student visa

Staff shortages are making headlines across the country as high case numbers force many into isolation. This isn’t just an issue in critical industries such as healthcare, either: the Australian Retail Association reports that 76 per cent of retailers had staff isolating in mid-January, and nearly 20 per cent had to temporarily close stores.

To support businesses and keep them open, the Federal Government has announced a temporary relaxation of visa conditions for student visa holders.

In this article, we explain what these changes are and what it means for industries facing critical labour shortages.

What’s changed?

Normally, students holding a subclass 500 visa cannot work more than 40 hours over a 14-day period while their course is in session or be employed and working before their course starts. The temporary removal of these restrictions poses a great opportunity for businesses and international students alike. Businesses can now hire and utilise international students for additional hours during the week, and students can gain more experience and increase their income.

The relaxing of these restrictions extend to both existing and new student visa holders, as well as secondary applicants e.g., spouses and dependent children. These changes are already in place, allowing international students to work more than 40 hours per fortnight, with no current limit on their hours of work and commence employment before their course has started.

Initially, these relaxations were only in place for critical industries but given the dire nature of staff shortages across all sectors, they’ve now been extended across the board. Additionally, students with offers for employment in critical sectors may be eligible to apply for a 408 Pandemic Visa in situations where they’ve finished their course and are within 90 days of their student visa expiring.

These relaxations are only temporary, with the Government set to review the changes in April 2022. Importantly, other visa conditions are still in place. Students must ensure they’re enrolled in a course and maintain satisfactory attendance and progress.

In addition, the six-month work limitation for Working Holiday Maker visa holders (subclasses 417 and 462) will be removed until the end of 2022, allowing these individuals to work for the same employer for longer than six months.

Steps for employers

While employers may have the green light to engage employees holding subclass 500 visas for additional hours than they would otherwise be permitted to, they must keep Work Health and Safety (WHS) at the forefront. Excessive working hours can lead to mental and physical fatigue, and increase the risk of workplace injuries and employee burnout.

Study requirements under the subclass 500 visa are still in place and students must balance any additional hours they work with their course requirements. Employers should consider the individual circumstances of each student and be careful not to overburden them.

As this is only a temporary measure, employers must ensure they’re keeping up to date with visa requirements to ensure they’re compliant.

If you’ve got a question about these visa changes or any other workplace matter, please contact our migration experts at FCB.

By David Pearce

From 9 PM on Friday 20 March 2020, the Federal Government closed Australia’s borders to all non-citizens and non-residents. This closure was one of the first major steps made in response to the pandemic and prevented almost all visa holders from leaving or entering Australia without a travel exemption. These restrictions and stringent exemption requirements caused major distress for many visa holders both in and outside of Australia, preventing them from travelling back home or visiting family in Australia.

And the only way to get around these restrictions and bypass closed borders was to apply for an exemption to travel with the two most common reasons: compassionate and compelling reasons or if the visa holder has a critical skill needed in Australia.

On Monday 22 November 2021 the Australian Government announced that from 1 December 2021, certain fully vaccinated visa holders will no longer require an exemption to travel. Fully vaccinated visa holders from Japan, Singapore and South Korea would also join the list of countries that no longer require an exemption to travel to Australia.

Fully vaccinated visa holders who are exempt include sponsored work visas, student visas, and humanitarian visas. Now, these visa holders are free to travel to and from Australia without exemptions. However, an Australian Travel Declaration (ATD) does need to be completed at least 72 hours before entering Australia.

If you’re unsure of if you’re exempt from applying for a travel exemption, contact FCB Smart Visa and our team can guide you on your obligations when travelling in and out of Australia.

This will be news to the ears of many businesses looking for skilled workers that they’re unable to be found in Australia, plus the process has become simpler – there’s no need for travel exemptions for expatriate staff.

Who still requires an exemption to travel?

Visitor visa holders and bridging visas are the two main types that still require a travel exemption to enter Australia. The Government hasn’t yet clarified if people on bridging visas who have applied for an exempt visa will be eligible to travel.

If you still require an exemption to travel FCB Smart Visa can assist you with preparing the application and advising on the types of evidence that the department will require to present and why you should be exempt from the restrictions.

