Government acting on recommendations of the 457 Integrity Review

Since our last post, on 18 March 2015  the Australian Government announced its response to the Independent Review, ‘Robust New Foundations: A Streamlined, Transparent and Responsive System for the 457 Programme’.

You can read the Government Response to the recommendations and how it will be strengthening the programme’s integrity, giving consideration to greater flexibility for certain visa requirements and protecting Australian workers in the 457 visa programme.

Some of the measures to strengthen integrity in the 457 programme include:

  • the introduction of a new penalty making it unlawful for sponsors to be paid for a migration outcome
  • more information for 457 holders and sponsors about their rights and obligations
  • greater transparency around the Department’s  sanction actions
  • increased information sharing among key government agencies.

For visa applicants, one of the recommendations was to  add flexibility around English language requirements while ensuring integrity is maintained in the 457 visa programme.  Although the Government did not support expanding the list of nationalities that are exempt from the English language requirement (sub-recommendation 7.4), applicants will be able to provide an overall score with minimum scores for each test components and access alternative English language test providers.

Australian workers and businesses will also benefit through other recommendations including improved training opportunities for Australians, streamlining and simplifying the sponsorship process and increasing sponsorship approval periods.

A number of these recommendations will be implemented in the coming months while  complex recommendations will be progressed before the end of 2015-16.  You may have also noticed Recommendation 2 about abolishing the labour market testing requirement was noted by the Government. This recommendation will not be implemented at this time.  More information on the recommendations is available here.

If you are a current 457 visa holder or sponsor, there are no changes to your existing visa grant arrangements and conditions, sponsorship conditions and/or obligations.  If there are any changes to current processing arrangements, updates will be made available on our website.

Find out more about the  457 visa programme  on our website and from the Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa (649KB PDF) booklet.

Calling all statisticians – looking for Departmental data?

Did you know the statistics area of the Department receives over 200 enquiries a year requesting migration data?

The Department’s website has a number of pages dedicated to statistics if you’re looking for data on migration.  A range of information is available to the public, and reports are updated and published regularly.  While you’re visiting the page, you can also download Microsoft Excel pivot tables which allow you to customise and refine information to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Whether you’re interested in finding out more about historical migration statistics, citizenship or migration agent activity – the Department’s statistics page may have what you’re looking for.

There is only one place to be in 2015 – the ICC Cricket World Cup.

The ICC Cricket World Cup starts in 64 days. Don’t forget to secure your visa to watch the world’s best cricket teams battle it out for cricket’s biggest international prize.

It is now even easier to be a part of the ICC Cricket World Cup and follow your team as you only need an Australian visa to travel between Australia and New Zealand.

The arrangement is valid for travel between 26 January and 5 April 2015 for eligible visitors thanks to the new Trans-Tasman Visa Arrangement. New Zealand will grant eligible visitors with a three-month visa on arrival during this period.

So don’t be caught out with the wrong visa for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

For more information on applying or to determine if you are eligible for the Trans-Tasman Visa arrangement, visit www.immi.gov.au/cwc

ICC Cricket World Cup 2014 Image cropped

 

 

What you need to know before coming to Australia.

Thinking of coming to Australia for a holiday, work, business or to study? Before you do, there are a number of important things you should know before applying for, or being granted, an Australian visa.

Check out our Coming to Australia video  for helpful information about applying for the right type of visa, application requirements and the importance of complying with visa conditions.

You can create an ImmiAccount and save time by applying for your visa application online. If you’re not sure which visa to apply for, the Find a Visa tool on our website can help.

You can check your visa details at any time online using a free service known as VEVO or Visa Entitlement Verification Online: www.immi.gov.au/vevo

You need to know your visa expiry date and follow the conditions of your visa.

If something happens which affects your immigration status while you are in Australia, you need to speak with an immigration officer as soon as you can. This might be if you need to stay longer than your visa allows you or you want to apply for a different visa.

If you realise your visa has expired you need to contact the Department immediately.

Enjoy your time in Australia.

ImmiAccount’s first Birthday

ImmiAccountOn 7 December 2014, ImmiAccount celebrated its first birthday.

Since its launch in 2013, more than 1.5 million accounts have been created, more than two million applications have been submitted, and attachments in excess of 21 million have been uploaded (almost 10 per application).

Of these 1.5 million accounts, more than 41,000 are organisation accounts, reflecting the strong take-up of ImmiAccount by agents and sponsoring companies.

In 2014, ImmiAccount won the Australian ICT Excellence in Service Delivery Award and continues to provide clients and agents with a world-class visa and citizenship application tool, where they can select, complete, lodge, track and pay for an increasing range of applications.

Further developments and enhancements to ImmiAccount are scheduled for 2015, so watch this space.

How the department engages with your registered migration agent

When you appoint a registered migration agent to act on your behalf, they will normally be our first point of contact for your visa application.

This means that if we want to discuss your visa application, we will generally contact your registered migration agent first rather than you.

Depending on your contract of services with your registered migration agent, a visa processing officer may engage with your agent by:

• discussing your visa application
• sending written communication about your application to your agent (if your agent is also your authorised recipient) and
• seeking information relevant to your application.

Our communication to your registered migration agent may include the following:

• an acknowledgement of receipt of your application
• a formal request for more information in support of your application
• a request for an interview
• information about any associated bridging visas and work rights while you wait for a decision on your application
• a notice of a decision to either grant, refuse or cancel your visa application.

Depending on your contract, your registered migration agent could prepare documents for your visa application such as your visa application form, and other departmental forms and evidence collected from you to support your application. Any document they submit to us is regarded as having been sent on your behalf. Registered migration agents must not make statements in support of an application or encourage the making of statements, which they know or believe to be misleading or inaccurate.

