1. UK citizens and BNO holders – 3-year Working Holiday Visas and no regional work

From 1 July 2024, UK citizens and British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders can now be granted up to three separate Working Holiday (Subclass 417) visas without needing to undertake “specified work”.

To be eligible for a second or third Working Holiday visa (WHV), applicants would usually need to have completed at least 3 to 6 months of specified work. This requirement will no longer apply to UK passport holders and will increase the flexibility of the WHV.

UK passport holders can choose to apply for their three WHV at any time as long as they still meet the eligible age requirement. In other words, they do not need to apply for their next WHV consecutively or while in Australia. Since 1 July 2023, the eligible age for UK applicants is 18 to 35 years inclusive.

If the UK passport holder has already spent one or two years in Australia on a WHV before 1 July 2024, they can apply for the remaining WHV visas under this new arrangement, allowing them access to the maximum of three years in Australia. They cannot apply for more than three WHV visas in total.

Kindly note that the WHV visa conditions still apply to UK passport holders, including the 6-months with one employer work limitation.

2. Work and Holiday Visa pre-application process for China, Vietnam and India

From 2024-25, as outlined in the Budget papers, the federal government will introduce a visa pre-application ballot process for the capped Work and Holiday (Subclass 462) visa program for China, Vietnam and India.

As the program is capped, the ballot process aims to help manage the program demand, fairness and application processing time for these countries. There will be an applicable ballot charge of AUD25 (indexed annually).

3. Subclass 482 requirements – TSMIT increases and superannuation increases

From 1 July 2024, the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) will be increasing from AUD70,000 to AUD73,150. Meaning that the minimum salary to sponsor foreign workers on the Subclass 482 visa would need to meet this new threshold of AUD73,150, as well as the market salary rate for equivalent positions.

The new TSMIT amount will apply to new nomination applications lodged from 1 July 2024. This change will not affect existing visa holders and nomination applications lodged prior to 1 July 2024.

Further to this, the superannuation guarantee will increase from 11% to 11.5% on 1 July 2024 as well. Sponsoring employers must keep this in mind as the nominated Guaranteed Annual Earnings for foreign workers do not include superannuation. In other words, the TSMIT AUD73,150 does not include superannuation. Superannuation increases will need to be budgeted in separately when considering the nominated salary amounts when sponsoring foreign employees.

From the Department’s announcements, they have indicated that TSMIT will be index annually on 1 July moving forward. They will release further information on future income thresholds and their indexation methodology (which they will also use for the new Skills in Demand Visa) later in 2024.

Interesting to note is that the Department plans to reduce the work experience requirement from two years to one year for all applicants from 23 November 2024. With the increase in TSMIT but decrease in work experience requirement, it does raise the question of whether employers, especially small businesses, are willing to offer at least AUD73,150 to foreign workers so early in their career.

4. Changes to visa conditions 8107, 8607 and 8608 from 1 July 2024

From 1 July 2024, major changes to visa conditions 8107, 8607 and 8608 will affect the following visas:

  • Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457)
  • Temporary Skill Shortage visa (subclass 482)
  • Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (provisional) visa (subclass 494)

Holders of these visas have a condition that restrict them to working with their current sponsor. Currently, if they cease employment with their current sponsor, they have 60 calendar days to find a new sponsor to take over their visa, apply for a different visa or depart Australia.

From 1 July 2024, this “grace period” will be increasing. From their employment cessation, these visa holders will have up to:

  • 180 days at a time, or
  • a maximum of 365 days in total across the entire visa grant period.

to find a new sponsor to take over their visa, apply for a different visa or depart Australia.

During this time, visa holders can work for other employers without breaching their visa conditions. This includes work in occupations not listed in their most recently approved nomination application. This change will also ensure that visa holders can support themselves financially while they look for a new sponsor.

The changes apply to existing visa holders of the subclasses listed above, as well as visas granted on or after 1 July 2024. However, kindly note that any periods a visa holder stopped working for their sponsor before 1 July 2024 will not count towards the new time periods outlined above. The current 60-day rule still applies before 1 July 2024.

Unless exempt, a sponsored visa holder cannot work for another employer unless they have ceased their employment with their current sponsor. Visa holders must remain in their nominated occupation while still working for their existing sponsor.

Sponsors must still notify the Department of changes to the sponsored employee’s employment within 28 calendar days. This includes employment cessation, non-commencement and change of duties of the sponsored visa holder.

Visa holders must not do any work that is inconsistent with any licence or registration needed for their nominated occupation. This includes any conditions or requirements applicable to their licence/registration.

This is a welcome change to the previous restrictions and better reflects the current reality of the job market, as well as allows for the new employer sufficient time to not only prepare for the new nomination applications but also review the performance of new employees before making a significant monetary investment to sponsor them. These changes also help address the issues of exploitation of foreign employees and allow them to leave an abusive employer without fear of repercussions or retaliation.

5. Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot (IECSEP) Subclass 403 Visa

As part of the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) have been conducting a pilot program, the Innovation and Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot (IECSEP), to provide new visa opportunities for UK passport holders.

There are two streams under the IECSEP program, aiming to build better connections between Australia and the UK, and providing streamlined visa pathways for early career professionals and experienced innovators from the UK:

  • Early Careers Skill Stream – this stream allows participants to undertake short-term placements, secondment, or intra-corporate transfers for up to one year in Australia
  • Innovation Stream – this stream allows for highly skilled and experienced persons, with a demonstrated record of contributions to innovation, to be granted an Australian visa for up to 3 years.

The total number of visas available under this IECSEP pilot is 1,000 in the first year and 2,000 in the second year. After which the pilot program will be reviewed. The current round for both streams will close at 11:59 pm on 31 Dec 2024.

IECSEP is currently open for applications and is a good option for UK passport holders looking to explore early career opportunities or innovators seeking further opportunities in Australia.

Interested applicants must first apply to DFAT. After DFAT has assessed and approved the IECSEP applications, the successful applicant will receive a support letter from DFAT to apply for the Temporary Work (International Relations) (Subclass 403) visa under the Government Agreement Stream.

Benefits of this program is that Australian employers do not need to be a sponsor for this program. There is no minimum TSMIT salary requirements or Labour Market Testing requirements under this pathway.

Read more about the Early Careers Skills Exchange Pilot Program.

6. Migration Program Planning Levels for FY2024-25

Migration Program Planning Levels for FY2024-25 was released on 14 May 2024, as part of the federal budget. The Permanent Migration Program level will be set at 185,000 places.

Migration Program Planning Levels for FY2024-25

Based on the above comparison, the 2024-25 program has decreased allocations for:

  • Skilled Independent (General skill migration Subclass 189 pathway): from 30,375 to 16,900
  • Business Innovation & Investment: from 1,900 to 1,000
  • Global Talent (Independent): from 5,000 to 4,000

However, there are increases in State/Territory nominated pathway and regional pathways to better support the development of state/territory governments.

The permanent migration program is only one component of the net overseas migration (NOM) numbers, as NOM includes temporary migration (e.g. student visas, working holiday visas), as well as Australian citizens, New Zealanders and Humanitarian migrants.

According to the Budget papers, further government actions are estimated to reduce NOM by 110,000 people over the forward estimates from 1 July 2024. For example, the Department plans to further decrease the NOM by introducing caps to international student numbers. Net overseas migration is forecast to approximately halve from 528,000 in 2022-23 to 260,000 in 2024-25.

7. Temporary Graduate Subclass 485 Visa changes

The federal government has announced several changes to the Temporary Graduate (Subclass 482) visa programs in its recent Migration Strategy. These changes are intended to take effect from 1 July 2024.

The two streams of Temporary Graduate visas will be renamed to align them to the level of study required for each stream. The qualification used to meet the Australian study requirement determines which stream to apply for:

  • Graduate Work stream will be renamed to the Post-Vocational Education Work stream
    • You met the Australian Study Requirement using an associate degree, diploma and/or trade qualification;
    • Qualification must be closely related to your nominated occupation on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL);
    • Maximum eligible age will be reduced to 35 years of age or under;
    • Visa duration will be up to 18 months.
    • Hong Kong and BNO passport holders’ age limit remains under 50 years of age, and their visa duration will remain up to 5 years.
  • Post-Study Work stream will be renamed to the Post-Higher Education Work stream
    • You met the Australian Study Requirement using Bachelor degree or higher;
    • Maximum eligible age will be reduced to 35 years of age or under, unless you are a Masters (research) and doctoral degree (PhD) graduates.
    • For Masters (research) and doctoral degree (PhD) graduates, maximum eligible age will remain under 50 years of age.
    • The “select degree” 2-year extension will cease;
    • Visa durations will decrease to the following:
      • Bachelor degree (including honours): up to 2 years
      • Masters (coursework and extended): up to 2 years
      • Masters (research) and doctoral degree (PhD): up to 3 years.
    • Hong Kong and BNO passport holders’ age limit remains under 50 years of age, and their visa duration will remain up to 5 years;
    • Stay periods for Indian nationals, as agreed in the Australia India-Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI-ECTA), remain as:
      • Bachelor degree (including honours): up to 2 years
      • Bachelor degree (with first class honours in STEM): up to 3 years
      • Masters (coursework, extended and research): up to 3 years
      • Doctoral degrees (PhD): up to 4 years.
  • The Second Post-Study Work stream will be renamed the Second Post-Higher Education Work There are no other changes to this stream.
  • The Replacement stream will cease.

