Changes for Australian employers seeking overseas workers

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Australia's Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs ("DIMIA") have announced legislative changes effective April 2005. The changes relate to the sponsoring of overseas workers by Australian employers. This legal update outlines the changes for both the Temporary (Long Stay) Visa subclass 457 and the Employer Nomination Scheme Visa subclasses 121 (offshore) or 856 (onshore). It provides crucial information for all employers seeking to sponsor temporary or permanent overseas workers.

The implications of the new laws are that Australian employers will now need to plan ahead when attempting to fill vacancies with overseas skilled staff. Employers may find it preferable to sponsor workers for a preliminary period of two years on a temporary subclass 457 visa prior to sponsorship for permanent residency depending on age, skill levels and experience. Where the minimum salary requirements are met, the removal of labour market testing requirements for sponsors and onshore processing for permanent visa applicants under the Employer Nomination Scheme will significantly reduce the delay in obtaining suitably qualified staff from overseas.

The main changes to the Temporary Business (Long Stay) Visa subclass 457 are that the minimum annual base salary level for IT professionals will increase to $50,775, while the minimum annual base salary level for other occupations will increase to $39,100. The salary increase does not apply to current sponsored overseas workers who already hold a valid subclass 457 visa approved at a lower salary level. However, the higher base salary levels will apply when that person seeks to renew their visa or change sponsor.

The main change to the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) permanent residency visas is that the DIMIA are refining the current 'highly skilled' definition by introducing a list of acceptable skilled occupations, 'the ENS Skilled Occupation List' with designated skills assessment bodies where formal skills assessment is required.

Under these changes, visa applicants would be required to have done one of three things. The first possibility is that they have worked in the nominated occupation in Australia (while on a temporary residence visa) for at least two years, and have worked in the nominated position for the nominating employer for at least one year immediately prior to applying. The second possibility is that they have three years post-training experience in the nominated occupation, and have their skills formally assessed by the relevant skills assessing body in Australia. The third possibility is that they have been nominated for a senior management position which attracts a base salary of more than $151,500.