A new dawn…but not for Ministers of Religion

As promised the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has amalgamated into the Australian Border Force with a brand new website. The website at least looks cleaner than it was. All email address have moved over to “@border.gov.au”.

On initial review, not much would has surprised those in the industry in comparison to years gone by where the DIBP tend to drop bombshells on the morning of 1 July. The one exception is the new rules regarding Ministers of Religion. As of 1 July 2015, no Ministers of Religion can apply for either a subclass 186 or 187 permanent employer sponsored visa through either the Temporary Residents Transition Stream or the Direct Entry Stream.

What is left is the lesser used Agreement Stream, which visa applicants can only apply under once there is an approved labour agreement between the religious organisation and the DIBP and that through these negotiations there have been approved permanent visa places as well.

Along with a new Skilled Occupation and Consolidated Skilled Occupation List, the Explanatory Statement goes far in addressing why Ministers of Religion have been targeted:

The Legislative Instrument giving effect to the 2015-16 SOL will be amended to support a separate legislative change to amend the Migration Regulations 1994 to implement measures to achieve increased integrity within the Minister of Religion Cohort in Australia’s Permanent Employer Sponsored Visa programme. This will be done by adding a caveat restricting visa eligibility to applicants for the subclass 402 visa, or for those sponsored by employers that have finalised a Labour Agreement with the department.

Ministers of Religion exemptions of age, skill and English has also been removed as any exemptions would naturally be sought through the labour agreement on a case-by-case basis.

Ministers of Religion also cannot be sponsored on a Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa either unless it is under a labour agreement, which leaves only those who need to come to Australia for training purposes under a Training and Research (subclass 402) visa.

Heaven help the small religious organisation who have been adversely affected by this change.