Archive for the ‘General News’ Category

Australian Government Responds to Review into the Integrity of the Subclass 457 Programme

2nd April 2015

The Australian Government has confirmed that it supports – or supports in principle – the majority of the independent review’s recommendations into the workings of the subclass 457 visa program.

The Terms of Reference required the independent panel to recommend a system that, operating in the national interest, was sound and resistant to misuse (the “integrity” goal), and, at the same time, flexible and able to respond quickly to economic and business changes (the “productivity” goal).

The full report is available here.

The Australian Government’s responses to the recommendations outlined in the report are detailed here.

Regional businesses boosted by changes to foreign worker laws

1st September 2014

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has finalised guidelines for Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA) which will stimulate local economies providing more business and job opportunities for Australians in areas experiencing labour and skills shortages.

The DAMA proposal, commenced under the former Labor government as regional migration agreements, has been developed after extensive negotiations with state and territory governments and other stakeholders including labour unions.

These agreements require employers to pay workers at least the same wage as Australian workers.

Where employers within the agreement area are unable to recruit Australian workers, DAMAs can support them to supplement their workforce with skilled overseas workers.

According to the Department of Immigration: “If businesses cannot access labour then they cannot create more jobs for Australians. Targeted skilled migration under the DAMA guidelines will provide incentives to grow businesses and local economies for the benefit of Australians.”

DAMAs are designed to ensure employers recruit Australians as a first priority and prioritise initiatives and strategies to facilitate the recruitment and retention of Australian workers.

The 457 minimum salary threshold (or TSMIT), which is $53 900, applies to workers under DAMAs. TSMIT is the entry level salary for the 457 program and is well above the award wage for Australians.

Under DAMAs an up to 10 per cent salary concession would only apply to the TSMIT – so the minimum wage could only be $48,510.

Even with a discount applied overseas workers will be paid well above the relevant award for the jobs they do.

All conditions including normal award provisions continue to apply.

> DAMAs do not permit overseas workers to undercut Australian workers: overseas workers must be provided with terms and conditions no less favourable than Australian employees
> DAMAs do not allow entry of unqualified overseas workers: overseas workers must hold appropriate qualifications and experience, and meet any registration and licensing arrangements
> DAMAs do not allow employers to substitute Australian workers with overseas workers: employers must show that they have sought to recruit Australian workers within the previous six months
> DAMAs do not allow employers to avoid training Australians. Employers participating in a DAMA must meet subclass 457 sponsorship obligations, including training benchmarks
> DAMAs do not allow employers to bring in unskilled overseas workers. Overseas workers must be skilled or semi-skilled.

Any DAMA request must be endorsed by the relevant State or Territory government before the department would consider an application. Unions, business and community stakeholders must be consulted prior to requesting a DAMA.

The principles underpinning DAMAs include providing opportunities for Australians first, maintaining a fair work environment and comprehensive consultation.

A pilot agreement is being finalised with the Northern Territory Government to cover areas where it has been difficult to obtain Australian workers.

“DAMAs will be very closely monitored to ensure that they do not adversely impact on the local workforce, which the government is committed to ensuring has absolute priority in the labour market,” Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash said.

See the Minister’s Press Release here.

Contact your local Go Matilda Visas office for further information about employer sponsored subclass 457 visas – we’ll be delighted to have a free intial discussion.

Employer Sponsored 457 Visas – For How Long is the Business Sponsorship and the Visa Valid?

17th February 2014

Under Australia’s subclass 457 visa program a business that is approved as a Business Sponsor may nominate overseas workers within the approval period without having to lodge a new Business Sponsor application, so long as the number of permitted nominations agreed to by the Department of Immigration in the Business Sponsor application have not been exhausted.

Once the approval period has expired, the business must make a new Business Sponsor application before nominating any further overseas workers for a 457 visa.

In other words, the approval period for a business as a 457 Business Sponsor will vary according to the business: the approval is valid until the earlier of:

• The number of nominations requested in the Business Sponsor application has been used up, OR
• The business sponsor time period ends,

whichever is the earlier.

Overseas and Australian businesses that are more than 12 months old will usually be granted an approval period of up to 3 years.

Those with an “Accredited Sponsor” status will be approved for 6 years.

