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AUSTRALIA: The Australian government announced a sponsor accreditation scheme starting November 1.

As part of "Subclass 457" visa reforms, the Australian government has announced a sponsor accreditation scheme, available beginning on November 1, 2011, for certain standard business sponsors.

The Australian Government has announced plans to introduce Accredited Sponsor (AS) status, beginning on November 1, 2011, to facilitate the priority processing of company nominations and temporary entry subclass 457 visas for sponsored employees. AS status can be applied for either with a new sponsorship application or by variation of an existing sponsorship.

The new accreditation process recognizes that many Australian businesses have a long history of good dealings with immigration authorities, including lodging a high volume of good quality, decision-ready applications and an excellent record of compliance with relevant laws.

Once accredited, the sponsorship agreement will last for 6 years; this compares with the current 3 years for standard sponsors. The same form will be used as for an application to become a standard sponsor. If the criteria for AS status are not met, the application for standard sponsorship will proceed and be assessed in the usual way.

To qualify for AS status, sponsors must demonstrate several additional characteristics above the standard sponsorship requirements at the time of application. The sponsor must:

  • be a government agency, a publicly listed company, or a private company, with a minimum of A$4 million turnover per year for the last 3 years
  • have been an active 457 visa sponsor for the past 3 years (with a break of no more than 6 months, not due to any sanction)
  • have no adverse information known about them based on monitoring by Australian immigration and workplace authorities, including formal warnings and sanctions
  • have had at least 30 subclass 457 visa holders granted in the previous 12 months
  • have lodged a high level of decision-ready applications over the previous 2 years 
  • have a non-approval rate of less than 3% for the previous 3 years
  • have Australian workers comprising at least 75 percent of their workforce in Australia and a commitment to maintain this level
  • have a Collective Agreement or Enterprise Agreement that covers all 457 visa holders earning less than A$180,000 per annum.

If a sponsor fails to maintain these characteristics, AS status can be revoked, resulting in loss of access to priority processing arrangements.

Australian ABIL member Katie Malyon has indicated that the last of these requirements for AS status means that few sponsors apart from State/Territory governments will be able to access the scheme.
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