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 businesses to retain staff and trade their way out of the pandemic.
There have been, and we expect there will continue to be, major changes to immigration as Australia rebuilds post-pandemic. A highly skilled immigration specialist, such as The Migration Agency (TMA), will be an asset to businesses navigating these complex changes to directly benefit from them.
In this blog, The Migration Agency outlines the latest immigration and visa concessions on offer for businesses, and how to 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 businesses 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.
2. Expanded work rights for working holiday makers
With the borders open to all travelers, employers stand to gain from growing numbers of backpackers and working holidaymakers visiting Australia under the Working Holiday Maker Program. Working Holiday visa holders (subclass 417) and Work and Holiday Visa holders (subclass 462) have expanded work rights thanks to the relaxation of the 6-month work rule, which will help small businesses rebuild and retain staff.
Under the new changes, working holidaymakers in any sector anywhere in Australia can now work for the same employer for longer than six months in any location without requesting a waiver of visa conditions. Previously, backpackers were only able to work for a business for a maximum of six months in any one location.
The arrangement will be in place until December 31, 2022 and will then be reviewed.
3. Temporary relaxation of working hours for student visa holders
Employers can now give international students more work hours per week, with the temporary relaxation of working hours for Subclass 500 visa holders, who would otherwise have a 40-hour per-fortnight limitation.
Under the new change, the Government has temporarily relaxed the 40 hour work condition for student visa holders, for all sectors of the economy. This means that employers of international students – especially in the hospitality and retail sectors – can offer full time work hours to students who wish to commence a job before their course starts or work additional hours during school term.
Students must still maintain their course enrollment, and also ensure satisfactory course attendance and progress. The arrangement will be reviewed again this month.
4. 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. 457/482 visa holders sponsored in Short Term occupations do not ordinarily qualify for employer sponsored permanent residence, but they 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 18 April 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 (only for grandfathered applicants), OR
- Three years of full-time employment in the last four years with the business, while holding the Subclass 482 visa (or Subclass 457 visa).
Applications for PR under this pathway will open from 1 July 2022. An additional recent change from 1 July is also the ability to apply for a third Subclass 482 visa in the short term stream while in Australia, which will then also facilitate a path to PR under the above changes. Additional criteria will apply, we are awaiting further details about this pathway.
5. 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.
However, now that the Australian borders have reopened, the 408 Covid visa will be available in certain circumstances only.
Temporary visa holders already in Australia who have work rights may apply for a Subclass 408 Covid Pandemic Event Visa with a validity of 12 months and no visa application charge, if they work in:
- Food processing
- Aged care
- Disability care
- Tourism and hospitality
A 408 Covid Pandemic Event Visa of 6 months validity is available for visa holders currently working or who have a job offer to work in any other sector in Australia.
For example, if an international student is working or has an offer of employment in a critical or non-critical sector, and they have finished their course, they may be eligible for a Covid-19 Pandemic (Subclass 408) visa. Students can only apply for this visa 90 days before their student visa is due to expire.
6. Travel exemptions are still in place for unvaccinated travelers
Travel exemptions are still in place for unvaccinated travelers, however, they are extremely difficult to obtain and unvaccinated travelers must have genuine medical grounds for the exemption.
The most up-to-date information on obtaining a travel exemption to enter Australia as an unvaccinated person is outlined here.
Take advantage of these immigration changes today with The Migration Agency
Having an immigration partner, such as The Migration Agency, will help you as a business owner navigate these new visa and immigration changes, which may be applicable to your organisation or employees’ individual circumstances. For more information, contact your Employment Innovations HR Business Partner or The Migration Agency team.
SPECIAL OFFER: As a valued Employment Innovations client, and to understand the impact of these changes on your staff as a business owner, we are offering you a complimentary “Work Visa Eligibility Assessment” for your employees. To take advantage of this offer, please get in touch with The Migration Agency.
About the Author
The Migration Agency designs and delivers customized Australian immigration and visa solutions for businesses and everyday people.
Based in Sydney, the Migration Agency assists with Australian and New Zealand immigration and has international reach through its global immigration network.
Migration is more than applications, ticking boxes and managing changes in law. At its heart, migration is about people. The Migration Agency is intentionally driven by values that embrace global mobility, diversity, and personal care.
About Employment Innovations
Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium sized employer needs – including workplace advice, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management and HR software.
The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.