First Wave of Changes Implemented Under the 457 Review

Following our news item on 18 March regarding the Government’s response to the Independent review into the integrity of the 457 programme, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has implemented the following changes, amongst others, on 18 April:

  1. The changes to the English requirements for Subclass 457 visas are as follows:
  • The list of English language tests has been expanded to include:
    • International English Language Testing System (IELTS test);
    • Occupational English Test (OET);
    • Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based test (TOEFL iBT);
    • Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE);
    • Cambridge English: Advanced test (CAE), where the test was completed on, or after 1 January 2015.
  • The minimum scores for IELTS has been lowered from 5.0 in each of the four test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening to 4.5 in each of the four test components and an overall band score of 5.0.
  • English exemption applies to applicants who have completed at least 5 years cumulatively, rather than consecutively, of full-time study in a secondary and/or higher education institution where the instruction was delivered in English.
  1. The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold remains unchanged at $53,900 per annum and the annual earnings threshold in relation to providing equivalent employment conditions is now $180,000 per annum, lowered from $250,000.
  2. Changes made to approved sponsor’s obligation to provide information to DIBP when certain events occur by extending the notification period from ‘10 working days’ to ‘28 calendar days’.

FCB Smart Visa will continue to provide the most up to date information on future changes. To discuss how these changes will affect your business and your current and prospective sponsored workers, please contact an FCB Smart Visa migration agent on (02) 9922 5188.

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.