What are the upcoming changes to the Permanent Employer-Sponsored Visa program?

Australia has been reliant on migrants in building up many aspects of the country through various points in its history, and in recognition of the importance that experienced overseas workers brings, many visa options are available for skilled migrants allowing them to work and live in the country – while we receive the benefit of their expertise. In an increasingly competitive global market, the Australian Government has recognised the need to reform the permanent employer-sponsored visa program with the changes to be introduced on 1 July 2012.

As it stands, the employer-sponsored visa program is made up of the: Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS); Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS); and the Labour Agreement program – which are programs used to cover short-to-medium term demands for particular skills that the country may require. The ENS, RSMS and Labour Agreement programs grants employers the ability to sponsor overseas workers for permanent residence in order to fill genuine vacancies, but with the review of the employer-sponsored visa program, the new changes that will be implemented on 1 July 2012 will make it easier for employers to bring in foreign workers to the country.

What are some of the changes to the employer-sponsored visa program?

Perhaps the biggest change introduced is the reduction of the current number of visa subclasses from six to two, replacing the Labour Agreement visa with streams in both the ENS and RSMS. Also, along with the integration of the new skilled migrant selection model in the ENS and RSMS, the Government has also introduced SkillSelect – an online system that allows experienced overseas workers to record their expression of interest in migrating to Australia, which would then permit the person to be considered for a visa.

Additionally, there currently exist distinctions between whether a person is in Australia, or overseas when making a visa application for skilled migration, and with the reforms, the differences between the two will be removed.

Further changes have also been made to the Temporary Business (Long Stay) subclass visa, allowing for an easier path for holders of such visas to gain permanent residency are just some of the changes the reforms have introduced.

What are the new visa classes and subclasses for skilled migrants?

With the reduction of the employer-sponsored visa classes, the new visas are:

  • Employer Nomination (Class EN) Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186);
  • Regional Employer Nomination (Class RN) Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187).

Within the new visas, there will also be an additional three streams:

  • the Temporary Residence Transition stream for subclass 457 visas: which allows an employer to offer an employee who has worked for two years in the same place, and is a holder of the 457 visa, and the opportunity must also exist, allowing the person to permanently hold the same position;
  • the Direct Entry stream: which is available to a foreign employee who has not held a subclass 457 visa for at least two years, and is unproven in Australia as an employee, or the person has applied for a visa overseas;
  • the Agreement stream: applies to an applicant who is a sponsored worker and is also part of a highly scrutinised and negotiated labour agreement, or a regional migration agreement.

The Temporary Residence Transition stream

Holders of a subclass 457 visa will now have the ability to fast track their temporary visa into permanent residence and now forms the basis for the Temporary Residence Transition stream.
In order for subclass 457 visa holders to qualify for permanent residency, requires an employer to nominate the person, and the employee must also have been with the same employer for the two years preceding an ENS or RSMS application.

Further requirements include:

  • the role that is being nominated for is consistent to the applicants position whilst holding the subclass 457 visa;
  • the position will continue for at least two years;
    the same terms and conditions of employment that an Australian citizen enjoys, will also apply to the applicant;
  • the rate of pay for the applicant will be the same as an Australian citizen;
  • the employer has met, or continues to meet, the subclass 457 visa requirements.

For employers wishing to nominate an applicant for the RSMS they must be actively and lawfully conducting their business in regional Australia.

Meanwhile, the applicant must also meet the following requirements:

  • they are less than 50 years of age, unless they are exempt from the requirement;
  • meet the International English Language Test Score (IELTS) requirements, unless they are exempt from the requirement.

Applicants of the RSMS Temporary Residence Transition employer visa will be exempt from further assessment of their skills and qualifications because of their employment history, and the continuing sponsorship by an employer.

The Direct Entry stream

The Direct Entry stream is available for applicants outside of Australia or for applicants who are unable to apply for the Temporary Residence Transition stream. The common requirements for employers who are applying either through the ENS or RSMS Direct Entry is the business must be actively and lawfully operating in a regional area, that the role is a full-time position that is available for at least two years, and the employee will be paid the same rate as an Australian citizen.

The differences in the requirements generally lie with the classification and certification of the role between the streams, and an ENS Direct Entry employer must also offer training to Australians.

For applicants who are untested in the Australian job market, both the ENS and RSMS Direct Entry stream requirements will be more stringent to ensure that they are equipped to deal with Australian working conditions. Furthermore, the English language proficiency and skills requirements will also be more stringent as well.

The Labour Agreement stream

Applicants for the Labour Agreement stream will need to meet the requirements of their nominees in regards to the relevant labour agreements, as well as adhering to the English language proficiency requirements, skills requirements, meet the relevant criteria age, and other labour agreement requirements.

What are some of the exemptions to the visa requirements?

Exemptions from requirements such English proficiency, age, and skills, will be objectively assessed on an individual basis, and the exemptions will take into consideration the occupation, salary, or how long the applicant has been with the nominee employer.

In terms of concessions relating to labour agreement applicants, will depend on factors such as the salary, specialised nature of the occupation, and the educational background of the applicant which are all relevant considerations.

We should emphasise that this is a very broad overview of the new reforms to the permanent employer-sponsored visa program. If you have any questions or queries, please seek assistance through either the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, or a migration agent who will all be able to assist.    


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