Newly established business (those less than 12 months old) will be granted an approval period of 12 months. Note: This reduced approval period for new businesses took effect on the 1st of July 2013.

The validity period for the nominee’s 457 visa is also affected by the same amendment: while it is possible to request a validity period of between 3 months and 4 years in any 457 visa application a nominee sponsored by a new business (ie one that is less than 12 months old) will be granted a 457 visa that is valid for 12 months.

If a new business wishes to retain the nominee for more than 12 months, it will therefore be necessary to lodge a new Business Sponsor, Nomination and Visa Application before the 12 month period ends.

Note: A risk issue for a Business Sponsor between the date of approval and renewing the 457 Business Sponsor status will be ensuring the businesses has adhered to the contents of the training plan that was submitted with the Business Sponsor application. Compliance with the training plan submitted with the initial Business Sponsor application will be checked when the renewal application is being processed by the Department of Immigration.

Labour Market Testing of Salaries to Commence

14th November 2013

From the 23rd of November, 2013 companies that intend to sponsor workers under the 457 visa program will have to:

* Consider whether they must undertake labour market testing in relation to a nominated occupation, such that the Immigration Minister is to be satisfied that a suitably qualified Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident or eligible temporary visa holder is not readily available to fill the nominated position

* Where required, provide evidence in relation to the labour market testing, which must accompany the application for a nomination of a skilled position

* Provide information if one or more Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents were, in the previous 4 months, made redundant or retrenched from positions in the nominated occupation in a business – or an associated entity of the approved sponsor

* Ensure that if there have been redundancies or retrenchments, the labour market testing has been undertaken after those redundancies and retrenchments

If the approved business sponsor elects to provide evidence and information other than evidence of advertising and fees, or payment of fees, to support their claim to have tested the labour market, the Immigration Minister may take that evidence and information into account.

If the approved sponsor elects not to provide such other evidence or information, the Minister is not to treat the nomination less favourably merely because of that fact;

There are exemptions from labour market testing in circumstances where there has been a major disaster, or the skill level of the nominated occupation is equivalent to Skill level 1 or Skill Level 2 as provided for in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) – except for protected qualifications or protected experience, where labour market testing will will be required..

Details of protected qualifications or protected experience are awaited, but are presently understood to apply to engineers and those with nursing qualifications.

If you are considering an application to become a business sponsor under the 457 visa program please feel able to telephone us to discuss how we might help. If you telephone Go Matilda Visas there is no obligation to instruct us.

Following a conversation we will be pleased to send a fixed fee proposal which details our fees, and Department of Immigration Visa Application Charges.

Our contact details are as follows:

Onshore
• Melbourne: 03 9935 2929
• Perth: 08 9261 7762
• Brisbane: 07 3112 2925

Offshore
• Southampton: 023 80 30 25 25
• Singapore and SE Asia: +65 6248 4739
• Spain: +34 952 76 83 62

457 visa program is more than temporary: Migration Council Australia releases landmark report

20th September 2013

The Migration Council Australia has released a landmark report on the 457 visa program that analyses a survey of 3,800 visa holders and 1,600 businesses.

The report, “More Than Temporary: Australia’s 457 visa program”, reveals that 457 workers have a high level of job satisfaction, demonstrating that they are integrating well into the Australian workforce.

Ms Carla Wilshire, CEO of the Migration Council Australia, said the findings show that the 457 visa program is critical in keeping Australia competitive in an era when industry is global and 98 per cent of innovation happens outside of Australia.

More details are here.

2012 Federal Budget: LAFHA Update

8th May 2012

In today’s Federal Budget the Australian Government has announced more details of its reform to the Living Away From Home Allowance regime.

The annoucement includes confirmation that those who are already in receipt of the LAFHA can continue to receive the tax free benefit until 30th June, 2014.

More specifically, the Budget Papers include the following commentary:

“The Government will further reform the tax concession for living-away-from-home allowances and benefits by better targeting it at people who are legitimately maintaining a second home in addition to their actual home for an initial period.

This measure builds on the reforms announced in the 2011-12 MYEFO measure Fringe benefits tax — reform of living-away-from-home allowances and benefits by:

• limiting access to the tax concession to employees who maintain a home for their own use in Australia, that they are living away from for work; and
• providing the tax concession for a maximum period of 12 months in respect of an individual employee for any particular work location.