What are the impacts of the Omicron COVID-19 variant on travel?

In response to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, on 27 November 2021 the Federal Government announced additional restrictions for any travellers coming from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, and Mozambique. Anyone who isn’t a citizen or permanent resident of Australia or their immediate family won’t be able to enter Australia if they’ve been in one of the listed countries in the past 14 days even if they have a valid travel exemption. The situation is constantly changing, so keep an eye out for further updates concerning these countries.

On 29 November the Prime Minister announced that the border opening would be pushed back by 14 days to 15 December 2021. This is a blow to people looking to travel, but the Government’s announcement is that this is just a temporary delay until further information about the Omicron variant is available.

If you have any questions about travel exemptions and border closures, please contact our FCB Smart Visa team.
David Pearce is a Solicitor and FCB Smart Visa and FCB Workplace Law. He advises clients on all aspects of migration, with a focus on employer-sponsored visas. His work across both employment and migration law gives him a unique interest in where the two areas overlap. He has completed a double degree in Law and International Studies at Macquarie University.

By Albert Fang, Migration Manager 

The excitement surrounding the opening of Australia’s international borders early next year isn’t only being felt by those needing a holiday but also by Australian employers who are competing fiercely for onshore talent in an increasingly tight market. The recruitment market has rarely been as competitive as it is now, with businesses preparing for a new beginning in a post-pandemic world.

With businesses unable to fill jobs that once attracted overseas skilled migrants, they’re now turning to onshore talent. So what happens if you find the perfect fit but the candidate has an existing sponsorship? In this article, I explain  the five essential steps that businesses must follow to ensure they complete the process of taking over an existing sponsorship lawfully.

These steps are a timely reminder that the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) (subclass 482) visa is relatively portable meaning many businesses are looking inwardly for existing TSS visa holders to fill their vacancies. Given the risks and timing considerations to taking over sponsorship, the following five steps must be done with great care and diligence:

Step 1: Searching for the right fit

Before posting advertisements for a vacant position, always assume that there’s a possibility that the business will receive interest from a candidate who’s already sponsored under an employer-sponsored temporary visa. This means you should be running your hiring campaign in a manner that’s compliant with the Labour Market Testing (LMT) regime. Unless exempt, this will necessarily require advertising on at least three platforms including a mandatory one on the Commonwealth Government’s JobActive website.

If you need some more information on LMT, you’re in luck! Get your FREE best-practice LMT guide from our Smart Visa team today – just get in touch with the FCB Smart Visa team.

Step 2: Conduct a standard candidate interview process

Like every recruitment process, you need to go through the standard candidate screening and interview process and conduct a right to work check. Verifying and confirming the immigration status of the expatriate candidate you’ve shortlisted can be done using FCB Smart Visa Check or VEVO through the Department of Home Affairs.

Step 3: Confirm visa validity

Obtain a copy of the candidate’s current TSS visa grant letter to confirm the balance of the existing visa validity, as well as determine the visa holder’s nominated occupation.

Step 4: Negotiate terms

  • If the LMT adverts have already been running for at least 28 days, a Letter of Offer can be executed and used for the TSS Nomination application.
  • If the LMT adverts are still within the 28-day period, you can still settle on terms, but the Letter of Offer to secure the candidate should only be executed afterthe 28-day advertising period has lapsed.
  • Be careful if you seek to incorporate a bond to recover costs – seek advice as to what is, and what isn’t lawfully recoverable if a candidate leaves pre-term.

Step 5: Acceptance

If the transfer is based on the candidate’s current sponsored occupation, they’ll be able to commence work for you when the new TSS Nomination is approved (i.e., no associated visa application is required to be lodged or granted until closer to their current visa expiry).

On a final note, although your business may have technically taken over the sponsorship of the candidate, they’re lawfully able to serve out any remaining notice period they may have with the outbound sponsor. To minimise the risk of delays (or refusal), businesses are encouraged to seek qualified assistance to manage the transfer process.

If you have any questions about the TSS visa or the process of transferring sponsorships, please reach out to our FCB Smart Visa team.

FCB Smart Visa Check is a cost-effective software solution powered by vSure, that can verify and confirm the visas status of thousands of workers in a matter of seconds.

