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Australian Immigration 2016: A Year in Review


Written By John Unger | Thu, Nov 24, 2016 John Unger

According to its website, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has “facilitated the permanent entry of more than seven million people from around the globe to form one of the world’s most linguistically, culturally and religiously diverse nations. This includes more than 800 000 refugees under humanitarian programmes. Today, almost half the population of Australia has direct or indirect familial links to another country.”

Temporary and permanent skilled migration makes a significant social and economic contribution to Australia. Careful consideration is given to migration quotas each year. In 2016 there has been a continuing focus on future skills and business needs and a further focus on streamlining and strengthening the overall temporary migration programme. The changes which have been implemented over the past 12 months were designed to strengthen the integrity of the programme, while continuing to support established businesses and encouraging Australian innovation.

Below is a summary of all the major shifts in Australian immigration during 2016, for more comprehensive advice on your specific immigration situation please contact TSS Immigration.

January
New Law Prohibits Receiving Benefit for Sponsorship
New criminal and civil penalties apply, as well as possible visa cancellation, and may be imposed on a person who asks for, receives, offer or provides a benefit, in return for visa sponsorship or employment (which requires visa sponsorship), referred to under the Migration Act (The Act) of Australia as a “sponsorship” related event.

February

Fast Track to Australian Citizenship for Kiwis
A historic agreement has been reached between the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, which will allow Kiwis that have been living and working in Australia for a minimum of 5 years to become Australian permanent residents.

March

457 Visa holders to pay school fees in South Australia in 2017
The Education Minister for South Australia, Dr. Susan Close has announced that 457 visa workers earning a gross household income of more than $77,000 will have to start paying school fees of $5,100 for each primary school student and $6,100 for each high school student. For the first year, the new charge will only apply to people who arrive in South Australia from January 1, 2017. From January 2018 it will apply to all 457 visa holders living in the state, regardless of when they arrived.

Priority Processing for Visitor Visa applicants from China
On 15 March 2016, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) introduced new provisions that allow priority processing of visitor visa applications for Chinese nationals.
This program is being run as a trial for the moment, and may expand to include applicants of other nationalities at a later date.

April
457 Visa changes from 19 April
The Federal government has introduced a couple of changes to the 457 visa from 19 April 2016. The first in relation to non-discriminatory recruitment practices and the other around the simplification of English language exemptions. In summary an employer has to provide a written declaration that they did not purposely exclude Australian residents or citizens from the job search process. The English language changes should cut some red-tape and duplication, making it easier for some applicants.

July
Accredited Sponsorship changes
There have been major changes announced to the process of obtaining Accredited Sponsorship status. The major change being the requirement to have sponsored at least thirty primary 457 visa holders in the 24 months prior to the application for accreditation changing to only having to sponsor ten primary 457 visa applicants.

457 Training Benchmark
To demonstrate that they meet the training benchmarks, companies applying for 457 sponsorship or companies that are 457 visa sponsors need to provide evidence of ‘recent expenditure’ on training. Amendments have been made to the Sponsorship Procedures Advice Manual (PAM) for 1 July 2016.

Schedule 3 and compelling circumstances
Where the expiry of a 457 visa has been overlooked – which unfortunately can happen despite employer’s best efforts to keep track of their sponsored employees’ visa dates – situations can arise in which an application for a 457 needs to be lodged where the applicant does not hold a valid substantive visa. 

Chefs - occupation ceiling
An occupation ceiling is a limit on the number of invitations that can be issued through SkillSelect each year.  Companies in the hospitality industry may be aware that a ceiling for 2016-2017 has been set for the ANZSCO occupations for Chef (3513) of 2,475 places.

Paypal

The immigration department is now offering PayPal and BPay as new payment options for applications lodged through ImmiAccount, the Department’s electronic lodgement system. 

September
Entrepreneur Visa Introduced
Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull has announced new visa pathways for innovative entrepreneurs under the new National Innovation and Science Agenda.  A new Entrepreneur Visa was introduced to attract innovative talent and changes will be made to retain high achieving foreign students in Australia.

October
New Sponsorship Accreditation Arrangements
Most 457 visa sponsors have a Standard Business Sponsorship (SBS).  The Department introduced Accredited Sponsor status for high-volume low-risk users of the programme.  Advantages of being an Accredited Sponsor include faster processing times.
On 1 July the rules for obtaining accredited sponsorship were changed making it available to a larger number of companies.  The principal change was that a company could be considered for accredited sponsor status if it had sponsored at least 10 x 457 visas in the past two years (24 months).  This was a reduction from the 30 x 457 visas previously required.
This change was originally interpreted as requiring sponsors to have had at least 10 x primary 457 visas granted during the two-year period.  From 14 October, however, the Department will take a more flexible approach under which the requirement will be at least 10 x nominations approved.  This change allows the inclusion of cases where a company has nominated someone who already holds a 457 visa.  For companies seeking to qualify as Accredited sponsors, this more generous approach is welcome.

November
Temporary Activity Visa Framework Changes
BACKGROUND: In a recent article, we set out the changes starting on 19 November affecting a set of temporary visas. Please see our article here.
FORMS: The entire summary of changes to the forms for November 2016 can be found on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website, here.
AUDIO: SBS Radio sought out TSS Immigration’s commentary for an interview on these changes. The podcast can be found here.

457 visa changes
Separate from the changes noted above, an important amendment was announced for 457 visas.  Currently a condition of a 457 visa is that the visa holder cannot cease employment for more than 90 consecutive days. For visas granted on or after 19 November 2016, this is reduced to 60 days, meaning if a 457 visa holders ceases employment they have 60 days to find a new 457 employer sponsor, obtain some other sort of visa or depart Australia. Should they stay longer than 60 days without taking some form of remedial action, they will be in breach of their visa condition and their visa may be cancelled.

“Member of Family Unit” changes
For a visa applicant, the ability to include family members is an important, if not an integral factor in migrating to Australia.  Under new arrangements, in effect from 19 November 2016, the definition of Member of the Family Unit is being changed to only include partners and children, and not extended family members.
The definition of “member of the family unit” is being simplified to include:
• The spouse or de facto partner of the primary applicant;
• A child or step child of the primary applicant/primary applicant’s partner (under 18 years)
• A dependent child or step child of the primary applicant/ primary applicant’s partner (aged between 18 and 23 years); and
• A dependent child or step child of the primary applicant/ primary applicant’s partner (aged over 23 years who is incapacitated for work).
These changes will apply to visas lodged on or after 19 November 2016.
 
Tourist Visa – Chinese nationals only – Frequent Traveller Stream (Subclass 600)
Starting 19 November, the Government is trialling the introduction of a 10-year validity Visitor visa for Chinese nationals. The frequent traveller visitor visa, if granted, will allow its holder to make multiple entries to Australia for a determined period; anywhere up to 10 years from the visa grant date, and allows its holder to remain in Australia for a period of 3 months on each entry. The visa holder cannot stay for more than an accumulated 12 months in a 24 month period. The visa application charge is $1,000.

For up to date Australian immigration advice, compliance and processing contact TSS Immigration on 03 9421 1020 or send an enquiry to hello@tssgroup.com.au

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