112 Systems Analyst
261313 Software Engineer
263111 Computer Network and Systems Engineer
Other occupations which are now on the “Special Conditions Apply” list include:
224712 Organisation and Methods Analyst
232311 Fashion Designer
312211 Civil Engineering Draftsperson
312912 Metallurgical or Materials Technician

http://www.canberrayourfuture.com.au/

https://migration.qld.gov.au/latest-news/bsmq-update-removal-of-occupations/

http://www.migration.sa.gov.au/skilled-migrants/lists-of-state-nominated-occupations

Benefits of the RSMS Pathway to Permanent Residence

The RSMS (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme) has significant benefits as compared to other skilled migration pathways.

However, changes are due to be introduced in March 2018 which will make eligibility for RSMS much more restricted.

This article discusses the benefits of the RSMS program and highlights the changes which are due to be introduced.

RSMS Requirements

The RSMS (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme) is a permanent employer sponsored visa.
To qualify, you would need to have a job offer in a regional area of Australia. The position must be in an RSMS postcode – this covers most of Australia including the whole of Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania.

The position must be assessed by a Regional Certifying Body (RCB) – this would generally be the state regional development agency or chamber of commerce. The RCB will check that the business and position are genuine and that the employer has not been able to fill the position locally.

When the visa is granted, the holder is required to work for the employer for 2 years, otherwise the visa can be cancelled.

Occupations List

RSMS has the widest occupations list of any skilled migration visa type. Any occupation at ANZSCO skill level 1, 2 or 3 can be used to apply for an RSMS visa. The RSMS Occupations List includes the following occupation categories:
Skill Level 1: Management and Professional occupations requiring a bachelor degree or 5 years of work experience
Skill Level 2: Associate Professional occupations requiring a diploma-level qualification or 3 years of work experience
Skill Level 3: Technician and Trade occupations requiring a Certificate III which includes 2 years of on-the-job training or a Certificate IV
The RSMSOL includes 224 occupations which are not on either the STSOL (used for 457 and ENS visa applications) or the MLTSSL (used for Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visas). These include occupations such as:

Various Specialist Managers such as PR managers, Policy and Planning Managers, Production Managers, Procurement Managers, Wholesalers and Importers or Exporters
Hospitality, Retail and Service Managers such as Retail Managers, Call or Contact Centre Managers and Financial Institution Branch Managers
Occupations in the Arts such as performers, authors, directors
Human Resources occupations
Sales Representatives in Industrial, Medical and Pharmaceutical Products
Air and Sea Transport Professionals such as pilots, ships engineers etc
Science occupations such as biochemists, metallurgists, research and development managers
Various engineering professional, technician and drafting specialisations
Office Managers and Practice Managers
Receptionists, secretaries and personal assistants
Child Care Group Leaders
Various trades
From March 2018, the selection of occupations for RSMS will be much more limited. Most applicants will need to have an occupation on the MLTSSL – at 183 occupations, this is much shorter than the RSMSOL which has 673 occupations. Additional occupations may be available for regional positions, but at this stage it is not clear how many extra occupations will be available.
Skill Level

Most applicants only need to meet the ANZSCO skill level for their occupation to meet the skill requirement for RSMS. Either a formal qualification or work experience is generally sufficient to meet the ANZSCO skill level, though registration is also necessary if this would be required for the position.
Unlike general skilled migration or the ENS Direct Entry Stream, a formal skills assessment is not in general required. This would normally only be necessary where nominating a trade occupation and where the applicant does not have an Australian trade certificate.

In terms of minimum work experience, this is currently not required if you hold a relevant qualification. This means that international students can potentially qualify for an RSMS visa without any work experience.

From March 2018, a minimum of 3 years of work experience in the occupation will be required when applying for an RSMS visa.

Training Requirement

Unlike the 457 and ENS programs, the employer does not need to show that they have meet the training benchmarks to be able to sponsor for RSMS. Establishing compliance with the training benchmarks is generally the most involved part of applying for 457 and ENS, so this is of great benefit.
From March 2018, a training levy will be payable when applying for an RSMS visa. For smaller businesses with under AUD 10 million in turnover, the training levy will be $3,000. For larger businesses, the levy will be $5,000. It is not yet clear if this can be paid by the individual applying for the RSMS visa, or whether it must be paid by the employer.

English Requirement

For the Direct Entry RSMS pathway, Competent English is sufficient to qualify (6 in each band) – this is similar to what is required for the ENS visa, but significantly easier than the requirement for General Skilled Migration.
To meet the pass mark of 60 points for General Skilled Migration, many applicants will need Proficient English (7 in each band of IELTS or equivalent). Many applicants in pro rata occupations need 65 or 70 points to receive an invitation for a Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visa – these applicants may need to get full points for Superior English (8 in each band or equivalent).

Visa Duration

The RSMS visa is a permanent visa which allows you to live in Australia indefinitely, access to certain government benefits, local student rates for education courses and eventually eligibility for Australian citizenship.
This is more beneficial than the 457 visa, which for most occupations is now valid for only 2 years. It is also more beneficial than the Skilled Regional Provisional Subclass 489 visa, which is a 4-year visa which requires you to live and work in a regional area for 2 years before being eligible for permanent residence.

