Immigration update for 2015 - the year in review

As the year draws to a close we are highlighting some of the changes to Australian Immigration in 2015. The appointment of a new Australian Prime Minister, the introduction and creation of the Australian Border Force (ABF) and a renewed focus on compliance have seen a lot of media attention. See below a list of some of the rest of the changes throughout 2015.

March - Changes to the 457 visa following the Independent review into the integrity of the 457 visa programme include:

  •  Exemptions from the Market Salary Rate evidence – from $250,000 to $180,000 (this has since reverted to $250,000 in July 2015)
  • TSMIT has remained the same at $53,900 plus superannuation
  • English Language Changes – changed to average score band and alternative providers added
  • Extension of Notification periods – from 10 to 28 days
  • Standard Business Sponsors are now approved for 5 years and start up business sponsors for 18 months
  • Application form now includes a wider range of character declarations bringing it in line with current Australian legislation

March -RSMS skill policy aligns with ANZSCO requirements.

April – Largest civil penalty to date was ordered this year in the case of Minister for Immigration and Border Protection v Choong Enterprises Pty Ltd [2015] FCA 390, where a hospitality business was fined for breaching 457 visa sponsorship obligations and underpaying 457 visa holders.

JuneReview of the Student Visa Programme – a simplified international student visa framework announced by the Australian Government.

JuneSigning of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement– reducing restrictions for temporary skilled workers, investors and business visitors travelling between the two countries.

JuneTaskforce Cadena was established by the DIBP – a multi-agency operation involving the DIBP (Department of Immigration and Border Protection), FWO (Fair Work Ombudsman), AFP (Australian Federal Police), ASIC (Australian Securities and Investment Commission) and the ATO (Australian Tax Office). Designed to target visa fraud, illegal work and the exploitation of foreign workers.

JulyAmalgamation of the MRT (Migration Review Tribunal) and the RRT (Refugee Review Tribunal) into the AAT (Administrative Appeals Tribunal).

JulyApplication fees increased.

July - Accounting Bodies raised the bar for Migration Skills Assessment – changes to the core knowledge areas for skills assessment for accounting professionals.

July - Skilled Occupation Lists for 2015-2016 were announced.

July - Occupational Ceilings were released for the 2015-2016 Program Year.

JulySignificant Investor and Premium Investor Visa pathways to PR announced.

July – Creation of Australian Border Force (ABF) following the disbanding of Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).

August – Australian Tax Office (ATO) and Department of Immigration (DIBP) Data Matching programme announced.

SeptemberNew Prime Minister of Australia with Malcolm Turnbull being sworn in as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia on 15 September 2015.

SeptemberDIBP no longer issuing visa labels – records now accessed through VEVO service.

September – The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection announced a cap and cease of particular General Skilled Migration visa applications.

September – Australian Parliament introduced a new bill that would make it a criminal offence for a person to receive a benefit, including payment, in return for a sponsorship related event.

SeptemberExpansion of the 462 Visa – an agreement has been reached with the People’s Republic of China to expand eligibility for the Work and Holiday Visa (subclass 462) to Chinese Nationals.

December -Immigration rules change to foster innovation in Australia- changes to the General Skilled Migration points test and a new Entrepreneur Visa have been announced as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

DecemberA new regulation has been enacted in the offshore oil and gas industry that prescribes that foreign nationals, engaged in Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry must hold either subclass 400, subclass 457 or Australian permanent residency visas.

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