To be assessed under the current requirements (including the maximum age of under 50), applicants must have completed their qualifications and lodge their Subclass 485 visa before 1 July 2024. Applications lodged from 1 July 2024 onwards will be assessed under the new requirements.

For more information, please visit the Department’s website.

8. Student (Subclass 500) Visa – Financial requirement to increase

The Department of Home Affairs may be increasing the financial requirement for a Student (Subclass 500) Visa from 1 July 2024. The potential increase is around 20%, however, no legislative instruments or announcements have been released at this time.

The proposed increase to the financial requirement will increase the barriers to access to the Student Visa program, which has seen a substantial number of changes in the past few months, including:

  • Increase to English language test scores from 23 March 2024
  • Replacing the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement with the Genuine Student (GS) requirement from 23 March 2024
  • Critical Technologies – Visa Condition 8208 and PIC 4003B commenced on 1 April 2024

In light of the abovementioned changes, the upcoming proposed Student Visa caps, financial requirement increases and the visa hopping restrictions, the Department aims to increase the difficulty of obtaining a student visa. While this may dramatically decrease our net overseas migration numbers, it may also detrimentally affect our universities and the education industry, as well as the local businesses that rely on student visa holders as part of their workforce.

9. Restricting visa hopping – restrictions on who can apply for Student Visas

From 1 July 2024, the Department of Home Affairs will restrict the type of visas an applicant can hold when applying for a Student Visa while onshore. This is to prevent the practice of “visa hopping” and reduce non-genuine Student Visa Applications.

Visitor (Subclass 600) Visa holders and Temporary Graduate (Subclass 482) Visa holders will no longer be able to apply for a Student (Subclass 500) Visa onshore.

The complete list of visa holders that cannot apply for a Student Visa while onshore are:

If you hold any of the above visas, you will have to apply for a Student Visa while outside of Australia.

As outlined by the Department’s Media Release, the practice of visa hopping has contributed to a growing population of “permanently temporary” international student cohort living in Australia, who do not genuinely intend to study and are visa hopping to continue working in Australia or until they could apply for other visa pathways.

It is understandable why the Department would restrict Visitor Visa holders from applying for a Student Visa while in Australia. However, restricting Temporary Graduate Visa holders from being able to apply for onshore Student Visas will prevent some genuine students from returning to pursue higher education, such as Masters and PhD studies. Given the increase of Student Visa refusals on highly subjective “genuine student” grounds, this does increase the barrier for students who would like to pursue further studies that the Department deems “not beneficial” to the workforce or career prospects. Furthermore, refusals of visa applications lodged offshore generally do not allow for Merit Review rights, limiting the recourses available for international students.

10. Closure of Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) (Subclass 188) Visa (BIIP)

From July 2024, the Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) (Subclass 188) Visa (BIIP) is closing to new applications, as per the announcement in the budget and as part of the Migration Strategy. The Department will continue to process current Subclass 188 visa applications in line with the migration planning levels for FY2024-25.

The Department is tightening policy guidance and their assessment to ensure that the business migrant applicants have a successful business career and will be bringing an economic benefit to Australia. The Department notes that there has been longstanding compliance and integrity issues with the Business Innovation and Investment visa programs and that the Migration Review found that BIIP is delivering poor economic results for Australia. The Department is currently working on a new framework for business innovation visas and BIIP may be part of the new National Innovation Visa program, to be announced at the end of 2024.

For holders of the BIIP Subclass 188 Visa, if they meet the requirements for the Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) (Subclass 888) visa, they can continue this pathway after July 2024. For holders of the BIIP Subclass 188 Visa in the Business Innovation stream or the Significant Investor stream, they can still apply for an extension of this visa, allowing them more time to meet the requirements for the permanent Subclass 888 visa.

For pending Subclass 188 visa applications, refunds for the visa application charge will be available from September 2024 if they wish to withdraw their visa application. The Department will provide further information on the withdrawal and refund process at a later date.

11. Closure of Skilled – Recognised Graduate (Subclass 476) Visa

From 1 July 2024, the Skilled – Recognised Graduate (Subclass 476) Visa will be permanently closed, as part of the Migration Strategy announcements. The Department stated that this visa program no longer aligns with policy priorities and will be abolished.

This is also a capped and queued visa program and the Department have already reached the limit of visa allocations for the FY2023-24. No further visas will be granted under this program, including for any dependents/subsequent entrant applications. Applicants with unfinalised applications should have received an email from the Department on withdrawal and refund of the Visa Application Charge.

Gilton Valeo Lawyers can answer your questions about Australia’s immigration system

As experts in Australian immigration, Gilton Valeo Lawyers can guide you in identifying the best immigration pathways to bring people over to start your Australian office, provide you with strategic consulting along the way, and connect you with our partners to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Check out everything we offer on our website, or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter!