Australian immigration announces changes to the permanent employer-sponsored visa program

14 March 2012

Australian Immigration and Citizenship Minister Chris Bowen has announced significant changes to simplify the process for the permanent employer-sponsored visa program.

The changes will affect the following visas:
The Australian government will create a "fast-tracked" path from temporary skilled 457 visa-holder to permanent resident under the employer-sponsored visa system. Additionally, the current six permanent employer-sponsored immigration visas will be replaced by two new visas: Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187). Bowen said this change would make it easier for businesses and potential immigrants to "navigate" the immigration system.

Among the changes, Bowen said the immigration department will remove the language testing requirement for existing 457 visa holders who apply for residency and will also increase the upper age limit from 45 to 50 for permanent residence applications.

"We know these workers can do the job and are ready to make a commitment to Australia, so it makes sense to streamline their pathway to permanent residence," Bowen said.

Other changes include:
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox welcomed the visa changes and said he thinks they will help fix the "tight labour market".

"Notwithstanding the slow growth seen in employment over the past year, businesses across the economy are still experiencing skill shortages in key occupations, especially those in demand by the resources sector such as in engineering and the skilled trades," said Willox.

The visa changes are expected to come into effect 1 July 2012.

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