Your RSMS visa can be cancelled if you do not commence work with your employer or if you do not stay with the employer for 2 years. However, if this is due to circumstances beyond your control (eg business downturn), your visa is unlikely to be cancelled, particularly if you do continue to live in a regional area.

ENS and RSMS Applicants, Time is Running Out

Changes to be introduced in July 2017 and March 2018 mean that many people will no longer be eligible for ENS and RSMS applications. Application costs will also increase significantly from March 2018.

This article goes through the upcoming changes and highlights the deadlines by which applications will need to be lodged to avoid the changes.

Which Application Types will be Affected?

The upcoming changes will affect permanent employer sponsored visas. The two main types are:
RSMS (Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme): requires a job offer in a regional postcode
ENS (Employer Nomination Scheme): available for skilled positions in any location in Australia.
There are 3 streams within these visa subclasses:
Temporary Residence Transition Stream: requires you to have worked in Australia for your employer for the last 2 years on a 457 visa – 80% applications for ENS are of this type. This pathway requires Vocational English (5 in each band of IELTS or equivalent)
Direct Entry: allows an application to be lodged without having first held a 457 visa. This pathway requires your occupation to be on a specific list and has a higher English requirement – Competent (6 in each band of IELTS or equivalent)
Labour Agreement: where the employer has negotiated a labour agreement directly with the Department of Immigration – only very few labour agreements have provision for permanent visas.
The ENS Direct Entry option requires you to have an occupation on the STSOL. The STSOL has 432 occupations and covers most management, professional, associate professional and trade occupations, with some exceptions.
You would need to meet one of the following eligibility pathways for the ENS Direct Entry Stream:

Skills assessment and at least 3 years of work experience in your occupation; or
Minimum base salary of $180,000; or
NZ citizen or family member who has worked for their employer for 2 of the last 3 years; or
Nominated for certain scientific or academic positions
The RSMS Direct Entry option requires you to have an occupation on the RSMSOL. The RSMSOL is very broad and has 673 occupations.
Skills assessment is not required in general for the RSMS Direct Entry Stream, unless you have nominated a trade occupation and do not hold an Australian trade certificate. Virtually all RSMS applications are via the Direct Entry Stream.

Applicants Between 45 and 49 No Longer Eligible

Applicants currently need to be under 50 when they lodge to be eligible for ENS or RSMS.
From 1 July 2017, applicants for the Direct Entry Stream of ENS and RSMS will need to be under 45 when they apply. It is possible that exemptions may apply for people 45 or over but are likely to be very limited.

The Department of Immigration has indicated that the age limit for the Temporary Residence Transition Stream will not change until March 2018, so applicants in this pathway should have longer to apply. However, we still recommend lodging without delay as changes could potentially come into effect sooner than indicated by Immigration.

Higher English Requirement from July 2017

Applicants in the Temporary Residence Transition Stream can currently qualify for an ENS or RSMS visa with only Vocational English. From 1 July, they will need Competent English as is already required for Direct Entry applicants.
Increased Work Experience Requirements from March 2018

Work experience requirements will be increased for employer sponsored visas from March 2018 as follows:

A minimum of 3 years of work experience in your occupation will be required to qualify for ENS and RSMS visas. Currently, there is no minimum work experience requirement for many pathways for RSMS and ENS visas.
Applicants for the Temporary Residence Transition Stream of ENS and RSMS will need to show 3 years of work experience with their employer, rather than the current 2 years.
2 years of work experience will be required to qualify for a Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa which will replace the 457 visa from March 2018. Currently, if you have a relevant qualification, no work experience is required to obtain a 457 visa.
This will have a significant impact on:

RSMS Applicants: currently, applicants with relevant qualifications can apply for RSMS without needing any work experience
People Currently in Australia on 457s: 457 holders are currently eligible for a Temporary Residence Transition Stream ENS or RSMS visa after 2 years with their employer. This will increase to 3 years from March 2018
International Students and Recent Graduates: many international students and recent graduates are currently eligible for a 457 visa, then for an ENS visa through the Temporary Residence Transition Stream after working for their employer for 2 years. This pathway will no longer be available from March 2018 because 2 years of work experience will be required for the TSS visa
More Restrictive Occupations List from March 2018

From March 2018, only applicants with an occupation on the MLTSSL will be eligible for permanent employer sponsored visas, though it appears that some additional occupations may be available for regional positions.
The MLTSSL has only 183 occupations, mainly in accounting, engineering, IT, medical and allied health and trades. Currently, approximately 70% of ENS and RSMS applications are for people in occupations which are not on the MLTSSL. 60% of 457 visa holders are in an occupation which is not on the MLTSSL.

This change will have a significant impact on applicants for ENS and RSMS, and if you are currently eligible you will need plan to lodge your application prior to March 2018.

