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Summary of 1 July Visa Changes: What you need to know

The Department of Home Affairs (the Department) has introduced a number of visa changes effective 1 July 2024. From increased visa application fees to more flexible work conditions and the cessation of visa streams, these changes impact many prospective applicants and current visa holders in Australia, including employers.

The migration team at RCR Lawyers is committed to provide up-to-date information on Australia’s immigration laws which affect individuals, business owners and other stakeholders. Below is a summary of key ‘1 July visa changes’ and how they may impact you.

 

Employer sponsored work visas

Relaxed work restrictions

Employer sponsored temporary work visa holders (subclasses 482, 494 and 457) now have more time to find a new sponsor without breaching their visa conditions. Under the previous rules, these visa holders were not permitted to cease employment for more than 60 or 90 days (depending on when their visa was granted), and could only work for their approved sponsor in their nominated occupation,

There are three major changes under the new rules effective 1 July:

  1. Subclass 482, 494 and 457 visa holders can now cease employment with their approved sponsor (cessation period) for up to 180 consecutive days without breaching their visa conditions; or a total period of no more than 365 days over the life of the visa
  2. During the ‘cessation period’, visa holders can work for any employer in any occupation, even if that occupation is not listed as eligible under Australia’s sponsored visa program
  3. The extended work conditions also apply to visas granted before 1 July – but does not remedy breaches occurring before this date

 

It is yet to be seen how the Department manages employers and their sponsorship obligations towards visa holders during the 180-day period, as these obligations extend beyond the employment relationship itself, up until the time a visa holder’s sponsorship is formally transferred to a new employer. There are also obvious concerns from a financial perspective when one considers the implications of the new changes on employers who invest significant costs by way of the Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy which is payable in full, for the entire length of the visa period, at the time an application is lodged to nominate a prospective visa candidate.

 

Increased Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT)

The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) has increased from $70,000 to $73,150 for applications lodged from 1 July 2024.

It is a common misconception that TSMIT refers to the minimum salary an employer can offer a sponsored worker, when in fact employers must also consider the annual market salary rate attributed to the nominated role before determining the nominated salary:

  1. A sponsored worker must be remunerated according to the annual market salary rate for their position; and
  2. The annual market salary rate must be at or above TSMIT.

The above is a very important distinction, and for this reason, it is not possible to inflate the salary of a lower skilled position for example – as the market rate evidence submitted with the application will not support an inflated figure.

While the TSMIT increase aims to ensure that skilled migrants are adequately remunerated and that their employment conditions meet Australian standards, it impacts greatly on employers who operate businesses experiencing acute labour shortages in lower-level skilled occupations. Where employers are excluded from participating in the skilled visa program on this basis, they can look at other avenues available under Australia’s labour agreement program where concessions to key visa criteria may be negotiated with the Department on behalf of the Commonwealth. Please reach out to our experienced team if you wish to discuss the impact of the increased TSMIT on your business.

 

New Fair Work High Income Threshold (FWHIT)

High-income earning subclass 482 visa holders can access an employer-sponsored age exemption if they are over the age of 45 years at the time they apply for Australian permanent residency.

Generally speaking, these visa holders must work for their sponsor for a period of at least two years and earn at least the FWHIT as it applies in each of those two years. The FWHIT is indexed annually on 1 July each year, and recently increased from $167,500 to $175,000.

The FWHIT is also relevant to the Global Talent – Independent (GTI) (subclass 858) visa program, as it is the minimum salary threshold which applies at the time an Expression of Interest (EOI) submission is being assessed by the Department, regardless of lodgement date.

 

New Western Australia Designated Area Migration Agreement (WA DAMA)

The State of Western Australia has successfully negotiated a state-wide DAMA with the Government, which commenced on 1 July 2024. The WA DAMA provides 5000 migration places and will operate alongside the existing DAMAs available in Western Australia (The Goldfields, Kimberley, Pilbara and South-West WA). The full occupation list can be found on Migration WA’s website.

 

Formal Closure of the Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP)

While this program has effectively been closed to new applicants since July 2023, when the government announced that no allocations would be made for new nominations under the subclass 188 visa program, 1 July marks the formal closure of the BIIP to new applicants. Subclass 188 visa applications lodged before this date will continue to be processed, albeit at the lowest priority, as will subclass 188 extension stream applications. Those who already hold a subclass 188 visa are not affected by the changes and can continue on their pathway to permanent residency under the subclass 888 visa after July 2024.

The government has also significantly reduced the number of visas available under the BIIP to 1,000 allocations over the 2024-25 program year. With an estimated 18,500 pending applications and a consequential 18-year delay for most recently lodged applicants, the Department has indicated that it will provide an opportunity for candidates to cease the process and request a refund of their visa application charges.