These further reforms will stop employers from being able to give the tax concession to employees who aren’t maintaining a second home, or are maintaining two homes indefinitely.
This measure will not affect:

• the tax concession for ‘fly-in fly-out’ arrangements, as these employees will not be subject to the 12 month time limit; or
• the tax treatment of travel and meal allowances, which are provided to employees who have to travel away from their usual place of work for short periods (generally up to 21 days).
The reforms will apply from 1 July 2012 for arrangements entered into after 7.30pm (AEST) on 8 May 2012, and from 1 July 2014 for arrangements entered into prior to that time.

The Government will consult with tax experts and employers on the technical detail of the legislation.”

Department of Immigration: Comments on proposed changes to Living Away From Home Allowance benefits for Subclass 457 visaholders

6th March 2012

Australia’s Department of Immigration has posted on its blog commentary on the impact of the proposed changes to the taxation of the LAFHA.

From the Department’s perspective, if an employer has committed to pay a subclass 457 visa holder LAFHA “it is expected this payment will continue.”

The only difference will be how the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) views such payments.

For example, if a sponsor has committed to pay a subclass 457 visa holder a base salary of $75,000 plus $10,000 LAFHA, the Department of Immigration will expect the employee to continue to be paid a total of $85,000.

The blog does not indicate whether this $85,000 is a gross or a net payment, but the way the blog is worded indicates the gross taxable salary will be $85,000 – which means the sponsored employee will bear the tax on the LAFHA.

Whether this leads to demands for additional gross salary to put the sponsored employee in a no worse after tax position remains to be seen.

New factsheet – Business structures in Australia for Overseas companies

3rd January 2012

Our partner website, GM Tax, has published a factsheet that discusses the choices of business structures when a company that is established outside Australia wants to develop a presence in Australia.

The factsheet – which is available here – discusses setting up an Australian branch, a subsidiary company incorporated in Australia, or a stand alone limited company.

It looks at the important regulatory issues attaching to each type of business, and the cost of each type of entity.

It is valuable reading for businesses that want to set up in the land down under.

Significant employment opportunities in South Australia’s Olympic Dam project

23rd December 2011

In great news for job seekers, South Australian Parliament recently ratified legislation which brings BHP Billiton’s massive Olympic Dam expansion one step closer to reality.

Passage of the final Indenture Bill through Parliament has unlocked $1.2 billion for BHP Billiton to commence initial works on the project at Roxby Downs in the state’s north.

More information about the project and the employment opportunities that are anticipated are here.

How Using a Registered Migration Agent can Reduce ENS and RSMS Processing Times

11th December 2011

Employers and their prospective employees who are seeking visa approval under the Employer Nomination Scheme or Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme can significantly reduce the application timescale by engaging a Registered Migration Agent.

If the RMA is satisfied that the application is complete and ready for a positive decision by a Department of Immigration case officer the RMA can complete a Decision Ready Checklist, and can submit the same with the nomination and visa applications.

Note: ENS and RSMS applications involve – broadly – two components: the nomination of the skilled position by the employer, and the application for the grant of a permanent residency visa by the sponsored individual.

Significant improvements in visa processing times are possible when a DRC accompanies the application paperwork. We have seen applications accompanied by DRCs processed by the Department of Immigration in 2 weeks. By contrast applications that are not DRC-ready have been taking months to be processed to a decision.

The intention behind the Decision Ready Checklist initiative is to improve processing times, and to reduce the burdens on Department of Immigration case officers. There is a significant shift in the onus of responsibility onto the migration agent when submitting a DRC, as an application which is lodged that is not decision ready to the satisfaction of the Department of Immigration will result in a “strike” against the migration agent.

Three strikes against the agent means that agent will not be permitted to participate in the DRC initiative in the future.

It should be noted that it is not possible to submit a DRC after a nomination and/or visa application has been submitted to the Department of Immigration.

The GM Corporate team has many years of experience preparing and submitting employer sponsored visa applications. We have embraced the use of Decision Ready Checklists since they were first introduced several months ago, and have an excellent record, with all being decided positively within a short period of their submission to the Department of Immigration.

If you are an employer in Australia, have a skilled intended employee in mind that needs a visa, and would like to know how we can help achieve a quick outcome please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free initial discussion.