Companies recruiting skilled workers from overseas will have noticed an unwelcome change in visa processing. The introduction on 1 July 2015 of a new division within the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), Australian Border Force, appears to have sparked an increased focus on ensuring integrity now affecting the streamlined character of the business visa programs that helped make them relevant to the needs of Australian business.
This criterion was introduced in July 2013. It remained effectively dormant until DIBP issued policy guidelines to its assessing officers in late 2015. This led to a noticeable increase in refusal rates and processing times.
Most requests for further information seemed to involve concerns over the match between the job duties and the nominated occupation, with particular emphasis on certain occupations.
Published service standards for a subclass 457 visa are still 5 to 6 weeks from date of application, but we are aware of instances where applications are taking up to 3 months for a decision to be made.
Businesses should take into consideration the extended processing time and plan accordingly.
Well-prepared applications, lodged with all supporting documentation available, are more important than ever.
Business as usual activity within the immigration department will be affected if an election is called, however we expect a departmental revision of policy relating to the genuineness criterion in coming months.
There has been an expectation that changes to the training benchmark will be implemented prior to 30 June 2016. If enacted, this has the potential to increase costs for business, especially those with high populations of subclass 457 visa holders.
There is also an anticipated finalisation of the Skilled Migration Review for a planned implementation date of 1 July 2016. The recommendation for a Short-term Mobility Visa allowing work for up to 1 year received a favourable response from business, however we have been advised that this visa will not form part of any changes announced.
This information will be interest to all companies using the 457 visa program to supplement their local recruitment activity.