Review of Australian Permanent Employer Sponsored Visa Programs

 By: Emily Portman
Following the public consultation, the Australian Immigration Department will develop recommendations and put these to the government. The review will help them consider how permanent Employer Sponsored visas can be reformed to provide employers with access to the skilled workers they need and best respond to changes in Australia's labour market and economy.

The visas reviewed are the categories which have become increasingly popular with foreign visa applicants and Australian employers:

- Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS), subclasses 119 and 857
- Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS), subclasses 121 and 856
- Labour Agreement, subclasses 121 and 855

ENS and RSMS are the major visa categories that DIAC is focusing on. It wants to know whether to change many basic criteria for both the categories or not, such as English language requirements, salary level, skill level, age requirement, the list of approved occupations and e-lodgement of ENS and RSMS visa applications. The DIAC also wants to know whether to abolish Labour Agreement or continue with it.

The trend is reflected in the changing composition of the skilled migration program. Specifically, how the proportion of employer sponsored places now exceeds the proportion of general skilled migration (GSM) places. In 2010-11, 38 per cent of the skilled migration program was employer sponsored and 31 per cent of GSM, contrast with only 19 per cent and more than 50 per cent correlatively. It is also expected that this trend will continue in to the future.

The government also announced in Budget 2011-2012 that the permanent employer sponsored programs would be realigned to provide a fast-tracked pathway to permanent residence for these temporary skilled visa holders, especially subclass 457 visa ones who have worked in Australia for several years.

This is the most significant review of the ENS and RSMS visa subclasses since 2004. Although the requirements for Australian 457 visa are not being reviewed as part of this process, 75% of the applications for permanent employer sponsored visas are from current 457 visa holders. It means that changes could have a significant impact on people currently holding a 457 visa. Therefore, employers and visa applicants are encouraged to read the discussion paper and put forward any views and ideas that will help to improve the programs to DIAC by the 16th of September 2011.
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