Suspension of Significant Investor Visas Subclass 188/888

The Significant Investor Visa (SIV) provides Australia with a boost to its economy by increasing the flow of investment to the nation.

Following a review of the SIV programme in 2014, changes are underway to improve the investor scheme. This will include a new Complying Investment framework to further benefit Australia through the introduction of even higher investments.

To ensure the integrity of the investor visa scheme is maintained, the Australian Government has decided to temporarily suspend all new nominations from 24 April 2015. It will re-open on 1 July 2015 with the introduction of the new Complying Investment framework and the implementation of corresponding amendments to the Migration Regulations 1994.

During the temporary suspension, prospective applicants can still lodge an Expression of Interest (EOI). Anyone who has lodged an EOI by 1 July 2015 will be able to be nominated from that date, and will be subject to the new Complying Investment framework. Any SIV applicants invited to apply prior to the suspension will continue to be processed under the current legislation.

Austrade has recently released the proposed Complying Investment framework options for the SIV programme as follows:

  • Direct investment into residential real estate is ineligible and indirect exposure through investment vehicles (i.e. managed funds) is to be restricted to less than 10% of the vehicle’s net assets
  • Exclude ‘loan back’ arrangements where the SIV investment is used as collateral by applicants
  • Derivatives are to be used for risk management purposes only and combined cash and derivatives be limited to 20% notional exposure of a fund’s net assets
  • Investments through Australian Financial Services (AFS) licensed products are to be with managers independent of the applicant and their spouse
  • Allow ‘Fund of Fund’ managed funds
  • Mandatory investment of a minimum $1 million, at time of investment, in an Australian Venture Capital limited partner fund
  • Mandatory investment of a minimum $1.5 million, at time of investment, in small/micro capital companies
  • AFS licensed fund managers that are Australian domiciled providing managed funds (open and close end) invested in:
    • Australian exchange listed companies (large, mid, small, micro), AREITS, infrastructure trusts, preference shares, convertible bonds, or corporate issued floating rate notes
    • Australian issued corporate bonds (financial and non-financial companies)
    • Australian friendly society insurance bonds
    • Deferred annuities issued by Australian registered life companies but cannot commence paybacks during the qualifying period
    • Commercial and Industrial property in Australia

Alongside these changes to the SIV programme, there is also a proposed introduction of a Premium Investor Visa (PIV) programme which requires a higher investment, and offers permanent residency within a shorter time frame.

Premium Investor Visa

The proposed PIV programme will include the following:

  • Applicants must invest at least $15 million into Complying Investments, which may include new investments or investments made within the last 2 years
  • Applicants will have the opportunity for permanent residency after 12 months of maintaining their Complying Investments
  • Proposed Complying Investment options for PIV are more flexible than the SIV programme and do not include a mandatory requirement to invest in Venture Capital or Small/Micro Capital companies, but still exclude residential real estate, ‘loan back’, and must be FIRB compliant etc
  • No minimum residency requirements for either primary or secondary applicants

The Government has yet to release any draft legislation on the proposed PIV and the above proposed changes to the SIV programme.

FCB Smart Visa will update you on any further developments as information is released. To discuss how these changes might affect your current situation, please contact an FCB Smart Visa migration agent on (02) 9922 5188.

Australian Government Gives Majority Support to 457 Review Recommendations

In September 2014 the Independent review into the integrity of the 457 programme, commissioned by the Australian government and conducted by an independent panel, was released.

At this time the recommendations were broadly accepted by the Government, however whilst it was expected that they would be analysed and implemented expeditiously, it appears that the political landscape has caused some substantial delays.

Finally, the Government has today released its comprehensive response to the 22 recommendations made by the review. A comprehensive list of proposed changes can be found on the Department’s website. In general there is overwhelming support for the majority of recommendations.

Some of the key expected changes to the 457 programme include:

  • The replacement of investment in training benchmarks with an annual training fund contribution that will be based on the number of 457 visa holders sponsored and the size and circumstances of the business (recommendation 6).
  • Reduced English language requirements (recommendation 7).
  • Standard Business Sponsors will be able to obtain approval for 5 years. Start-up Business Sponsors will have approval for 18 months (recommendation 10).
  • The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) will remain in place, but be better articulated and frozen at its current level for 2 years (recommendation 5).
  • Compliance obligations will be imposed on employers to provide information to visa holders on their workplace rights, including a department statement and Fair Work Ombudsman Information Sheet (recommendation 12).

