Major Changes in March 2018 to the Work Visa and Related Permanent Categories

21/02/18 Re-published with permission Fragomen Worldwide

What’s happened?

In April 2017, the Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection announced a series of significant changes to the employer sponsored visa programs including the abolishment of the Temporary Work (subclass 457) visa program and its replacement with a more restricted Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) visa.

Measures to tighten the permanent employer sponsored visa programs were also announced at that time including the reduction of the maximum age limit for all eligibility streams from 50 to 45.

These reforms are expected to commence in early March 2018.

Impact to your clients

The changes are the most significant changes we have seen in more than a decade and herald a more restrictive approach to both temporary and permanent skilled migration. Changes have already and will further result not only in the further tightening of regulatory requirements, but also in extended processing times and significant charges (government lodgement and training levies) applied to business and individuals seeking to gain entry to Australia under skilled grounds.

Changes to the program in April 2017 and then again in July 2017 caused a high level of confusion and concern. We expect that when regulations are released, there will be a number of questions about the program with respect to eligibility, operations, as well as transitional arrangements, that will require clarification. Fragomen can support and offer advice to your clients, both corporate and individual.

Further Information about the reforms

While the regulations are yet to be released, we provide the following information:

About the new TSS visa

The TSS visa will be comprised of two streams:

  • A Short-Term stream  – TSS visas granted under this stream will be valid for a maximum of two years (unless international trade obligations apply), can only be renewed once in Australia and will not provide a pathway to permanent residence under the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) or Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS).
  • A Medium-Term stream – TSS visas granted under this stream will be valid for a maximum of four years, have no restriction on renewals in Australia and will provide a pathway to permanent residence under the ENS.

Additional features of the TSS

  • Targeted occupation lists which will be updated every 6 months. The more restrictive Short Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) will apply to the Short-Term stream and the broader Medium-to Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) will apply to the Medium-Term stream. Additional occupations will be available for positions in regional Australia.
  • Caveats will continue to apply to some occupations limiting their use under the TSS and/or ENS/RSMS programs.
  • Labour Market Testing will be mandatory for all applications except where an international trade obligation applies.
  • All applicants will need to meet minimum English language requirements as well a minimum two-year work experience requirement. A higher English standard will apply to the Medium-Term stream.
  • Nominating employers will need to make payment into a Skilling Australians Fund which is calculated based on the annual turnover of the nominating business and the proposed duration of the TSS visa.
  • Like the current 457 visa program, employers will need to meet the minimum market salary rate and the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold, currently set at AU53,900; and
  • A test to ensure employers are not actively discriminating against Australian workers.

Pathway to Permanent Residence under ENS

Transitional arrangements will apply to certain 457 visa holders who held (or had applied for) a 457 visa as at 18 April 2017 (the date of the announcements). These arrangements will allow this cohort to apply for permanent residence under the ENS/RSMS using existing rules including the maximum age limit of 50 and the employment qualifying period of two years.

Further Information

Fragomen – Immigration attorneys, solicitors, and consultants worldwide. Visit Fragomen’s dedicated microsite on the immigration reforms. Fragomen will continue to monitor the release of further information about forthcoming changes and will provide updates as available. If you have any questions, please send an email to

2018-02-28T10:17:36+00:00February 28th, 2018|