Additional Training Levies from March 2018

From March 2018, a training levy will be payable when applying for an ENS or RSMS visa. The amount will be $3,000 for smaller businesses with turnover of less than AUD 10 million, or $5,000 for larger businesses.
It is not yet clear whether this payment can be made by the ENS or RSMS visa applicant, or whether it must be paid by the employer. If it can only be paid by the employer, this could be a significant disincentive to employers in supporting an ENS or RSMS application.

Regardless, the additional cost will be significant – to avoid this, make sure that your application is lodged prior to March 2018.

https://www.border.gov.au/WorkinginAustralia/Documents/reforms-australia-permanent-employer-sponsored-migration-programme.pdf

Budget 2017-18: Immigration Changes

The Commonwealth 2017-18 Budget was handed down last night. Important initiatives affecting visa applicants were announced:

Employers who sponsor employees for temporary and permanent visas to pay a training levy
More details on temporary parent visas to apply from 1 November 2017
Visa application charge increases to apply from 1 July 2017
Training Levy for Employers Sponsoring Staff

From March 2018, employers will pay a training levy which will go towards the Skilling Australians Fund. The Skilling Australians Fund will fund training of Australians in apprenticeship and trainee programs to develop skills of local workers.
This will replace the current training benchmarks for employers using the 457 and ENS programs. This is likely to make it more straightforward for employers to comply with the training obligation, albeit somewhat more expensive.

The amount payable will depend on the size of the business, with those with turnover of at least $10 million will pay more. They payments will apply to both the Temporary Skills Shortages (TSS) visa and permanent employer sponsored visas (ENS and RSMS).

The payment for TSS visa holders will apply on an annual basis per employee. It is not yet clear how the fee will be collected – it could either be paid upfront with the visa application charge or an invoice might be issued at the end of each financial year. It appears that the fee will apply based on each sponsored employee based on the proportion of the year the employee was working for the employer.

For permanent employer sponsored applications, the fee will be a one-off fee and is likely to be collected on application.

The training levies are summarised below:

Small Business Large Business (turnover $10m or more)
TSS $1,200 $1,800
RSMS/ENS $3,000 $5,000
We now also have full details of the fees for the new Temporary Skills Shortages Visa – these are in line with expectations and are summarised below:

Stream Main Applicant Dependent 18 or Over Dependent Under 18
Short-Term Stream (2 year validity) $1,150 $1,150 $290
Medium-Term Stream (4 year validity) $2,400 $2,400 $600
Temporary Sponsored Parent Visas

More information on the new temporary sponsored parent visas was made available.
The new visas will be introduced in November 2017 and will require sponsorship by an Australian permanent resident or citizen child. It is quite possible that the parent would not be required to meet the balance of family test, unlike other parent visas.

The visa will be valid for either 3 years, or 5 years. The application fee for the 3-year option will be $5,000 whilst the 5-year option will cost $10,000. It will be possible to renew the visa, but this will need to be done from outside Australia. A stay of up to 10 years will be allowed in total.

Parents on the new visas will not be eligible for Medicare and the sponsoring child will be liable for any medical expenses, including aged care.

15,000 of the new temporary sponsored parent visas will be available each program year. This is a big increase from the current allocation of 8,675 places for parent visas. Accordingly, we would expect waiting times to be considerably less than contributory parent visas (2 years+) and non-contributory parent visas (30 years+).

The current parent visa categories will remain open to applications. Holders of the new temporary parent visas will not be able to apply onshore for permanent parent visas, but it is possible they might be able to lodge an application offshore. We will need to wait for details of how many places will be available for permanent parent visa categories and this is likely to have a significant impact on waiting times.

It is not yet clear whether the additional 15,000 places will be considered part of the migration program or not. Overall, the migration program will remain at 190,000 places. Interestingly, the Minister for Immigration in his Budget announcement has indicated that this is a ceiling for the program and he may well accept a program outcome lower than this.

Visa Application Charge increases

Visa Application Fees will be increased on an annual basis in line with inflation. This restores the previous practice which applied prior to 2007.
The new fees will apply from 1 July 2017 – for most visa types, the increase is around 2%. Changes for some common visa types are below:

Visa Type Current Fee From 1 July 2017 % Increase
Student $550 $560 1.8%
General Skilled Migration $3,600 $3,670 1.9%
Graduate Temporary Subclass 485 $1,470 $1,500 2.0%
Partner Temporary $6,965 $7,000 0.5%
Parent (Contributory) $3,695 $3,945 6.8%
457 $1,060 $1,080 1.9%
ENS/RSMS $3,600 $3,670 1.9%
Visitor $135 $140 3.7%
Bridging B $140 $145 3.6%
Business Migration $4,780 $4,875 2.0%
Significant Investor Visa (SIV) $7,010 $7,150 2.0%
Applicants for contributory parent visas will be glad to hear that the increase to the application fee is only 6.8% from 1 July – previous indications suggested that fees might be increased significantly.

The fact sheet on fee increases also states that the fee increases do not apply to Second Visa Application Charges. The second Visa Application Charge for contributory parent visas is significant (currently $43,600 per parent).