If you have appointed your registered migration agent as your authorised recipient, all written communications in relation to your matter, for example visa application or cancellation of a visa, will be sent to them. Most of the time, you will not receive a separate copy of the documents. You are taken to have received any documents sent to your authorised recipient as if they had been sent to you. However, you can request us to provide you with copies.

Once you receive an outcome for your visa application, communication between us and your registered migration agent comes to an end. This means that if you want to apply for review of a visa decision or apply for another visa, you will need to re-appoint a registered migration agent by filling out Form 956 Advice by migration agent/exempt person of providing immigration assistance to send to us. You do not need to do this for any associated bridging visa applications.

Working after studying in Australia

Did you know that if you recently graduated (or are about to graduate) from an Australian education provider, you might be eligible for the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa? Depending on your qualification, this visa allows you to stay in Australia for up to four years, to gain valuable work experience.

This visa does not restrict the type or amount of work you can do. Employer sponsorship is not required for this visa but it is important to understand that finding a job is your responsibility.

For information on the eligibility requirements for the Temporary Graduate visa, check out the Visa Applicants tab on the Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa webpage.

Get your documents ready

If you are completing your course at the end of 2014 and you would like to apply for the Temporary Graduate visa, you may wish to start organising some of your documents now, including:

If these documents are ready when you apply for the visa, your application can be processed quickly. Keep in mind that some documents must be provided when you lodge your application, otherwise your application may be refused.

Not every applicant for the Temporary Graduate visa will need to provide all of these documents.

Check the document checklist to make sure  you have everything ready for your application before you submit it.

No plans to remove accountants from the 2015 SOL

Some of our blog readers may have seen today’s Australian Financial Review, which  has incorrectly reported that the department has dropped accounting from its list of skilled occupations in demand for 2015.

There are no plans to remove this occupation from the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) for the 2015 programme year. The Office of the Chief Economist in the Department of Industry conducts analysis each year on the composition of the SOL. The next advice is expected in March 2015 after the completion of extensive labour market analysis and a public consultation process.

This year, the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (whose functions have been incorporated into the Department of Industry) released a detailed analysis of accountants and concluded that they should continue to be included on the SOL.

Know your sponsor’s obligations

This post is the final part of a series of fictional scenarios designed to help temporary skilled workers holding 457 visas and their sponsors to better understand their responsibilities and obligations. It is also designed to assist you in avoiding visa scams and fraudulent activity. The department takes allegations of fraud very seriously. There are significant penalties if you are caught engaging in fraudulent activity.

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  • You sponsor has a number of obligations they must follow; otherwise they can face some serious penalties and fines.
  • Your sponsor cannot ask you to repay specific costs, such as the costs associated with your sponsorship and nomination.
  • Visa holders need to be aware of their sponsor’s obligations.
  • Everyone working in Australia is entitled to basic rights and protections in the workplace. To learn your workplace rights you can go to http://www.fairwork.gov.au/find-help-for/visa-holders-and-migrants.

If you are a visa holder and believe that your sponsor is not meeting their sponsorship obligations you can report them anonymously at http://www.immi.gov.au/Help/Pages/immigration-dob-in-service.aspx#what-information-should-you-provide-to-us

If your sponsor is making you work excessive hours or your rights are not being met in the workplace you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman. The Fair Work Ombudsman can help settle workplace disputes and can be contacted here http://www.fairwork.gov.au/Contact-us/email-us

Please note: names of people and businesses in this story are fictional for the purposes of this case study.

Sasha had been working as an electrician and had been sponsored by Down Thunder Electrical Pty Ltd. When she agreed to work for Down Thunder Electrical Pty Ltd she was promised that after two years they would sponsor her for permanent residence. She was to work 38 hours and be paid $1037 a week. She was enjoying her time working and living in Australia.

After three months of working she was approached by her employer who demanded she pay back money for visa costs. Overall, he demanded she pay back $12,000. If she failed to pay-back this money the sponsor threatened to cancel her visa and not sponsor her for permanent residence.  Sasha was very concerned as her new life in Australia was in jeopardy.

Over the next few weeks, with Sasha’s reluctant agreement, her employer withheld $150 from her pay every week to pay back the visa costs. The sponsor also started demanding that she work longer hours and to work on her days off.  Sasha was exhausted and struggling to pay rent and bills due to the deductions to her pay. Sasha did not know what to do. She thought that if she stopped paying the sponsor and working the longer hours her visa would be cancelled.

Sasha spoke to her co-workers and discovered that they too were paying back large sums of money to the employer and working longer hours. It appeared to her that she was not the only employee being exploited.

Sasha’s friend noticed that she was worried about work and stressed about her visa. She told Sasha that she could report her employer to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Her friend told her that her employer did not have the power to cancel her visa – as only the department could do that. Her friend also informed her that she could look for another job and seek sponsorship with another company.

Sasha took her friend’s advice and anonymously reported her sponsor to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection through the dob-in line on the website.

Departmental officers visited Sasha’s workplace and discovered that employees were paying visa costs back to the sponsor. The sponsor was barred from further sponsorships and referred to the Fair Work Ombudsman for investigation because of the excessive hours Sasha and her colleagues were being forced to work, and the deductions held from her wages.

Shortly after the Fair Work Ombudsman finalised their investigation. They found that the employees of the business had been underpaid and that the employer was in breach of the Fair Work Act. As a result the company was required to pay Sasha and her co-workers for all the overtime worked for which they had not been paid.

Meanwhile, Sasha was able to find a new sponsor who met their obligations and she was eventually sponsored for permanent residence. The Fair Work Ombudsman was able to assist Sasha in obtaining the money that was owed to her.