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Complementing the introduction of the Temporary Skills Shortage visa, initiatives to tighten the permanent Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) (ENS) and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) (RSMS) have been introduced progressively between July 2017 and August 2018.

 

ENS allows Australian employers located anywhere in the country to nominate a person for permanent residency on the basis of their occupational skills. RSMS allows employers in regional areas of Australia to nominate a person for permanent residency where a skilled position cannot be filled by an Australian citizen or permanent resident living in, or willing to relocate to, the area.

 

In both ENS and RSMS, the nominated position must be available to the visa applicant for at least two years and the employer must be able to show the financial capacity to support the nominated position for at least that period.

 

Both ENS and RSMS have two streams:

 

  • The Temporary Residency Transition (TRT) stream is for 457/ TSS visa holders who have completed three years’ service with the nominating employer in their nominated occupation within the last four years.
  • The Direct Entry Stream is for all other applicants.

 

There are transitional arrangements in place for 457/ TSS visa holders who held or had applied for a 457 visa on or before 18 April 2017.

 

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Eligible Occupations

Caveats on Occupations

Skills

Skilling Australians Fund and Training Benchmarks

Salary Requirements

Age Limits and Exemptions

English Language and Exemptions

Transitional Arrangements

 


 

Eligible Occupations

 

There have been changes to the occupations eligible for permanent residency under ENS and RSMS unless transitional arrangements apply.

 

For both the TRT and Direct Entry streams, only occupations on the MLTSSL are eligible for nomination in the ENS program.

 

Occupations on the MLTSSL and ROL are eligible for nomination in the RSMS program.

 

 

 

Caveats on Occupations

 

Caveats apply to some occupations on the MLTSSL nominated in the ENS program, restricting their use based on factors including, but not limited to, the following:

 

  • the nature of the role and/or the business setting for the role;
  • nominated base salary; and
  • size and turnover of the nominating employer.

 

Position descriptions for roles intended for applicants in MLTSSL occupations need to be carefully assessed to ensure they are not the subject of a caveat that would result in refusal of the application.

 

 

 

Skills

 

Applicants in the ENS Direct Entry stream are required to obtain a skills assessment from the relevant skills assessing authority and demonstrate that they have at least three years of relevant work experience. Exemptions apply where:

 

  • the applicant is nominated for certain research, university or medical practitioner positions; or
  • the applicant is a New Zealand citizen or the holder of a subclass 461 New Zealand Family Relationship visa and has worked for their nominating employer for at least two out of the last three years.

 

RSMS Direct Entry applicants are required to demonstrate that they have at least three years of relevant work experience. Applicants who did not obtain relevant qualifications in Australia are required to obtain a skills assessment from the appropriate skills assessing authority. Exemptions apply where the applicant is a New Zealand citizen or the holder of a subclass 461 New Zealand Family Relationship visa and has worked for their nominating employer for at least two out of the last three years.

 

ENS and RSMS TRT stream applicants are generally considered exempt from the skills assessment requirement on the basis of their history of employment with the nominating employer. Applicants in the TRT stream now need to show that they have completed at least three years of qualifying service in their nominated occupation with the nominating employer within the last four years, unless transitional arrangements applyThe Department also has the discretion to request a skills assessment from TRT applicants where there are concerns about whether the applicant is genuinely performing the occupation or has the appropriate skills to adequately perform the occupation.

 

 

 

Skilling Australians Fund and Training Benchmarks

 

From 12 August 2018, nominating employers are required to pay a one-off Skilling Australians Fund charge at the time of lodging an ENS or RSMS nomination application.

 

For businesses with an annual turnover of less than $10 million, the charge is $3000.

 

For all other businesses, the charge is $5000.

 

The Skilling Australians Fund has been developed to replace the training benchmarks that existed in the 457 visa program. The training benchmarks required sponsors to demonstrate ongoing expenditure on training Australians in their business or the industry more broadly.

 

In addition to paying the SAF charge, employers nominating applications in the Direct Entry stream will be required to provide evidence to demonstrate compliance with the training benchmarks up to 12 August 2018.

 

Applications in the Temporary Residence Transition stream do not need to be accompanied with historical training benchmark evidence. However, sponsors may be asked to provide evidence that they complied with the training obligation up to 12 August 2018 as part of monitoring sponsors’ compliance with sponsorship obligations. 

 

 

 

Salary Requirements

 

The salary requirements for ENS now mirror those of the TSS program:

 

  • the sponsor must have determined the market rate for Australians employed in similar roles (called the Annual Market Salary Rate (AMSR)) by using a methodology prescribed by Departmental policy;
  • the monetary component of the AMSR (i.e. excluding any non-monetary benefits) must be greater than or equal to TSMIT (currently set at $53,900);
  • the proposed guaranteed annual earnings (GAE) of the visa applicant (including non-monetary benefits) must be greater than or equal to the AMSR; and
  • The monetary components of the visa applicant’s GAE (excluding any non-monetary benefits) must be greater than or equal to TSMIT.

 

 

 

Age Limits and Exemptions

 

The age limit for ENS and RSMS applicants has been reduced from 50 to 45, unless transitional arrangements apply.

 

For all applicants, age exemptions may apply in the following scenarios:

 

  • The applicant is nominated for certain research, university or medical practitioner positions.
  • The applicant is a New Zealand citizen or the holder of a subclass 461 New Zealand Family Relationship visa and has worked for their nominating employer for at least two out of the last three years.
  • The applicant is applying in the TRT Stream and has worked for their nominating employer on their 457/ TSS visa for at least three years; and in each year, has earned above the Fair Work High-Income Threshold that applied to that year (set at A$142,000 for the 2017-18 financial year).

 

 

 

English and Exemptions

 

The English language requirement for ENS and RSMS primary applicants has increased to ‘Competent’ (an overall score on an IELTS test of 6.0; or equivalent score in an alternative acceptable test).

 

The high-income exemption to the English language requirements has been removed. The only available exemptions are now where the applicant:

 

  • holds a passport from Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the UK or the USA; and/or
  • can provide evidence to demonstrate that they have completed at least five years of full-time study in a secondary and/or higher education institution where all of the tuition was delivered in English.

 

Adult secondary applicants are also required to demonstrate at least ‘Functional’ English or pay a surcharge (currently $9800). Functional English is demonstrated through a score on an IELTS test of at least 4.5 (or an equivalent score in an alternative acceptable test). Functional English can also be demonstrated in other ways, such as completion of study where the language of instruction was English.

 

 

 

Transitional Arrangements

 

Subclass 457/ TSS visa holders who held or who had applied for a 457 visa on or before 18 April 2017 will be able to meet the following historical provisions under the TRT stream of ENS and RSMS as long as they lodge their application by 18 March 2022:

 

  • they may apply for ENS/ RSMS in the occupation for which they were granted a 457 visa, even if that occupation is no longer eligible for ENS/ RSMS, provided they have continued to work in the same position for the same employer;
  • the upper age limit will remain 50 years of age; and
  • the qualifying period of service in the nominated occupation with the nominating employer will remain at two years.

 

Applications that fall within these transitional arrangements will still need to meet all other ENS/RSMS eligibility criteria discussed above.