Albert Fang has been a Migration Agent with FCB Smart Visa since 2018. He has extensive experience in assisting successful entrepreneurs and executives to obtain Australian visas and permanent residence status through employer-sponsored and business migration channels. He has 10 years’ experience in professional services and is particularly skilled in assisting both individual and large corporate clients to achieve positive migration. outcomes.

Long anticipated additional measures for temporary visa holders were announced on Saturday 4 April, and are summarised below for the benefit of FCB clients and friends.

Student Visa Holders

International students working in aged care and as nurses have already had these hours extended to support these critical sectors. However, similar concessions for international students working in the major supermarkets will return to the maximum 40 hours a fortnight (whilst their course is in session) given that more Australians are now being recruited into these roles.

New Zealanders on subclass 444 visas

  • New Zealanders who are on subclass 444 visas and arrived before 26 February 2001 will already have access to welfare payments, and meet the residence status required for employers to access the JobKeeper supplement.
  • Subclass 444 visa holders who arrived after 2001 also meet the base residence status to access to the JobKeeper payment. Those who have lived in Australia for 10 years or more have access to JobSeeker payments for six months.
  • The Government recommends that New Zealanders consider returning to New Zealand if they are unable to support themselves through these provisions, work or family support.

Temporary Skilled visa holders

  • There are around 139,000 TSS visa holders, on either a 2 year or 4 year (subclass 457 or 482) visa. They were provided the visa to fill a skills shortage – a shortage that may still be present when the crisis has passed.

Consequently, those visa holders who have been stood down, but not laid off, will maintain their visa validity and businesses will have the opportunity to extend their visa as per normal arrangements. Businesses will also be able to reduce the hours of the visa holder without the person being in breach of their visa condition. This represents a broad and generous interpretation of the law as it stands.

  • These visa holders will also be able to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation drawdown this financial year if the general eligibility criteria are also met. This may ultimately be on more favourable terms than the tax on superannuation that normally applies to temporary residents permanently departing Australia

However, the Government is at pains to emphasise that those visa holders who have been laid off due to coronavirus should leave the country in line with existing visa conditions if they are unable to secure a new sponsor. Nevertheless, where a 4-year visa holder can be re-employed after the coronavirus pandemic, there are plans to amend the legal and policy framework to allow their time already spent in Australia to count towards the qualifying period required for employer-sponsored permanent residence.

Working Holiday Makers supporting critical sectors

  • To support the critical sectors of health, aged and disability care, agriculture and food processing, and childcare, some limited flexibility will be provided. Specifically, working holidaymakers who are working in these critical sectors will be exempt from the six month work limitation with the one employer and eligible for a further visa to keep working in these critical sectors if their current visa is due to expire in the next six months.

Again, the Government stresses that those working holidaymakers that do not have the confidence to sustain themselves over the next six months should make arrangements to leave the country.

Temporary Graduate visa holders

Whilst no specific measures have been announced for this group, subclass 485 visa holders will also be eligible to access their Australian superannuation drawdown if they meet the relevant criteria of the programme.We understand that the programme is slated to open in mid-April 2020.

Visitor visa holders

  • Visitors are encouraged to return home if possible, if they stay they will need to support themselves, and extensions would need to be by way of a further application as a visitor onshore which carries a range of criteria that could be applied to deny extensions.

Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme visa holders

Workers holding SWP and PLS visas will have visa conditions relaxed and be given an option to extend their stay for up to one year. Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business Senator Michaelia Cash said this change would bring much needed certainty for employers and workers alike.

Visa holders are reminded that current and future Australian visa applications are subject to stringent health and character tests and any breaches of social distancing and self-isolation rules will be viewed unfavourably during assessment.

If any of the above measures have raised questions or concerns for you or your business, you can arrange a time to discuss these with the FCB Smart Visa team on +612 9922 5188 or at

As we navigate the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, our thoughts are always with you, your families, and employees who are affected.

FCB is uniquely placed to deal with the employment law and immigration implications relating to the variation in employment arrangements for your workforce. Our teams are fully operational during this time, and we are here to help you through these unprecedented challenges.

FCB Smart Visa is part of two working groups liaising with Home Affairs, Minister Tudge, and Australian Border Force to recommend and relay changes to the migration programme that are of assistance to employers and their sponsored employees. We expect definitive pronouncements on what these changes are within the next 72 hours.

For now, the current rules, obligations, and visa conditions apply to all sponsored visa holders, although policy allows flexibility in terms of LWOP, gardening leave, and reduced hours if certain conditions are met.

We will be pushing out the additional special measures as soon as these are ratified by Canberra. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to book a time for a teleconference if you are concerned about the impact to your business and potential workarounds.

Kind Regards, 

FCB Smart Visa

In the wake of the recent devastating bush fires across Australia the Department of Home Affairs has revised policy on 417 & 462 Working Holiday visas and the 6-month work limitation. The major change has been to extend the 6-month work limitation to 12 months for visa holders that are assisting with the bushfire recovery efforts. This is consistent with previous disaster recovery efforts in relation to Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

Another key change is a widening of the definition of specified work. Specified Work is the work that 417 and 462 visa holders are required to complete in order to apply for a second year on their visa. The new widening ensures that construction work in a disaster declared area will count. The widening will also allow all paid and volunteer disaster recovery work in declared bushfire areas will count towards specified work as well.

These changes allow employers working in bushfire affected areas to recruit and retain valuable workers for more than the usual 6-month period, which in turn will produce faster results in assisting people impacted by the recent bush fires.

If you are unsure if these changes impact your business give FCB Smart Visa a call on (02) 9922 5188.

Dear TSS Sponsor

As part of your 2019 recruitment programme, you may be instinctively posting job advertisements the way you have always done. This would not usually be a problem, but many sponsors who attract the attention of successful overseas candidates may be forced to readvertise if their Labour Market Testing (‘LMT’) was not in strict conformity with the new LMT guidelines In place since 12 August 2018.

These guidelines are highly prescriptive and should be used to frame all job advertisements where there is a possibility that an overseas worker may be hired as a result.  If you would like more information on these guidelines, please contact us.

At a minimum, most sponsors should be ensuring that:

  • The advertising is in English, in Australia, and published for a minimum of 4 weeks on at least two platforms within the 4 months immediately before lodging a TSS nomination application
  • The advertisements include the following information:
    • the title, or a description of the role;
    • the skills or experience required for the role;
    • the correct name of the approved sponsor (e.g. ABC Pty Ltd), or the name of the recruitment agency being used by the sponsor; and,
    • the salary for the position (unless the annual earnings for the position will be higher than $96,400); it is acceptable to publish a salary range.

The advertisements should be published in a ‘prominent or professional recruitment website with national reach’ or other approved media (detailed further in the attachment). Some advertisers are better than others in terms of helping sponsors to evidence their LMT efforts which is also a requirement at the time of lodging a nomination application. Failure to comply with LMT risks forfeiting up to $7,200 in the SAF levy which is not refundable in these circumstances.

If you are looking to advertise a role and are unsure of where to advertise, whether the advertising copy complies, or if the role is exempt from the LMT requirements altogether, please contact us before going live, and avoid the hassle and expense of adding a further month to the nomination and visa application process.

Want to learn more?

We have put together a Ready-Reckoner of the guidelines including certain exemptions / exceptions to the general LMT requirements. If you would like to request a copy, please contact Alex Kaufman – 

Australian Franchisors may be missing out on attracting offshore Franchisees due to trepidation around the necessary visa requirements.

In short, the ‘self-sponsorship’ option under the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) programme is essentially closed to all but STEM based enterprises.

Usually, this leaves only two purpose built visa options:

  1. Using the Master Franchisor’s business sponsorship ‘license’ to facilitate the visa arrangements of the investing Franchisee; or,
  2. Using the Business and Investor (‘BIIP’) visa programme, and most readily, the Subclass 188 visa in the Innovation stream.

The problem with using a Master sponsorship license is that the Franchisor is liable for all of the immigration compliance risk throughout the network. Without ultimate visibility and control, this is an untenable risk with little benefit for either party, and it may not even facilitate a clear pathway to Australian permanent residence for the Franchisee.