The issue addressed in the review which has not received support is:

  • The Government will not be supporting an expansion of the list of countries that must meet the English language requirement (recommendation 7.4).
  • Interestingly, the Government’s response to the recommendation that Labour Market Testing be abolished was ‘noted’ which does not rule out future changes to this component of the 457 regime (recommendation 2).

The Government has committed to implementing the recommendations by the end of the 2015-2016 programme, however much of the implementation is likely to occur over the next 6 months.

What does this mean for employers?

The significant number of changes to the 457 programme will require employers to adapt their models for sponsorship of foreign workers.  FCB Smart Visa will keep you updated on the Government’s implementation of the changes over the coming months.

To discuss how these changes will affect your current and prospective sponsored workers, or to help you decide whether a 457 visa is the best solution for your labour force needs, please contact an FCB Smart Visa migration agent on (02) 9922 5188.

Join the FCB Smart Visa Team: Migration Coordinator/Trainee Migration Agent

We are seeking a diligent and highly motivated Migration Coordinator/Trainee Migration Agent to join our team. The candidate is either currently undertaking or has recently completed the Graduate Certificate in Australian Migration Law & Practice.

As an integral part of our fast-growing migration firm, you will be assisting with preparing and facilitating clients’ applications through to finalization with main focus on Employer Sponsored migration.

You will also provide administrative, coordination and liaison support to the Migration Manager and other Registered Migration Agents.

We are looking for someone who is interested in a long-term position which will lead to independent work and client management.

Application Processing 

•    Assist with VEVO checks for clients to confirm visa/work entitlements
•    Create and maintain client files using LEAP Migration Manager
•    Conduct research into Migration Regulations and Policies
•    Review questionnaires and documents from clients and upload information to LEAP Migration Manager
•    Prepare visa application forms and health check information
•    Prepare draft online visa applications and upload documents once the applications are lodged

Recordkeeping/Maintenance

•    Keep LEAP Migration Manager up to date with regular backup and check for updates
•    Keep file notes and records of all communication with prospective and existing clients

Marketing/Client Administration 

•    Assist with formatting company promotional documents and application checklists
•    Assist with drafting news items for company website
•    Assist with maintaining sales and leads records

Desired Skills and Experience

•    Sound working knowledge of Australian migration regulations and policy
•    Some understanding of 457/ENS requirements and application processes
•    Strong administrative background
•    Attention to detail
•    Second language a definite advantage
•    Effective time management and setting priorities
•    Ability to work under pressure, managing and monitoring, meeting deadlines
•    Excellent communication and people skills
•    Flexible to accommodate variety of complex and difficult tasks involved
•    Experience in LEAP Migration Software is not essential, training will be provided
•    Show initiative and have an enthusiastic and professional attitude
If you are interested in joining our strong team, please send your application to Libby Boyce, Group Operations Managerlkb@fcbgroup.com.au or apply via our LinkedIn advert here.

Government Releases Media Statement on Changes to 457 Visa Programme

On Tuesday 14 October the Government issued a joint media statement with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Minister for Industry Ian McFarlane and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison commenting on the 457 visa programme. The review aims to reform skilled migration to improve Australia’s competitiveness.

The statement is a response to the independent review conducted last month by former public servant John Azarias (see FCB Smart Visa’s 12 Sept news story).

The Government has committed to:

  • streamline the processing of sponsorship, nomination and visa applications to reward low risk applicants and refocus compliance and monitoring activities on high risk applicants;
  • increase the sponsorship approval period from 12 to 18 months for start-up businesses, to give start-ups more time to make their businesses sustainable;
  • provide greater flexibility in relation to English language testing and skill requirements for 457 applicants, to ensure that the standards required are appropriate for the industries and occupations being sought; and
  • retain the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold at $53 900, ahead of a review within the next two years.

What does this mean for employers?

