Department of Immigration Introduces Significant Legislative Changes

The Australian government has introduced a series of Legislative Instruments—and made several important announcements—that will have a significant impact on the immigration system.

These government’s changes will include:

  • updates to the grandfathering provisions for the subclass 457 visa;
  • changes to the Regional Certifying Bodies (RCB) scheme;
  • the introduction of a two-year transitional period for lawyers with restricted practicing licenses as part of the Regulation of Migration Agents bill;
  • the announcement of VETASSESS holiday closures and processing cut off dates;
  • changes to the application arrangements for Indonesian Visitor Visas.

457 Visa Grandfathering Provisions

According to the DIBP’s Fact Sheet Two: Reforms to Australia’s permanent skilled migration program, November 2017, several significant updates have been introduced to help provide clarification on the function of grandfathering provisions for 457 visa holders who applied on or before the 18th April 2017.

These individuals will be able to access specific provisions under the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream:

  • the age limit will remain at 50 years old;
  • occupation requirements will also remain the same, so long as the applicant continues to work in the same role, for the same employer;
  • at least three years work experience relevant to your chosen occupation will be required;
  • the applicant work experience requirement will also remain unchanged, necessitating two out of three years spent on a 457 visa prior to making a permanent residency application;
  • from March 2018 businesses will also need to contribute to the Skilling Australians Fund, which requires a $3000 payment—made in full at the time of nomination—for companies earning less than $10 million annually, and $5000 for those exceeding this threshold.

Regional Certifying Bodies Scheme

A revision has been made to the Legislative Instrument governing which areas of the country are considered regional Australia for migration purposes, the Regional Certifying Bodies and Regional Postcodes Instrument 2017.

The following changes were recently introduced to Schedule 1 of the RCB instrument:

  • Postcodes removed
    • NSW
      • Regional Development Australia Far South Coast;
    • Queensland
      • Central Queensland, Winston Shire Council;
      • Central Qld- Regional Development Australia Central Queensland;
      • North Qld- Cape York Peninsula Development Association Inc;
      • North Qld-Gulf Savannah Development Inc;
      • North Qld- Townsville Enterprise Limited;
    • Northern Territory
      • Department of Business and Employment;
    • South Australia
      • Department of Manufacturing Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy;
    • Tasmania
      • Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts;
    • Western Australia
      • Gascoyne Development Commission;
      • Great Southern Development Commission;
      • Kimberley Development Commission;
      • Mid-West Development Commission;
      • Peel Development Commission;
      • Pilbara Development Commission;
      • Skilled Migration Western Australia;
      • South West Development Commission;
    • ACT
      • Unchanged: ACT Economic Development Directorate;
    • Victoria
      • Department of Business and Innovation (Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Mildura, Shepparton, Traralgon, Wangaratta and Wodonga)
  • Postcodes added
    • NSW
      • Southern NSW-Regional Development Australia;
      • Far South Coast;
    • Northern Territory
      • Department of Trade, Business and Innovation;
    • South Australia
      • Department of State Development;
    • Tasmania
      • Department of State Growth;
    • Western Australia
      • Department of Training and Workforce Development;
    • ACT
      • Unchanged: ACT Economic Development Directorate;
    • Victoria
      • Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts;
      • Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Mildura, Shepparton, Traralgon, Wangaratta and Wodonga).

Regional Australia

According to subregulation 5.19 (7) every postcode listed in Schedule 2 of the RCB Instrument is defined as regional Australia. The only changes made to the list are contained in Western Australia, with postcodes in all other states remaining unchanged.

The Instrument specifically excludes the Perth Metropolitan area and specifies that the following postcodes are now regional:

  • 6041 to 6044;
  • 6083 to 6084;
  • 6121 to 6126;
  • 6200 to 6799.

The Instrument will officially come into effect on 17 November 2017.

Regulation of Migration Agents Bill

The Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Alex Hawke, issued a media release earlier this week detailing the new transitional period for lawyers with restricted practicing licenses as part of the Regulation of Migration Agents Bill.

As part of the announcement, Hawke stated that the Australian government expects lawyers to be removed from the MARA regulatory system by July 1st 2018.

Hawke’s official statement also confirms that:

  • migration agents who have studied to become lawyers will be subject to a two-year transitional period of dual registration, beginning from the date they are issued a restricted practicing certificate;
  • there is the potential for an extension on the two-year transitional period, to be determined on a case by case basis;
  • lawyers who already hold a legal practicing certificate will also be subject to a two-year transitional period commencing from the enactment of the bill.

VETASSESS Holiday Closures

Visa applicants should remain aware that VETASSESS will be closed for the holiday period from Friday 22nd December 2017 to Wednesday 3rd January 2018.

The application cut off date for priority processing will be 5pm, Monday 11th December, with the deadline for all other skills assessments—including SAS consultations—being 12pm Friday 22nd December.

Processing will resume on Wednesday 3rd January 2018, with applicants who received notification that their skills assessment is complete prior to the closedown having online access to their Outcome Letter.

Application Arrangements for the Indonesian Visitor Visa

The government has also introduced a new piece of legislation, the Arrangements for Visitor (Class FA) Visa Applications Legislative Instrument, which involves several changes—with the remainder of the application requirements left unchanged from the previous Instrument—to the visitor visa application arrangements for Indonesian foreign nationals.

Indonesian passport holders can now lodge their subclass 600 visa applications online via the government’s Tourist, Business and Sponsored Family Streams. This means that Indonesian tourists no longer require an approved migration agent to submit their application.

Indonesian applicants were previous required to apply via an agent, who would submit their application for them to the Department of Immigration’s online portal.

The CEO of Absolute Immigration, Jamie Lingham, has welcomed most of the new changes, however he also urged caution, warning that there are still a number of unanswered questions.

“So we would advise prospective visa applicants to contact Absolute Immigration with any questions they may have regarding specific parts of the application process,” Lingham said.

“We’re also pleased to note that the DIBP has confirmed that a pathway to permanent residency  under the TRT stream of ENS will continue to be made available to skilled workers who applied for a 457 visa on or before 18 April 2017,” he said.

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