On the other hand, the BIIP programme is a notoriously difficult visa category that very few migration professionals can handle.

With 13 years of Business and Investor visa experience, we have increasingly wondered how many Franchise opportunities go to waste because of patchy advice, and a poor understanding of how to make the BIIP work. Of course, it may not work 100% of the time, but our specialist team of business-savvy immigration professionals can provide an advisory service to screen your candidate’s eligibility for a Subclass 188 visa. This frees you up to confidently close the Franchise opportunity.

Further information is available from or speak with our Head of Migration on +612 9922 5188

While admitting that it is not an exact science, Alex Kaufman has outlined a number of impending changes that are likely to be made to skilled migration visas.

Since announcing in April last year that the 457 visa would be scrapped, and it was ultimately replaced with a new and much stricter regime of short and medium-term skilled visas, the government has been making regular amendments to its list of eligible professions.

Alex Kaufman, solicitor and head of migration at FCB Smart Visa, told My Business that there are a number of professions likely to face the axe in the next major update by the government.

“It is a bit of crystal ball gazing – it really depends on the level of resistance from peak industry bodies and stakeholders,” he said.

“If nothing were to happen in terms of the stakeholder engagement process, then it would probably happen [as listed below].”

That stakeholder engagement refers to lobbying on the part of businesses and their industry bodies, aimed at educating the government on the true nature of any skills shortages in those areas and the real-world impacts of their removal from eligibility for skilled migration visas.

While the rules around specific professions and their eligibility for skills visas lie with the department of immigration, Mr Kaufman said these lists “are curated by the Department of Jobs and Small Business”.

“[And] we all know from the last two rounds that they are receptive, in part, to lobbying,” said Mr Kaufman.

According to Mr Kaufman, the following job titles (with their relevant ANZSCO code) are likely to be removed from the short-term skilled occupation list:

  • Manufacturer (133411)
  • Visual arts and crafts professionals (211499)
  • Director (film, television, radio or stage) (212312)
  • Film and video editor (212314)
  • Program director (television or radio) (212315)
  • Stage manager (212316)
  • Technical director (212317)
  • Video producer (212318)
  • Middle school teacher (241311)
  • Textile, clothing and footwear mechanic (323215)
  • Watch and clock maker and repairer (323316)
  • Cabler (data and telecommunications) 342411)
  • Chemical plant operator (399211)
  • Library technician (399312)
  • Residential care officer (411715)
  • Insurance loss adjuster (599612)

Mr Kaufman also suggested several more professions are likely to change classifications instead of being removed altogether.

He said that management accountants (221112) in particular, as well as agricultural consultants (234111) and civil engineering technicians (312212) are likely to be downgraded from the medium-long term strategic skills list to the short-term skilled occupation list.

“There’s a[n] oversupply of accountants in Australia and from overseas, because accountants have been on various permanent residence lists forever almost,” Mr Kaufman said.

“So I really wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of those accounting roles – you’ve got tax accountant, general accountant, management accountant – I wouldn’t be surprised if this one does get downgraded to the short-term skilled occupation list.”

Dentists (252312) and anaesthetists (253211) are likely to be moved from the short-term skills list onto the regional occupations list, in recognition of shortages of these medical professionals in rural and regional areas.

Interestingly, Mr Kaufman said there has been significant pressure on the government to upgrade the stats of professional footballers (452411), and because of this intense pressure, he expects the profession to be upgraded from the short-term skills list to the medium-long-term strategic skills list.

“There’s been a lot of pressure to allow that to happen, simply because the only other way to become a permanent resident as a footballer is to get a skill assessment, and the minimum requirement for most skill assessing authorities is a bachelor qualification.

“So it’s invariably a catch-22 for footballers, and at least this move will allow them access to permanent residence through the temporary residence transition stream without a skill assessment.”

Many will be aware that the 457 visa programme is now closed to new applications after being formally ‘abolished’ on Sunday 18 March 2018.


It has been replaced by the Subclass 482 Temporary Skilled Shortage visa programme (TSS), which – by and large – is a rebranded and remodelled version of its predecessor.  In companion legislation, consequential changes to the employer-sponsored Permanent Residence framework have also come into effect.


