July 24, 2014

Uncertainty has dominated the Offshore Resources industry for the past year, since the Offshore Resources Activity (ORA) Act received Royal Assent on June 29 2013. This Act, that was proposed by the previous Government and came into effect on June 29, 2014, amends the Migration Act 1958, providing that a person is taken to be in the migration zone while he or she is in the area to participate in, or to support, an offshore resources activity in relation to that area. In addition, based on this Act a special visa category would need to be implemented specifically for foreigners working in the Offshore Resources industry.

The new Government that has been in place since September last year has taken several efforts to limit and/or counter the effects of the ORA Act. It initially proposed the Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Repeal Bill 2014, but when it became apparent that this Bill would not be approved in time before the implementation of the ORA Act on June 29, 2014, it instead proposed an Amendment Regulation that would at least make the implementation of a special Offshore Resources visa unnecessary by dividing workers in the Offshore Resources industry in three categories, each qualifying for different existing visa categories. This last Regulation was blocked last week on Wednesday by the Senate, further increasing the uncertainty for both employers and foreign employees in the industry.

By a surprise act, the Assistant Minister Cash finally resolved the issue on Friday, by issuing a Legislative Instrument, determining Subsection 9A(6) of the Migration Act, which in effect re-defines activities to be in the Migration Zone only, if they are carried out on an installation fixed to the sea bed. Visas are then required for foreign workers, but existing visa categories apply, such as a subclass 457 visa; a Maritime Crew Visa is only valid for work as the crew of a ship. Other offshore resources activities are considered to be outside the Migration Zone and therefore do not require a visa. Since this legislative instrument does not require assent by the Parliament or Senate, it has gone into effect immediately, ending the uncertainty in one stroke. Without actually repealing it, this Determination has therefore countered all the effects of the ORA Act.

Do not hesitate to contact your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist if you are uncertain if and how this new Legislative Instrument affects you or your employees.