AUSTRALIA: The Australian government has made sweeping changes across a number of Australian immigration programs
The Australian government has made sweeping changes across a number of Australian immigration programs. Following a review of the skilled independent General Skilled Migration (GSM) program and taking into account the impact of the global financial crisis, there has been a shift from the supply-driven GSM program to demand-driven employer-sponsored migration. Employer-nominated applications for both temporary and permanent residence are now prioritized.
New income threshold and assessment of skills for employer-sponsored temporary residence 457 visas
For employer-sponsored temporary skilled entrants on subclass 457 visas, the income threshold has been increased to A$47,480 per annum (p.a.) as of July 1, 2010. This does not affect the need for foreign national employees to be paid at market salary rates. Occupations eligible for sponsorship under the 457 visa scheme have also changed with applicants in some trade occupations from certain countries now required to have their skills assessed by a relevant Australian assessing body before grant of a 457 visa.
Prioritized processing for agent-certified, employer-nominated permanent residence applications
On October 10, 2010, the Australian government introduced an express pathway whereby immigration professionals who are Registered Migration Agents may certify that applications are fully documented and decision ready. Certified applications are being processing in 1-2 weeks. Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) applications filed (lodged) before that date are taking an average of 5-6 months to process, but cannot be removed from the old queue and relodged to access the new express processing.
Increase in High Income Salary Threshold
Effective December 5, 2010, the annual base salary threshold under the ENS increased for those wishing to apply for a permanent visa under the High Income Salary Threshold from A$165,000 p.a. to A$250,000 p.a.
Changes to the ENS Occupation List
The ENS Occupation List has also been amended effective December 5, 2010, to include 17 new occupations. The occupation of Medical Technician nec [not elsewhere classified] has been removed from the list.
National Health Waiver in place for ENS
All States and Territories in Australia have now joined the Health Waiver program for ENS permanent residence applicants. The Health Waiver program allows applicants to seek a State/Territory government-sanctioned waiver to health criteria required to be met under immigration law where the health of the applicant, or a family member, might otherwise lead to visa refusal.
New Skilled Occupation List introduced July 1, 2010, and revised December 5, 2010
A new GSM occupation list for independent applicants was issued on July 1, 2010, and was revised effective December 5, 2010. The new Skilled Occupation List (SOL) contains fewer than half of the occupations listed under the old SOL. As a result, and due to the express one-to-two-week processing times for ENS applications, many potential GSM applicants are now looking to their employers to nominate them for permanent residence.
New SOL as of July 1, 2011
The Minister for Immigration has announced that the government will overhaul the points-tested GSM program on July 1, 2011, with a greater emphasis on high-level English language skills, work experience, and degree qualifications from Australia or overseas. The age level for applicants will increase from 45 to 49.
State Migration Plans
State Migration Plans that address specific skill shortages and local labor market needs were implemented in late 2010 and early 2011 by all States and Territories except New South Wales.
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