Australian businesses crying out for skilled workers to fill vital roles across all sectors are now directly benefiting from the latest immigration changes, including open borders for workers and tourists, special arrangements for sponsored visa holders, priority processing for key occupations, and relaxed work limitations for temporary visa holders.
The current state of play in immigration and recent Government changes to various visa programs to support the re-opening of Australia spells good news for organisations struggling to fill skills shortages – now and in the future – with many more changes in the pipeline for employers to retain staff and trade their way out of the pandemic.
There have been, and we expect there will continue to be, major immigration changes to immigration as Australia rebuilds post-pandemic. A highly skilled immigration specialist, such as TMA, will be an asset to organisations navigating these complex changes to directly benefit from them.
In this blog, we outline the latest immigration and visa concessions on offer for employers, and how you can take advantage of them.
1. Faster processing for Priority Migration Skilled Occupation (PMSOL) List visas
The Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) was introduced to give priority to critical workers needing entry into Australia during the pandemic. It’s still a priority and remains in place so employers can take advantage of faster processing times for critical occupations on the list.
There are 44 occupations on the PMSOL which fill critical skills needed to support Australia’s economic recovery from Covid-19. The Department of Home Affairs states on its website that employer-sponsored nomination and visa applications with an occupation on the PMSOL will be given priority processing. All other skilled occupation lists will remain active, but the PMSOL occupations will take priority.
Some of the occupations include pharmacists, scientists, accountants, auditors, engineers, doctors, nurses, IT professionals, developers, software programmers, social workers, executive chefs and hospitality professionals.
READ MORE: The full list is available here.
2. Covid Pandemic Event (Subclass 408) Visa remains active
The Subclass 408 Covid Pandemic Event Visa remains in place and is a last-resort option for people in Australia who don’t have any other visa options available to them and do not wish to depart.
Temporary visa holders with work rights will be able to access the Covid-19 Pandemic Event (Subclass 408) visa, incurring no visa application charge for a period of 12 months, if they work in:
- Food processing
- Aged care
- Disability care
- Tourism and hospitality
A 408 visa of six months validity is available if you are working or have a job offer to work in any other sector in Australia. For example, if you are an international student, and are working or have an offer of employment in a critical or non-critical sector, and you have finished your course, you may be eligible for a Covid-19 Pandemic (Subclass 408) visa. You can only apply for this visa 90 days before your student visa is due to expire.
3. Permanent residency pathways for Short Term Stream 482 visa holders
A major update in Australian immigration is a special permanent residency pathway that will come into existence from July 1, 2022 for Short Term Stream 482 visa holders and a continuation of the grandfathering arrangements for Temporary Work Skilled (Subclass 457) visa holders. Subclass 457/482 visa holders sponsored in Short Term occupations do not ordinarily qualify for employer-sponsored permanent residence, but are being offered permanent residency in recognition of their contribution to the Australian economy during the pandemic.
In order for sponsored Subclass 457/482 visa holders to access this permanent residency pathway, the following requirements must be met:
- The applicant holds or has held a Subclass 457 visa that was applied for before April 18, 2017 and subsequently granted (grandfathered applicants), OR
- Is a Subclass 482 visa holder (or Subclass 457 visa holder which was applied for after April 18, 2017) who is nominated in an occupation that is currently on the short term skilled occupation list AND the visa applicant must have been in Australia for a cumulative period of 12 months between February 1, 2020 and December 14, 2021.
A visa holder that meets the requirements above, may be able to access employer-sponsored permanent residency through the Subclass 186 – Temporary Residence Transition Stream (TRTS), where they have completed either:
- Two years of full-time employment in the last three years with the business, while holding the Subclass 457 visa, OR
- Three years of full-time employment in the last four years with the business, while holding the Subclass 482 visa.
Applications for permanent residency under this pathway will open from July 1, 2022.
An additional recent change, also from July 1, is the ability to apply for a third Subclass 482 visa in the short term stream while in Australia, which will then facilitate a path to permanent residency under the above changes.
Additional criteria will apply and we are awaiting further details about this pathway.
4. Temporary relaxation of working hours for student visa holders
Due to workforce shortages, the Government has temporarily relaxed student visa work limits to all sectors of the economy, meaning that international student visa holders can work more than 40 hours a fortnight.
It is available for all ongoing students and new student arrivals who wish to commence a job before their course starts. However, students must still maintain their course enrolment, and also ensure satisfactory course attendance and progress. The arrangement will be reviewed again this month.
5. Visa extensions for Skilled-Recognised Graduate (Subclass 476) visa holders
Thousands of eligible Skilled-Recognised Graduate (Subclass 476) visa holders who lost time in Australia as a result of Covid-19 international border restrictions will have their visas extended for 24 months. This visa allows recent engineering graduates to live, work or study in Australia. This will provide eligible visa holders with the usual length of the visa, plus an additional six months, allowing them to enter, or remain in, Australia until April 2024.
The extension is expected to take effect in April 2022 and also applies to people whose visas have already expired, providing they were unable to use the full length of their original visa due to the Covid-19 international travel restrictions.
6. Removal of working hours limit for Training (Subclass 407) visa holders
Due to current workforce shortages, the Government is temporarily removing the limit on secondary Training (Subclass 407) visa holders’ working hours across all sectors of the economy. This means that dependent family members holding a 407 visa can work full-time rather than 40 hours per fortnight.
This measure takes effect immediately for existing and new secondary Training visa holders, and will be reviewed in this month.
7. Reduced limitations for working holiday makers
Under the Working Holiday Maker Program, changes have been introduced to allow working holiday makers and backpackers, in any sector anywhere in Australia, to work for the same employer for longer than six months in any location without requesting permission.
Previously, working holiday makers were only able to work for an employer for a maximum of six months in any one location. However, the Government has relaxed that rule in order to assist employers to retain their staff and help with Australia’s economic recovery.
The arrangement will be in place until December 31, 2022 and will then be reviewed.
8. Refunds for student visa holders
If a student visa holder has travelled to Australia between January 19 to March 19, 2022, they will be eligible for a refund of their visa application charge. Students will be able to apply for a refund until December 31, 2022.
9. Travel exemptions are still in place for unvaccinated travellers
Travel exemptions are still in place for unvaccinated travellers, however, they are extremely difficult to obtain and unvaccinated travellers must have genuine medical grounds for the exemption.
READ MORE: We have outlined the most up-to-date information on obtaining a travel exemption to enter Australia as an unvaccinated person. Read the full article here.
Take advantage of these immigration changes today with TMA
Having an immigration partner, such as TMA, will help you navigate these new visa and immigration changes, which may be applicable to your organisation or individual circumstances. To work with us on your immigration needs, please get in touch today.