Australia: Visa Categories
Effective March 2010, Subclass 457 and other specialist visa applicants are subject to a relaxed health insurance evidence requirement, but their employers must meet other tightened requirements, the Australian government has clarified. The government has also clarified its rules on when certain Subclass 457 workers can change occupations or employers, and has introduced new language proficiency and support requirements for certain training visa applications.
The Australian government has issued amending regulations clarifying last year’s worker protection reforms to the Subclass 457 (Business (Long Stay)) visa category and other specialist entry visas. As reported in July and September of last year, Australia introduced a number of reforms intended to ensure that working conditions of foreign national workers meet Australian labor standards. The recent clarifications of these reforms took effect on March 27, 2010.
Relaxation of Health Insurance Requirement for Visa Applications
Applicants for Subclass 457 (Business (Long Stay)) visas and other specialist entry visas may no longer be required to provide specific evidence of adequate health insurance arrangements in Australia in every case for the purposes of the visa application and visa grant. Rather, applicants need only demonstrate that they possess adequate arrangements for health insurance while in Australia. For example, applicants with adequate travel insurance or who are enrolled in the sponsoring employer’s corporate health plan may now meet the requirement, subject to a discretionary evaluation by immigration authorities.
Subclass 457 and other specialist visa holders must maintain adequate health insurance while in Australia as a condition of their visa. Under current guidelines, they may do so either by enrolling in the Australian Medicare program under reciprocal health care arrangements between Australia and a number of specified countries, or enrolling in a private health insurance arrangement which meets the minimum standards set by immigration authorities. Fragomen is monitoring these developments and will provide additional updates as they become available.
Sponsoring Employers Subject to Tighter Restrictions
Under the amended regulations, sponsoring employers that have provided false or misleading information are subject to broader grounds for the discretionary cancellation of their workers’ visas. If an employer is subject to administrative sanctions for violating worker protection standards, it will be unable to nominate employees for permanent visas under the Employer Nomination Scheme while it continues to be subject to such sanctions.
The Australian government also clarified that sponsoring employers have a duty to ensure that their sponsored employees work only in the activity or occupation for which they were nominated and approved, regardless of whether the nomination was approved before or after September 14, 2009, when the Subclass 457 visa reforms took effect.
Greater Flexibility for Certain 457 Workers Seeking to Change Employers
The amended regulations allow certain Subclass 457 visa holders in occupations that are exempt under legislative instrument to work for multiple unassociated employers, either simultaneously or consecutively without breaching visa Condition 8107, which generally bars these visa holders from changing employers or occupations. These exempt occupations include medical practitioners and general managers of companies who sit on multiple corporate boards.
In addition, the amended regulations now ensure that sponsors will not be considered as breaching sponsorship obligations if they or their associated entities engage a visa holder in an exempt occupation as an independent contractor rather than as an employee. While exempted visa holders may work as independent contractors, they must only work in the occupation listed in the most recently approved nomination. Sponsorship obligations will continue to apply to the approved sponsor who nominated them for the 457 visa.
Additional Requirements for Subclass 442 Occupational Training Visa Applicants
Applicants for Subclass 442 (Occupational Training) visas are now required to demonstrate that they are adequately proficient in English and possess adequate means of support covering their stay in Australia. Subclass 442 visa applicants who will receive training in Australia to develop skills that they can use after returning to their home country must submit a letter of support that was issued by their government or an Australian government agency.
The content of this alert is provided for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen Global Immigration Services or send an email to AUInitiations@fragomen.com.