DHA has discussed further details of the major changes in the subclass 186 (ENS) and subclass 187 (RSMS) programs which will be implemented at the same time as the introduction of the new TSS visa expected for early March. While the implementation date was not announced, implementation of these changes is expected for early March 2018. Details announced in these meetings include:

Occupation List Changes

As of the implementation date, only occupations on the Medium-Long Term List (MLTSSL) will be eligible for the subclass 186 and 187 Direct Entry stream visas, with limited additional occupations made available for the subclass 187 visa.

Applications for subclass 186 and 187 visas lodged prior to the implementation date will be assessed using the existing occupation list rules.

3-Year Work Experience Requirement

After the implementation date, subclass 186/187 visa applicants will have an overall requirement of 3 years full time, post-qualification paid work experience during the 5 years prior to application (or part-time equivalent), regardless of the applicant’s academic qualifications. Previously for the 187 visa, applicants meeting the academic requirements per ANZSCO could apply with no work experience. DHA stated this would be applied somewhat flexibly.

DHA indicated that work experience gained during Masters/PhD study may be considered, including clinical work. Additional qualifying work may include work gained during a formal Professional Year program and performing arts work experience during study.

This requirement is expected to have a significant impact on the ability of graduating students to apply for a subclass 187 visas.

Age Limit for Subclass 186 TRT applications

As previously announced, the time of application maximum age limit for all subclass 186 TRT stream applications will be lowered to 44 for all new 186 and 187 applications lodged after the implementation date unless any exemption applies.

Discretionary Re-Assessing of Skills

It will be a discretionary power of case officers to require a skills assessment for any subclass 186/187 visa applications in cases where the case officer was not satisfied that the applicant had the required skills for the nominated application. As many 457 (and future TSS) visas require no skills assessment, and as the requirements for many skills assessors go substantially beyond what is required in the ANZSCO minimum requirements, this change could have a major impact on existing 457 and TSS visa holders who apply for the subclass 186/187 visas via the TRT streams.

Discretionary Re-Assessment of Genuine Position / Genuine Need Criteria

It will be a discretionary power of case officers to re-assess the genuine position and genuine need criteria for subclass 186/187 visa applications for cases where the visa applicant currently holds a 457 or TSS visa. An assessment that a position is “genuine” made during the course of a 457 or TSS nomination is not binding upon a future subclass 186/187 nomination.

Transitional Provisions

Provisions for current 457 visa holders to apply for 186/187 TRT stream applications based on non-MLTSSL occupations that still remain on the STSOL list will continue for a limited time to be announced.

Annual Market Salary Rate, Guaranteed Earnings and TSMIT added to 186/187 Visas

Requirements that the nominated guaranteed earnings be at least equivalent to the TSMIT and that the nominated salary not be less than the market salary rate will be added to the subclass 186 and 187 visas as of the implementation date. Previously no formal minimum salary requirements applied to these visa subclasses.

The focus of the annual salary rate will be on guaranteed earnings, which will not include non-monetary benefits such as accommodation and meals. The current TSMIT concept as used previously for subclass 457 visas and going forward with the TSS visas will be used for subclass 186 and 187 visas, as will the requirements that the guaranteed earnings must be equivalent to the market salary rate (called the Australian Market Salary Rate – AMSR) and the guaranteed earnings (GE) must be at least equal to the TSMIT unless an exemption applies or it is “reasonable” to ignore the TSMIT.

It appears that the TSMIT will be applied nationally unless an exception is granted, which may have a substantial impact on regional workers.

DHA May Reject Market Salary Rate Submissions

Submissions by representatives and applicants regarding AMSR may be rejected if DHA has information on market salary rates that conflicts with information provided by applicants or representatives. Specific circumstances cited by DHA included situations where employment ads quoted as representing the market salary rate appeared to be fraudulent or non-genuine, and DHA noted that they may reference Payscale and other sources of market salary rates.

Skilling Australia Fund (SAF) training levy

The SAF will be imposed for 186 and 187 nominations once approved by the Parliament. The levy will be collected by DHA and managed by the Department of Education and Training. DHA indicated that the SAF implementation date may be later than the TSS implementation date and will be dependent on approval of the Parliament. All subclass 186 and 187 nominations made after the SAF implementation date will incur SAF fees payable at the time of lodgement of the nomination.

SAF levies will be payable at the time of lodgement for 186/187 nominations and are payable as a single lump sum. SAF levies are currently set at $3,000 per 186/187 nomination for nominators with less than $10 million annual turnover, and $5,000 per 186/187 nomination for nominators with $10 million and higher annual turnover. SAF levies will not be payable for subclass 186/187 nominations lodged prior to the SAF implementation date.

Refunds for SAF fees paid by sponsors are only available in limited circumstances, including when there is a processing error by DHA or in the case of a nomination refusal, however refunds may not be available in circumstances where a linked subclass 186/187 visa is refused based on health or character grounds.

SAF payments cannot be paid by visa applicants and must be paid by sponsors