Get Ready for 1 July 2017

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End of financial year is a significant time for business, and with one of the most complex immigration and workplace relations systems in the world, it is essential that business owners stay updated and compliant with the changes that come into effect on or after 1 July 2017.

Below we summarise the key changes arising from:

  • the Prime Minister Turnbull’s announcement in April that the subclass 457 Temporary Skilled Work visa would be phased out and replaced with a new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa stream;
  • the 2017/2018 Federal Budget released in early May;
  • changes to minimum pay rates announced by the Australian Fair Work Commission;
  • other amendments to the Migration Regulations announced in May.

What’s Changing on 1 July?

Police clearances. All 457 visa applicants and accompanying family members over 17 years of age, will be required to provide mandatory police clearance certificates for countries where they have lived for more than 12 months. Applications on hand (which have been submitted, but not received a decision) will likely be required to provide police clearances.

English language. Exemption to the subclass 457 English language requirements will be removed for high income earners earning A$96,400 or more per year. All 457 visa applicants will be required to demonstrate Functional English. An International English Language Testing System (IELTS) (or equivalent test) score of 6 in each component will be required for all permanent employer-sponsored skilled visas.

Occupations lists. The Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) will be further revised based on feedback from the Department of Employment and Department of Education and Training. The updated lists will be published on 1 July 2017. The two lists replaced the old Skilled Occupation and Consolidated Sponsored Occupation lists in April, when 216 occupations were removed and new caveats introduced to the list of occupations eligible to be filled by foreign nationals on skilled visas.

Direct Entry Stream maximum age requirement. The maximum age for the Subclass 189 independent skilled visa applicants and Subclass 186 Direct Entry stream applicants will be lowered from 50 to 45 years.

Visa Application Charges. There will be modest increases to Application Charges (VAC) for many Australian visas. The new VAC price list is available here.

Wage Reviews and Award Updates. Reduction to public holiday and Sunday penalty rates under some Modern Awards will take effect on 1 July 2017 impacting hospitality, restaurant, general retail, fast food and pharmacy workers. 457 visa holders working in these industries must continue to be paid at or above their guaranteed salary to comply with their visa conditions.

New Visa stream for New Zealanders. A new permanent visa stream has been created for certain New Zealanders residing in Australia. The stream under the Subclass 189 (Skilled – Independent) visa category will be available to New Zealanders holding a Subclass 444 (Special Category) visa, who were usually resident in Australia on or before 19 February 2016, who have continued to reside in Australia for at least five years and meet minimum income requirements.

Passenger cards. Travellers departing Australia will no longer be required to fill out outgoing passenger cards.

Online APEC Business Travel Cards.  Australian business travellers may be eligible for an APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC). The card reduces visa application costs and provides more streamlined visa processing.

New Visa stream for New Zealanders. A new permanent visa stream has been created for New Zealanders residing in Australia. The new NZ stream of the Subclass 189 skilled independent visa will be available to New Zealanders holding a Subclass 444 visa who have resided in Australia for at least five years and meet other residency and income requirements.

Next steps

457 visa applicants should be prepared to obtain police clearance certificates and satisfy the new English language requirements.

Also, employers and visa applicants hould be prepared for the increased VACs or lodge their applications by 30 June 2017.

In relation to the reduced penalty rates on public holidays, it is not necessary to pass on this reduction to employees. Employers may choose to continue paying their employees at the same rate as they were before, provided this is above the minimum set by the Modern Award and meets employee’s the visa conditions.

New Zealanders who meet the residency and financial criteria can consider their eligibility for Australian permanent residence.

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