482/TSS update: major investor accreditation for standard business sponsors; aged care labour agreements; religions get assistants

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs made a number of announcements at the end of last week relating to the Subclass 482 – Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa program. This includes a fifth category to become an accredited standard business sponsor, aged care labour agreements, and an additional occupation for Minister of Religion labour agreements.

Major investment in Australia for accredited standard business sponsors

There is now another category to becoming an accredited standard business sponsor for businesses who significantly invest in Australia. Standard business sponsors with accredited status enjoy priority processing of nomination and visa applications, a standard business sponsorship agreement lasting six years, and streamlined or even auto-approved processing for certain occupations and salaries. Average processing times for accredited applications have said to be around five business days compared to an average of 42 business days for non-accredited applications.

This new category, according to the Department of Home Affairs’ (Home Affairs’) website requires sponsors to:

  • Provide at least $50 million of direct investment in Australia which has generated Australian employment, resulting in either: a lasting contribution in Australia measured by export outcomes and local tax generated; innovative business practices or technologies; or supporting exports and the expansion of Australian industry within global supply chains;

  • Have been a standard business sponsor for at least 12 months;

  • Not be a sole trader or partnership;

  • Have had at least one 482 nomination approved, and an approval rate of at least 97 per cent in the previous 12 months;

  • Have no adverse monitoring outcomes;

  • Have all Australian employees paid according to an enterprise bargaining agreement or an internal salary table that is not less than the market salary rate;

  • Have all 457 or TSS visa holders employed under a written employment contract that meets the National Employment Standard.

Start-ups may be exempt from some of the above requirements under special circumstances as too with partnerships provided this business structure is industry standard.

The number of accredited business sponsors is said to grow from 900 currently to 2500 by the end of the year, with a special team at Home Affairs dedicated to identifying and inviting eligible employers to become accredited.

This appears to be another carrot for investment and innovative businesses to establish a business in Australia. Unfortunately, Australia’s immigration program has continued with its poor track record. A recent Freedom of Information (FOI) disclosure sets the total number of Subclass 188 –Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) visas under the Entrepreneur stream, and TSS visas under the Global Talent Stream granted from inception to 31 January 2019 at eight visas a piece. This includes primary and secondary visas. In a different FOI request, when seven 188 visas had been granted, less than 5 were primary applicants, meaning the “entrepreneurial talent” holding visas is less than 16 and could even be in single digits.

Additionally, zero visas had been granted under the TSS Global Talent Stream in the Start-up category.

Aged care labour agreements

The Minister also announced that Home Affairs will consider labour agreement applications from aged care providers for carers. It has been noted that specialised skills, such as being bilingual, will assist with caring for elderly Australians.

While there is no industry specific labour agreement for the aged care industry, providers can apply for a company specific labour agreement should they not be able to fill staff shortages locally. The difference between the two type of labour agreements are that industry specific labour agreements have non-negotiable standards, including: the occupations available, minimum salary, the education, work experience, and English language requirements for visa applicants, and sponsor obligations. Company specific labour agreements provide more flexibility and are negotiated directly with each employer.

If aged carers are in short supply it seems an industry specific labour agreement may be added in the future as they generally would reduce time to be approved and improve transparency as templates are publicly available.

The Minister has left open the possibility that overseas workers may be able to access permanent visas under the Subclass 186 – Employer Nomination Scheme visa, however, this would need to be negotiated between the labour agreement applicant and Home Affairs.

Ministers of Religion can access religious assistants

Lastly, on an existing industry specific labour agreement, Ministers of Religion, another occupation will be accessible: Religious Assistant (ANZSCO 451816). This occupation will allow any senior position to be filled by overseas workers where required, apparently due to a local skill shortage. Previously, only the most senior position in any particular location, was eligible under the labour agreement in the occupation of Minister of Religion (ANZSCO 272211). The Minister has also cited additional flexibility with thresholds for this occupation.

Ministers of Religion labour agreements were established on 1 July 2015, when the occupation was removed from temporary and permanent skilled occupation lists due to integrity concerns, the current exception being for Subclass 407 – Training visas.