In an important development for those planning on applying for an employer sponsored visa under subclass 186 (ENS) or 187 (RSMS), DIBP has confirmed that the introduction of a 3-year work requirement for Direct Entry applicants for the 187 RSMS is planned to be implemented in March 2018, not July 2017 as a previous newsletter from DIBP had said. It is unknown whether the changes will affect applications that were lodged prior to March 2018 but are undecided as of that date.

The introduction of a 3-year previous work requirement for the RSMS Direct Entry visa will make access to that visa far more difficult for certain groups including graduating students who may have little or no work experience. In order for work experience to count as “skilled” work experience, it must generally be undertaken after they have completed the relevant degree or educational qualification for their occupation. The change is expected to impact the availability of graduate workers for employers in regional areas. The ENS Direct Entry visa already has a 3-year previous work requirement.

Other changes for the ENS/RSMS visa programs announced for 1 July 2017 are still expected to be implemented, including increasing the English language requirement for Competent English (IELTS 6 or higher on each band or equivalent test) for ENS/RSMS TRT (457 pathway) applicants, and lowering the age limit to 45 for ENS/RSMS Direct Entry applicants.

The tightening of requirements for the ENS and RSMS visa follow the announcement on 18 April 2017 of the discontinuation of the subclass 457 visa program that is set for March 2018. The 18 April 457 announcements affected all applicants who lodged applications after that date as well as those who had lodged applications prior to 18 April but had not been processed by DIBP. The lack of “grandfathering” previously lodged applications has created a lack of confidence in some who are considering the employer sponsor programs, with businesses concerned about investing thousands of dollars in migration agent and application fees only to find rule changes after lodgement are made to apply to previously lodged applications, rendering some applications unable to be processed. While DIBP has offered refunds of DIBP application fees in these situations, the affected businesses still face a losses of time and money spent on assistance from migration agents. Visa applicants whose applications must be withdrawn in these circumstances may find themselves on a bridging visa and unable to proceed with alternative visas such as partner visas due to the Schedule 3 and other criteria.