With an increasingly restrictive (and soon to be more expensive) permanent Employer Sponsored visa regime, we are beginning to see a return of the Australian General Skilled visa program, which does not require employer nomination or sponsorship, as potentially a more popular visa option for skilled overseas workers.
The Australian General Skilled visa regime was much more expansive prior to the Government’s overhaul back in 2010, when the list of over 400 occupations was reduced to 181. However, it seems that since the Prime Minister’s announcement on 18 April 2017 to seriously restrict Employer Sponsored visas and abolish the subclass 457 visa, the Australian General Skilled visa may need to fill a necessary gap to ensure that Australia is able to continue to build its economy and attract overseas workers in areas where there are skills shortages.
Restrictions to the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) Visa
On 18 April 2017 the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, announced a series of reforms to the Australian work visa program which have restricted and changed the way the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa functions.
Proposed and actual amendments to the subclass 186 visa have included the following:
- The first change introduced on 19 April 2017, was a stark reduction in the number of eligible occupations for the Direct Entry stream subclass 186 visa.
- The maximum age limitation for the subclass 186 visa through Direct Entry was lowered on 1 July 2017 from 50 to 45.
- English language proficiency requirements for the Temporary Residence Transition stream of the subclass 186 visa was increased from ‘vocational English’ to ‘competent English’ on 1 July 2017.
- Caveats introduced on 19 April 2017 applying to certain occupations within the Temporary Work (Skilled)(subclass 457) visa program now also apply to Direct Entry subclass 186 visa applications from 1 July 2017.
- The Australian Government has proposed a work visa levy to be introduced in March 2018 which would tax businesses with a turnover of less than $10 million a levy of $3,000 per overseas worker sponsored for permanent residency and businesses with a turnover of more than $10 million a levy of $5,000 per overseas worker sponsored for permanent residency.
- The Government has also announced that the eligible list of occupations for the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), can be changed every six months, which will lead to increased uncertainty for Australian businesses and visa applicants applying through the subclass 186 visa program.
- The Government has announced that from March 2018, only those Temporary Skills Sponsored (TSS) visa holders with occupations included on the MLTSSL list will be eligible to apply through the subclass 186 visa Temporary Residence Transition stream. The period of time a TSS visa holder must hold and continue to work for the same employer to be eligible for the subclass 186 visa is set to increase from two years to three years.
Comparison of the Australian General Skilled Visa Program
The Australian General Skilled visa program until recently was more restrictive than the subclass 186 visa, given that a different limited Skilled Occupation List (SOL) applied to Skilled Independent visas whereas the expansive Consolidated Skilled Occupation List (CSOL) applied to both permanent and temporary Employer Sponsored visas.
Applying through the General Skilled visa program may now be a more attractive option for skilled overseas workers to remain in Australia permanently for the following reasons:
- It may be a less expensive option, especially given that no work visa levy will apply.
- Employees previously eligible for the subclass 186 visa may no longer be able to apply based on language restrictions, occupation caveats and a reduction in the number of eligible occupations for the subclass 186 visa. However, the same overseas employee may be eligible for a General Skilled visa.
- The eligible occupation list for the Direct Entry subclass 186 visa is now identical to the Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) and Skilled Regional (Provisional) (subclass 489) visas. From March 2018, the Temporary Residence Transition stream eligible occupation list will be identical to the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa.
For Australian employers needing to sponsor skilled overseas workers on a permanent basis or overseas employees in Australia seeking permanent residence, the General Skilled visa program may be preferable to the Employer Nomination Scheme, especially going forward if the Government continues to restrict Australian work visas.
This is a time of significant change in governmental policy in relation to Australian visas and immigration law. It is critical for Australian businesses requiring skilled overseas workers to remain permanently in Australia that the correct visa pathway is selected.
Contact our firm at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information regarding the most appropriate Australian visa strategy for your situation.
The information on this website is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on relevant matters. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. You are advised to seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content contained in this website.