2015-2016 Changes in Australian Immigration

2015 was a year of change in many areas of Australian immigration. We expect the pace to continue in 2016. Here are some recent developments of importance to employers and visa applicants.

Charging for a Migration Outcome

On 14 December 2015 new criminal and civil penalties and visa cancellation provisions were introduced as part of a framework that allows for sanctions to be imposed on a person who asks for, receives, offers or provides a benefit in return for a visa sponsorship or employment.

Following the introduction of these new laws, sponsors, nominators and visa applicants are required to provide a statement in relation to current or previous conduct that constitutes a breach in ‘payment for visas’ activity.

The mandatory declaration from sponsors and nominators requires them to have an understanding of the relevant sections the Migration Act 1958, sections 245AQ and 245AR. 

Benefits are defined as including:

  • a payment or other valuable consideration; and
  • a deduction of an amount; and
  • any kind of real or personal property; and
  • an advantage; and
  • a service; and
  • a gift.

There is still a lot of confusion around this legislation. However it is clear that a benefit does not include payment to a Migration Agent and, that it is imperative that employers and visa applicants are fully aware of the requirements as penalties apply including two years imprisonment or 360 penalty units or both!

Slovak Republic Work and Holiday Visa

The new Work and Holiday visa (subclass 462) arrangements between Australia and the Slovak Republic and Australia and Slovenia commenced on 1 January 2016. These arrangement allow up to 200 young adults from the Slovak Republic and up to 200 young adults from Slovenia each year to enjoy an extended holiday of up to 12 months in Australia, during which time they can undertake short term work and study.

This follows the trend to open up the Working Holiday program to other nationalities. More information can be found from the Australian Embassy in Germany Website

Imprisonment for Immigration Assistance without registration

A 51-year-old West Australian man was sentenced to a total of seven years jail after being convicted of a string of criminal and migration offences costing his victims more than $730,000.

Paul Gregory Harrison was sentenced on 22 December 2015 in the Perth Magistrates Court to four years imprisonment in relation to 26 criminal fraud and stealing charges and three years imprisonment for 19 charges under the Migration Act related to unregistered migration advice, providing false or forged documents and misleading information to the DIBP.

This sentencing follows the recent prosecution of Mr Charanvir Charanvir, who was jailed for four years for similar offences and was ordered to repay costs of $39,000 to his victims.

Yet another review of the 457 visa program

Mr John Azarias, who headed up the previous 457 Review has been appointed to undertake an evidence-based review of the Temporary Skilled Migration Incomes Threshold (TSMIT) currently set at $53900.

The TSMIT defines the salary threshold for jobs that can be filled by a 457 visa holder and is designed to protect Australian workers and ensure that visa holders are undertaking skilled employment.

The review will consider a range of issues including the factors that should determine the settings, the appropriate base level, and the roles of indexation and regional concessions for the TSMIT.

Mr Azarias will provide a report to Government at the end of April 2016. As recommended by the 457 Integrity Review, the TSMIT will be retained at $53,900 until the findings of the review are considered by Government.

For regional employers the salary floor of $53,900 for some occupations is an insurmountable hurdle – the hospitality industry being an obvious example. A recent Labour Agreement specifically designed for hospitality contained no salary concessions. In an area such as the Bellarine which relies heavily on tourism there is an urgent case for a regional salary to apply to the 457 visa program.