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After a lengthy review, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has announced that it will be revising the structure the permanent employer-sponsored visa programme.

Announced by the minister for immigration and citizenship Chris Bowen on March 9, the changes will come into effect on July 1 2012.

This date has been chosen to coincide with the introduction of the new invitation-based SkillSelect migration scheme, which will require applicants to first submit an expression of interest to the DIAC.

Made up of the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS), the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) and the Labour Agreements initiative, the changes to the employer-sponsored program are designed to bring it closer in line the Australia’s economic needs.

This will be achieved by making controls more responsive to labour market pressures by assigning the limited placements available to those individuals who “will make the greatest contribution to Australia”.

In particular, the DIAC said that the new measures will be of great benefit to regional communities, where “complex labour market conditions and limited labour supply” can combine to make the smooth running of any enterprise a difficult prospect.
In order to achieve a more streamlined visa submission and review process, the DIAC will begin by reducing the number of relevant subclasses from six to two.

These will be the Employer Nomination (Class EN) Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) and the Regional Employer Nomination (Class RN) Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187).

Inside these new subclasses will be three streams – Temporary Residence Transition, Direct Entry and Agreement – that reflect the nature of the applicant’s situation.
Aiming to deliver a wider scope of applicants, the DIAC will also lift the maximum age qualifier to “less than 50 years”.

On top of this, Temporary Business (Long Stay) subclass 457 visa holders will have access to a new, simplified pathway to permanent residency.

Where the current system has the capacity to make exceptions for applications that do not meet certain requirements, the new program will put in place more objective exemption criteria.

Submissions that contain exceptional outliers in age, skills or English language abilities will be able to make use of exemptions available in both the Temporary Residence and Direct Entry streams and will be calculated in relation to the applicant’s occupation, wage and the length of they have been employed by their potential sponsor.

No changes will be made to the systems used to negotiate exceptions sought under the labour agreement stream – these must be negotiated in accordance with current guidelines.

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