Full details of the changes will be released in due course but it is clear the programme seeks to identify and fill genuine gaps in the local labour market while taking some of the administrative burden away from businesses.

Additionally, the increased flexibility around language testing requirements will come as a relief to employers who require the ability to place people urgently.

It should however be noted that there were 22 recommendations in the recently released review of the 457 Programme, and these included the abolishment of Labour Market Testing, examination of the application fee structure, and simplified access to Labour Agreements, among many others.

Employers are likely to be hoping for more of the recommendations to be included in the final changes to be implemented; it is very difficult to tell whether this will be the case given the summarised nature of the media release.

FCB Smart Visa will update you on any further developments as information is released.

Migration Manager Jacob Wyllie Comments on the Subclass 457 Review Recommendations

The widely anticipated report into the subclass 457 programme has just been released. The Hon Minister Morrison has stated that the report’s 22 recommendations are “balanced and measured”.

Highlights

Highlights of the recommendations include:

  • A new tripartite ministerial advisory council for skilled migration issues
  • Labour Market Testing should be abolished as ineffective
  • Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List (CSOL) be retained but amended through addition of occupations outside ANZSCO and other “refinements”
  • Market Salary Rate should continue but high salary exemption be changed to $180K (instead of $250K)
  • Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) should continue but be clarified and some exemptions possibly allowed
  • Training Benchmarks should be replaced by an annual training fund contribution
  • English language requirement be changed to IELTS average 5 and further exemptions allowed
  • Genuine Position requirement changes to help ensure appropriate assessment
  • Skills Assessments should recognise employment experience more appropriately
  • Standard Business Sponsorship (SBS) approval for 5 years; start-ups for 18 months; simplified renewal process; 28 days to inform DIBP of certain events (instead of 10)
  • Review of application charges, particularly for secondary applicants and for renewals
  • Visa holder rights, obligations and Fair Work information be included in employment contracts for 457 applicants
  • New system for streamlining applications
  • Labour Agreements should be reformed and more accessible
  • Changes to requirements for transition to Permanent Residence for 457 holders
  • More education for sponsors, more monitoring, more inter-agency cooperation, expanded sanctions

Jacob Wyllie, Migration Manager at FCB Smart Visa discusses the report and recommendations.

The overall tone and content of the report is good, and goes some way to bringing the programme back to the middle ground. General opinion is that it correctly identifies the vast majority of issues currently facing the programme, and recommends reasonable and consistent solutions.

As an interested observer with first-hand experience, I’m not sure Australian businesses will take kindly to the proposed training requirements; they seem to require a “pay-per-view” style arrangement for sponsors, who are forced to pay to a “national fund” for every 457 holder they sponsor, on a sliding scale, rather than proving that they train their own Australian staff.

It seems slightly unfair that the victims of skills shortages (at the “pointy end”) are forced to pay more to fix these problems by accessing the 457 programme than other businesses.

For example, if there are two companies attempting to hire a highly skilled worker, and two available workers, one Australian and one from overseas, reasonably one company would hire the Australian and one the overseas worker. Assuming that employing 457 holders is generally not a choice but a necessity based on skills shortages, punishing those who are forced to access this programme seems unfair on some level.

It is difficult to see how this new system is an entirely adequate replacement of the old system as it appears to reward organisations which provide little or no training to their employees, rather than those who are trying to upskill their own workforce through appropriate training. While Training Benchmark B is somewhat clunky, and was always intended as an interim measure, it did provide “reward” for organisations which trained their own Australian employees, in terms of their ability to access the 457 programme when they were forced to look offshore for skilled workers, and I’m not sure this is a bad thing.

Regardless of this, the attempt to make the whole subclass 457 programme more transparent and clearly defined is to be applauded.

What’s next?

There is not yet any information as to exactly which of these recommendations will be accepted and when they will be implemented. FCB Smart Visa will keep you updated as this develops.

I would only finally offer that these things do appear cyclical, so this is probably not the end of the story. Given that the Coalition commissioned this report, it’s likely that the vast majority of the recommendations will be implemented. I just can’t help but think of Gonski at these times though … but that’s what keeps things interesting.

To view the report, Robust New Foundations: A Streamlined, Transparent and Responsive System for the 457 Programme, on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s website please click here.