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.