Mullins Migration: Legal Alert – Important Migration Updates Coming Soon!

Australian migration rules are constantly changing, which means the visa system can be a confusing process to navigate. To assist you with understanding these changes, we have summarised the important updates recently announced by the Australian government and the possible impacts on the Hospitality Industry.

Temporary relaxation of work rights for international students to end

International students in Australia ordinarily have restricted work rights.

To assist employers with recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian government introduced a temporary relaxation of work rights for Student Visa holders which means there is currently no limit to the number of hours that a Student Visa holder is allowed to work.

With the economy slowly recovering, the Government has announced this temporary relaxation will end on 1 July 2023, i.e., the work restrictions for Student Visa holders will be re-introduced and capped at the increased rate of 48 hours per fortnight (previously 40 hours per fortnight).

If you employ international students, then it is an important time to review their contract or roster.

Note: International students working in the aged care sector on 9 May 2023 can continue to work unrestricted hours in the aged care sector until 31 December 2023.

 The 6-month work restriction to be re-introduced for Working Holiday Makers

Working Holiday Makers (WHM) are usually restricted to working with the same employer for no more than 6 months, unless an exemption applies or if the Department of Home Affairs approves for them to work with the same employer for a longer period.

In early 2022, the 6-month work limitation was temporary relaxed until 31 December 2022, but has now been extended until 30 June 2023.

Whilst this relaxation allowed employers to address the skills shortage and lack of suitable staff, with migration levels slowly returning and other visa solutions being available, the Government has announced the 6-month work limitation will be reintroduced from 1 July 2023. This means from 1 July 2023, WHMs may only work for the same employer for up to 6 months, however any work carried out before 1 July 2023 will not be counted towards the 6-month limitation period.

If you currently employ WHMs, then provided their visa remains valid, they may still continue to work for you for an additional 6 months from 1 July 2023.

What about the "COVID-19 Visa”?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a special visa stream was introduced within the existing Temporary Activity Visa (Subclass 408) to manage the unexpected global crisis. Subject to ongoing review, applicants for this temporary visa must provide evidence of their employment or evidence of an offer of employment in Australia. The rationale behind this is that visa holders should contribute to the economic recovery of Australia if they remain in the country.

Although there is no longer a global emergency, the “COVID-19 Visa” is still an option and allows visa holders to remain in Australia for up to 12 months – and as it stands may allow a visa holder to extend their stay in Australia if they are working or have a job offer with an Australian employer.

Since its introduction, the requirements for this visa stream have been constantly updated. We recommend that you contact us if you believe this may be an option for your visaed employees or if any of your employees are considering this visa as an option.

Minimum salary for sponsored workers increases to $70,000 from 1 July 2023

Skills shortages in the Hospitality Industry are making it difficult for businesses to recruit and employ suitable staff. Chefs, cooks, and restaurant managers are within the most common occupations to be sponsored on work visas due to staffing issues.

When sponsoring overseas skilled workers, Australian businesses must offer a salary equal to or above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), and that salary must also be within the market rate for the role. The market salary rate is determined by looking at what a business would pay equivalent Australian workers, enterprise agreements or industrial awards, Job Outlook information, advertisements for the last 6 months in the same location, remuneration survey or advice from unions or employer associations.

Most of the time, the actual TSMIT figure is not a key consideration as the salary being offered to the visa holder is above the minimum threshold. Being raised for the first time in a decade (since 2013), from 1 July 2023, the TSMIT will be increased from $53,900 to $70,000 per annum.

If you sponsor overseas workers and believe you may be impacted by the TSMIT increase, then we encourage you to seek advice at your earliest convenience to discuss your options.

Is there anything else we need to consider?

The important migration updates discussed in this legal alert will commence from 1 July 2023, which means there are important time constraints to be taken into consideration within the next few weeks.

The Mullins Migration team is committed to helping you understand the key migration changes to ensure you may adopt the available visa solutions to your advantage whilst complying with the relevant visa restrictions.

If you require assistance with finding novel and efficient visa solutions, we encourage you to reach out to discuss the best strategy for your business.