The changes have taken effect incrementally since the surprise announcements on 18 April last year, and almost all most of the reform agenda (save for implementation of the ‘Skilling Australia Fund levy’) is in effect at the time of writing.


Temporary Work Visa Changes At-a-Glance


  1. TSS visa validity periods are determined by the occupation, and the length of time the sponsor wishes to employ them.
  2. Occupations included on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) allow a maximum stay of two years (with only one onshore renewal) – subject to any shorter period requested by the nominator
  3. Occupations included on the Medium and Long Term Skills Shortage List (MLTSSL) allow a stay of up to four years, with a pathway to permanent residence after three years, but this is also subject to any shorter period requested by the nominator. Occupations on the “Regional Occupation List” (ROL) are treated the same as an MLTSSL occupation, but are only available in gazetted regional areas.
  4. Subject to the introduction of the Skilling Australia Fund levy (SAF), sponsors will need to contribute an upfront payment of between $1,200 and $1,800 for each year they wish to sponsor a visa holder (the difference being dependent on whether the business has less or more than $10 million turnover respectively). For MLTSSL occupations, this will add $7,200 to the cost of a 4 year visa, a cost which is non-transferable by the sponsor. The levy is not refundable if the visa application is refused (unless on a health or character basis), and nor is the levy refundable in the event that the sponsored person moves to another employer (which around 20% of 457 visa holders typically do). The levy is also payable in the hands of the inbound sponsor as part of a transfer.
  5. Visa Application charges will increase as follows:
TSS Visa Application Charges Primary Applicant Adult Secondary Child Secondary
STSOL $1,150 $1,150 $290
MLTSSL and ROL $2,400 $2,400 $600


  1. Labour Market Testing is now mandatory in all cases unless an international treaty obligation applies (e.g. the China, Korea, Free Trade Agreements, or between WTO signatories amongst others). LMT is highly prescriptive and requires a sponsor to:

Publish at least two English language advertisements for 21 consecutive days, in an Australian national paper or radio, which includes the title (or a description of the position), the name of the sponsor or recruitment agency being used by the sponsor, and the annual earnings for the position.

  1. The primary visa applicant must have at least two years of full time work equivalent work experience relevant to the nominated occupation. This will rule out most graduates and many working holiday makers.
  2. Nominated positions must now be full-time.
  3. A new visa condition (Condition 8607) will mean that a primary 482 visa holder who changes their occupation (whether with a new employer or the same employer), will need to apply for a new 482 visa before they can commence in the new role. A new nomination (and presumably SAF levy) will also apply in this situation.
  4. A comprehensive ‘Genuine Intention to take up a Genuine Role’ test will apply at visa stage, as will a separate “Genuine Temporary Entrant’ requirement for STSOL occupations
  5. Greater focus on compliance with Australia’s workplace law framework


The above rules are in addition to a tightening of English requirements, assessment of skills, as well as an assessment of the sponsor’s previous conduct, which are among other changes that have made the process far more onerous than any iteration of the temporary work visa programme before it.


Employer Sponsored Visa Changes: At-a-glance


The introduction of the new TSS visa framework has implications for the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS). In short, the changes are as follows:


  1. Those who held a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017 will have their pathway to employer sponsored migration preserved under the old ENS and RSMS rules (until March 2022).
  2. All other applicants will be subject to the new requirements that apply including:
  • Age limit of 45 unless exempted by occupation, or paid higher than the Fair Work High Income Threshold for at least three years whilst holding a subclass 457/482 visa
  • Nominated occupation must be on the gazetted (MLTSSL) list at the time of application
  • A three year qualifying period on a 457/482 visa is now required before transitioning to permanent residence (up from two years)
  • The requirement for the market salary rate to be above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold of the day (currently $53,900)


It remains to be seen how employers will react to these new barriers in accessing foreign skills, particularly in the context of historically low unemployment and recognised skills shortages in the Australian labour market. The increased costs alone will have the (presumably desired) effect of cutting out all but medium to large enterprises from participating in the TSS programme.


Any business considering using the TSS programme is advised to understand exactly what the new risks entail, and to manage those risks using migration professionals with an understanding of the attendant employment law considerations.