Q&A: Why are Australian visa fees increasing?

Australian government announces new levies on foreign workers in budget

Application fees for the new two-year Temporary Skills Shortage visa will be $1,150 AUD, and the four-year visa will be $2,400 AUD, double the current fee for a 457 visa.

Application fees for the new two-year Temporary Skills Shortage visa will be $1,150 AUD, and the four-year visa will be $2,400 AUD, double the current fee for a 457 visa.

 

The Australian government announces its annual budget at this time each year, outlining its plans for the new financial year beginning July 1st.

Part of the budget relates to immigration, including planning numbers for permanent migration, and fee changes to visa programmes. John McQuaid, director of Arrive Australia Migration Services in Sydney, explains how Irish workers could be affected by this year’s changes, announced in the budget last week.

Will the number of visas on offer change this year?

The good news is that the permanent migration programme to Australia will remain at 190,000 places for the 2017-18 year. This is the same level as the last five years. Australia is still committed to bringing in high number of skilled migrants; 128,550 of these places will be for skilled migration under independent skilled visas, employer nominated skilled visas, and state nominated skilled visas.

Temporary sponsored visas are not included in this number, as there is no cap on temporary visas. But as announced in April, the 457 visa will be replaced by the dual stream Temporary Skills Shortage visa on March 1st 2018. The current Skilled Occupation List is replaced by the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List. The current Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List is replaced by the Short-term Skilled Occupation List

Are visa fees going up?

All visas fees increase with each budget, usually in line with the Consumer Price Index inflation, which is about 3 per cent per year. As an example, the independent skilled permanent visa fee will rise this year from $3,600 AUD (€2,413) to $3,670 AUD (€2,460).

Those applying for the new Temporary Skills Shortage visas will pay much more than they did for the 457 visa. From March 2018, application fees for the two-year visa will be $1,150 AUD, and the four-year visa will be $2,400 AUD, double the current fee for a 457 visa. Visa fees can be paid by employers or employees, or shared between both. Many smaller employers expect the employee to pay the visa fee.

What about the new levy on employers?

A new Skilling Australians Fund Levy will be introduced in March 2018. This levy will replace current training benchmarks for employers sponsoring people on temporary 457 and permanent Employer Nomination Scheme (186) visas.

Businesses with turnover of less than $10 million AUD per year will be required to:

1. make an upfront payment of $1,200 AUD per visa per year for each employee on a Temporary Skill Shortage visa

2. a one-off payment of $3,000 AUD for each employee being sponsored for a permanent Employer Nomination Scheme (186/187) visa

For businesses with turnover above $10 million AUD, the levies will be higher, at $1,800 AUD and $5,000 AUD.

Who will pay?

Employers will be required to pay these training levies. It will be illegal for employees to pay the levy.

Where will the money go?

The levies will go into the federal government-run Skilling Australian Fund (SAF), to be distributed to federal/state government programmes aimed at training apprentices and up-skilling others.

The government estimates that $1.2 billion AUD will be raised by these visa fees, which will pay for up to 300,000 apprenticeships or traineeships in high-demand sectors and industries relying on skilled foreign workers.

How will the charges be deducted or levied?

This has not yet been made clear, but we expect it will be payable directly to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection or the SAF, with a receipt provided at the time of the employer’s nomination application.

Is it for new applicants only, or workers already on these visas?

The training levy and fees will apply to the new Temporary Skills Shortage visa, not to any existing 457 visas granted before March 2018.

Will many Irish workers be affected?

The government has announced that “grandfathering arrangements” will be put in place to allow existing 457 visa holders to apply for permanent employer nomination visas, so any Irish workers currently in Australia on a 457 visa will not be affected.

New applicants will be impacted, however. Anyone looking to get sponsored now with an occupation on the Short Term “STSOL” list is significantly disadvantaged, due to the maximum two-year visa on offer, and no permanent visa pathway open to them after the visa expires.

If your occupation appears on the Medium to Long-Term Skilled (MTSSL) hot list, it is largely business as usual, albeit with higher fees.

We are seeing Irish working holiday visa holders already here who are still eager to take a two-year sponsored visa option. But applicants with a family who are outside Australia are, as expected, not keen to uproot and move to Australia to take up a two-year sponsorship, particularly as there is no option to upgrade now to permanent residency visas.

John McQuaid is director of Arrive Australia Migration Services in Sydney. See arriveaustralia.com.au