A new National Innovation visa will be introduced later this year, which aims to provide a direct permanent pathway for the “most exceptional(ly) talented migrants”, and will include three streams covering high-performing entrepreneurs, major investors, and global researchers. The specific criteria and requirements for this visa are yet to be determined.

 

Health Criteria

Mandatory Hepatitis B testing

From 1 July, all visa applicants over the age of 15 years who were born in a “high-risk” Hepatitis B country will be required to undertake mandatory Hep-B testing as part of their visa health examinations, regardless of what active passports they hold. This means that permanent and provisional visa applicants who were born and immediately left a “high-risk” country, and subsequently became citizens of “low-risk” country, who are over the age of 15 years, will be required to undertake a Hep-B test as part of the health assessment process.

Increased Significant Cost Threshold for PIC 4005 and 4007

The significant cost threshold for Public Interest Criteria (PIC) 4005 and 4007 has increased from $51,000 to $86,000. This is the most substantial increase the significant cost threshold has seen since its implementation in 1995. This increase should benefit applicants who are disadvantaged by rising medical costs. By raising the cost threshold, more individuals with medical conditions that were previously deemed too costly may now qualify for visas impacted by PIC 4005 and 4007.

 

Introduction of the Workplace Justice Visa

A Workplace Justice Visa (WJV) has been introduced as a new stream under the subclass 408 (Temporary Activity) visa category, to provide an avenue for victims of worker exploitation to remain in Australia to formally pursue their claims before the relevant authorities. The new initiative aims to protect the rights of visa holders by allowing them to stay in Australia temporarily for a period of 6 to 12 months, up to a maximum of 4 years via a series of visa renewals.

This is part of the government’s strategy to reduce the risk of migrant exploitation and ensure workers can pursue workplace justice without the limitations surrounding their visa status.

 

Other Changes of Note

Increased Application Lodgement Fees

While there is a general CPI increase in lodgement fees imposed by the Department of Home Affairs and the Tribunal, student visa applicants (and guardians) suffer the biggest rise in visa application charges – from $710 to $1,600 for primary applicants. This change is significant in the context of the government’s most recent announcements aimed at reducing “visa hopping” in Australia.

 

Partner visas

The requirement for subclass 309/100 visa applicants to be physically present in Australia at the decision stage for the family violence provision has been removed. Now, applicants who have entered Australia after lodging their visa application can utilise this provision.

Unfortunately, this means that applicants that have not visited Australia since submitting their application cannot access the family violence provisions. Meanwhile, visitor visas have been more heavily scrutinised for subclass 309/100 visa applicants since the Department allowed the visa to be granted with applicants onshore.

As of 1 July 2024, the Department has increased the partner visa application fee to $9,095.

 

Working Holiday Makers

UK passport holders are no longer required to undertake ‘specified work’ for a period of time to be eligible for a second or third Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa.

Philippine nationals are also now able to access the Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa program. Applicants must be the holder of a tertiary qualification or have successfully completed at least 2 years of undergraduate study or post-secondary education.

 

Indian Young Professionals Scheme

Starting November 1, 2024, the Mobility Arrangement for Talented Early-Professionals Scheme (MATES) will allow 3,000 Indian graduates and early career professionals to live and work in Australia for up to two years. Targeted at individuals aged 18-35, this initiative aims to attract talent in specific fields. The MATES is a strategic move to tap into India’s vast talent pool, especially in critical sectors.

 

Changes to the Graduate Visa Program

The Department has made a series of visa changes to the subclass 485 visa program by renaming the relevant streams under which an application can be made and reducing the age limit to 35. An exception is available to Hong Kong and British National (Overseas) passport holders, and Masters degree (Research) and Doctoral degree graduates, who may apply if under the age of 50 years.

This change reduces the visa validity period for applicants and restricts the number of consecutive visas that can be held (4 maximum). The Department has renamed the Temporary Graduate visa streams as follows:

  • Graduate Work stream is now called the Post-Vocational Education Work (PVEW) stream
  • Post-Study Work stream has been renamed to the Post-Higher Education Work (PHEW) stream

Additionally, the Replacement Stream Graduate Visa has been discontinued (however subsequent entrant applications can still be made for existing primary visa holders).

 

If you are concerned about the impact of the new changes on your visa pathway, the team at RCR Lawyers can provide knowledgeable support in guiding your steps in a shifting legal landscape.

Please contact Roxy Topham (Special Counsel and Head of Migration Services) and Shadi Golchin (Associate) at [email protected] or call 07 3009 8444.

 

he blog published by Rostron Carlyle Rojas is intended as general information only and is not legal advice on any subject matter. By viewing the blog posts, the reader understands there is no solicitor-client relationship between the reader and the blog published. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a legal practitioner, and readers are urged to consult RCR on any legal queries concerning a specific situation.

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