Australia – overhaul of Temporary Activity Visa immigration scheme

Changes to Australia’s Temporary Activity Visa scheme come into effect on 19 November with the intention of simplifying application requirements and procedures.

Melbourne Australia immigration updates
Effective 19 November, Australia will overhaul its Temporary Activity Visa scheme, which provides the immigration route for short-term work assignments in Australia. The changes will consolidate several visa categories, amend sponsorship requirements, and, in many cases, simplify and liberalise application requirements and procedures. In almost all cases, application submission and processing will be completed online.

Temporary Activity Visas in Australia’s immigration scheme 

As the primary route for employers to sponsor foreign nationals on long-term assignments to Australia, the Subclass 457 visa program often receives the most attention in Australia’s employment-based immigration system.However, the Temporary Activity Visa scheme (which includes the popular Subclass 400 visa) brings as many or more foreign workers to Australia each year and provides the immigration route for many Australian and international companies to bring in highly-skilled foreign talent on a short-term basis. Temporary Activity Visas fill the gap between business visit visas, where the foreign national is limited to strictly business activities, and the Subclass 457 visa, which is applicable to long-term work activity. Available in various subclasses, these Temporary Activity Visas enable foreign nationals to engage in traditional work activity in Australia for projects lasting up to six months. With no in-country work authorisation process and relaxed sponsorship requirements, Subclass 400 Temporary Work visas can typically be processed within two weeks, compared to the several months required to obtain the longer-term Subclass 457 visa. 

What's changed? 

Effective 19 November, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) will implement the previously-announced changes to the Temporary Activity Visa scheme aimed at simplifying and streamlining the overall application process. The changes, which also include new faster online application procedures, should make these short-term visas an even more convenient and faster option for companies in short-term assignments. 

Restructuring of the Temporary Activity Visa scheme subclasses

One of the primary changes is a consolidation of the current seven visa subclasses into four new categories. Thus, as of 19 November, the following visa categories will be closed to new applications and their covered activities transitioned into the new visa subclasses:
  • Temporary Work (Long Stay Activity) (Subclass 401)
  • Training and Research (Subclass 402)
  • Special Program (Subclass 416)
  • Temporary Work (Entertainment) (Subclass 420)
  • Superyacht Crew (Subclass 488)
The above six visa subclasses will be incorporated into the following new and amended temporary activity visa categories:
  • Temporary Work (Short Stay Specialist) (Subclass 400) – The current two streams for foreign nationals with “highly specialised” skills and those engaged in work that is in “Australia’s interest” will remain under this subclass. The basic criteria for this category will remain unchanged with no sponsorship requirement, but applications may now be submitted online.
  • Temporary Work (International Relations) (Subclass 403) – The current four streams (government agreement, foreign government, domestic worker for diplomatic/consular, and privileges and immunities) will remain under this subclass and be combined with the seasonal worker programme stream from the former Special Program (Subclass 416) visa. Applications may now be submitted online or through the previous paper-based process.
  • Training (Subclass 407) – This is a new subclass and will replace the Training and Research (Subclass 402) visa, and include two streams: Professional Development and Occupational Trainee. The visa holder will be able to participate in classroom-based professional development activities. In a significant change for this visa, training programs delivered by third party organisations will not meet the requirements of this subclass. The sponsor must now be the organisation providing the training.
  • Temporary Activity (Subclass 408) – This is a new subclass and will replace the Temporary Work (Long Stay Activity) (Subclass 401), Temporary Work (Entertainment) (Subclass 420), and Superyacht Crew (Subclass 488) visas. This subclass will also include the research stream from the former Training and Research (Subclass 402) visa and the special programme agreements stream from the former Special Program (Subclass 416) visa.

Elimination of Sponsorship Nomination Requirements for Temporary Activity (Subclass 408) Visa 

The new Temporary Activity (Subclass 408) visa will not include certain sponsorship and nomination requirements found with many other Australian employment-based immigration processes. Applications for the Subclass 408 visa submitted outside Australia will require sponsor nomination only if the proposed stay is for longer than three months. All applications lodged in Australia will still require sponsorship regardless of the length of stay. Note that some aspects of nomination will be part of the new application form.In addition, the DIBP has indicated that it will be taking a fairly deregulated approach to assessing the proposed activity under the new Subclass 408 visa. The goal of this policy is to encourage more cultural, social, and academic activities to Australia. To that end, the application requirements and process are being significantly simplified. 

Single sponsorship class for Temporary Activity Visa scheme

As part of the DIBP efforts to streamline and simplify this visa scheme, the current six sponsor classes – Long Stay Activity, Training and Research, Professional Development, Entertainment, Special Program, and Superyacht Crew – will be eliminated and replaced by a single sponsor class: the “Temporary Activities Sponsor.” Companies will be able to obtain this new sponsor class through an online application process and, once approved, they will be eligible to sponsor foreign nationals under any of the above-consolidated categories for a period of five years.To provide sponsoring companies time to obtain this new sponsorship class, the DIBP has confirmed transitional measures for this new requirement. Thus, until 19 May 2017 (six months following the 19 November implementation of the new rules) companies that already hold sponsorship status under the previous six categories will continue to be able to sponsor applicants, including Training (Subclass 407) and Temporary Activity (Subclass 408) visa applications, under their existing sponsorship approval. However, from 19 May 2017 forward, all companies must hold the new Temporary Activity Sponsorship under the new framework in order to sponsor the affected visa categories. 

How these changes affect you 

While the scope of the changes from the old framework to the new structure may appear complex, the new scheme is indeed a simplification from the old framework. In the past, some companies overlooked the opportunities available under the Temporary Activity Visa scheme due to the myriad of categories and varying application requirements. With the new scheme, in effect starting 19 November, companies may want to re-examine this position and utilise the simplified structure. The reduction in categories, a liberalisation of many of the application requirements, and a greater reliance on online application submission and processing should make the new scheme more attractive and present opportunities for many companies to offer services on a short-term basis in Australia. However, with the scope of the changes, it is advisable that companies consult with a qualified expert familiar with the Australian immigration system prior to committing to any changes in business strategy or plans. As always, feel free to contact your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist with questions and concerns regarding specific assignments which may be impacted by these changes.

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