It’s been nearly two years since the Australian border shut against COVID-19. We have seen many changes to the migration program in response to COVID that have resulted in labour shortages in parts of the economy and government responses to alleviate those shortages.
COVID restrictions have intensified the difficulty of sourcing critical skills by increasing costs, minimizing visa availability, and limiting access to candidates living overseas. Now, we are transitioning to a post-COVID-19 period and change is on the horizon.
The next few months will bring many COVID transitions that you should take into consideration. As restrictions ease here’s what you can do now to prepare your business for the best path forward.
This is the first article included in our new series – COVID Transitions, Key Shifts in Australian Migration – where we examine COVID’s real-time influence on Australian Migration, the impact of these changes on your business, and the best way to prepare for visa changes in 2022.
WHAT CAN BUSINESSES DO NOW? | HOW TO BEGIN PREPARATION
1. Know your immigration options
Understanding which visa opportunities are best suited to your business and candidate in addition to exploring all options at the outset is a good approach. Offering employment on a temporary visa is often the quickest and most popular choice when sponsorship is required for a candidate from overseas, however, we recommend at least canvassing longer-term options to determine if the candidate has a PR pathway. You should also discuss expectations and costs early.
Migrants seek certainty. While visa laws are frequently changed to create more uncertainty, we have found it assists with employee retention if frank discussions are had early so that the business and the employee may plan accordingly.
A migration agent can assist with assessments of visa options, advising as to eligibility, costs, and timeframes. Contact us to speak with a migration agent.
2. Prepare essential documentation for skilled candidates now
COVID has impacted access and processes associated with securing essential visa documentation, including obtaining official documents and booking English tests. Gathering required documents takes time and while this is returning to normal in many places, other countries are still experiencing periodic delays. If you have already identified skilled candidates that are eligible to be nominated for a position, prepare for their visa documents as soon as possible.
Expect potential delays in preparing the following documents:
- Skilled Assessments if required, may take months to process
- Labour Market Testing, as it is mandatory in many cases
- International Police Certificates
- Official documents such as identity documents and qualifications
- Contract Negotiations
Review a more detailed list of essential documentation and how best to avoid delays here.
3. Costs – Determine who is responsible for fees if they are to be shared
A business must pay costs associated with sponsorship and nomination applications. This includes the Nomination Training Contribution Charge (NTCC) and the professional fees of an advisor for most employer sponsored applications. It is an offence to allow a visa applicant to pay fees that a company is required by law to pay, so it is crucial that a sponsoring business understands what is permissible in terms of cost-sharing.
In general, government fees for a visa application may be met by the candidate, including those for secondary applicants. We recommend businesses identify the full costs associated with employer sponsored visas. Costs may add up to thousands of dollars especially if permanent residency is planned at a later date.
A migration agent should advise you of the costs associated with sponsorship and visa applications and advise what cost-sharing is permissible if any.
4. Continue to review legislation changes – alternative sponsorship options may become available.
Stay tuned for legislation changes ahead. Due to the impact COVID has had on the Australian economy, the current migration environment is expected to shift and the government has already announced some changes are coming.
The current skilled migration program is limited, especially in terms of pathways for a permanent stay. As these limitations may hinder Australia’s attractiveness as a skilled migrant destination at a time when Australia is competing with other destination countries such as Canada, amendments are expected though not yet confirmed.
Announcements in November 2021 indicate the health and hospitality industries and migration to regional Australia will be prioritised. Details are yet to be provided.
5. Expect Delays – set realistic expectations with your timeline
Due to COVID, we’ve seen delays in all aspects of the migration program including in processing times. When lodging an application, setting realistic expectations will help to plan for visa outcomes – skilled visa processing priorities are established by Ministerial Direction and you can find out more about how these priorities are organised below.
Priority processing is accorded to applications in a range of categories, including employer sponsored applicants with an occupation on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) and for Critical Sectors.
Flight availability, State and Territory quarantine requirements, border restrictions, and new COVID variations such as Omicron are also considerations that could impact the timeline for arriving in Australia.
Learn more about expected processing times for permanent and provisional skilled visas here.
Interstaff | Over 30 years of visa and migration experience
We encourage you to call Interstaff’s Migration Agents on 01800 449 858, 08 9221 3388 (Perth) or 02 7200 2567 (Sydney) or 03 8319 0902 (Melbourne) or +61 1800 912 042 (International) or get in touch here.
Senate Select Committee on Temporary Migration Report