March 22, 2013

As part of the ongoing efforts of Australia’s Department of Immigration & Citizenship (DIAC) to simplify the immigration structures within the country, the department has announced that they will consolidate and reclassify several temporary visitor visa subclasses. In addition, authorities will introduce a new Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) (Subclass 400) visa program that will allow applicants to engage in “short-term, non-ongoing, highly specialized work” in Australia.

These changes are scheduled to go into effect on 23 March 2013.

Streamlining Temporary Visitor Visas

In an attempt to simplify Australia’s immigration systems, the DIAC plans to reduce the number of visitor visa subclasses by at least 50 percent by 2015. In order to do so, many of the current subclass designations will be repealed and consolidated in rolling stages. Please note that major changes to visa processing steps and procedures are not expected.

As of 23 March 2013, the changes to Australia’s Temporary Visitor Visa stream will be as follows:

The following four (4) visa categories will be repealed and replaced with the new Visitor (Subclass 600) visa:

  1. Tourist (Subclass 676)
  2. Sponsored Family Visitor (Subclass 679)
  3. Business Short Stay (Subclass 456)
  4. Sponsored Business Visitor (Subclass 459)

The following three (3) visa categories will be repealed and replaced with the new Electronic Travel Authority (Subclass 601) visa:

  1. ETA Visitor (Subclass 976)
  2. Business Entrant – Short Validity (Subclass 977)
  3. Business Entrant – Long Validity (Subclass 956)

The following two (2) visa categories will be repealed and replaced with the new Medical Treatment (Subclass 602) visa:

  1. Medical Treatment – Short Stay (Subclass 675)
  2. Medical Treatment – Long Stay (Subclass 685)

Strengthening the Definition of Business Activities

Traditionally, business visa holders in Australia were authorized to conduct very specific, short-term work (often of a technical nature) in strictly limited circumstances; however, the same allowances are no longer permitted under either the Visitor (Subclass 600) or the Electronic Travel Authority (Subclass 601) visa statuses.

Under the new regulations, Subclass 600 and Subclass 601 visa holders must limit their activities to more stringent parameters laid out by the DIAC. Thus, acceptable business activities must be limited to discussion-style meetings, entering into or negotiating contracts, or for exploratory business visits.

If the applicant’s activities in Australia will exceed the above permissible business activities in any way, he or she will now be required to apply for a Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) (Subclass 400) visa, or the traditional Temporary Work (Skilled) (Subclass 457) visa.

Temporary Work (Short Stay Activity) (Subclass 400) Visa

Primarily, the new Subclass 400 visa offers a short-term work visa that further designates the difference between business activities and undertaking work in Australia. In other words, the Subclass 400 visa will allow foreign nationals to engage in “short-term, non-ongoing, highly specialized work,” without an employer needing to obtain a longer-term Subclass 457 visa. The DIAC hopes that this short-term work visa option will reduce the prevalence of unauthorized work activities being performed by business visa holders.

Examples of this “highly specialized” work would include, but not be limited to, installation of imported equipment at client sites, after-sales service, or emergency repair work.

The new Subclass 400 visa will typically be issued valid for six (6) weeks; however, the DIAC has confirmed that the visa may be issued valid for three (3) months in exceptional circumstances. Work activities that will be ongoing beyond these timeframes, or work that is not of a nature permitted for this visa category, will require a traditional Subclass 457 work visa.

ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS

Generally, employers need to be aware of the upcoming changes on 23 March 2013. These changes affect very high-volume Australian visa classifications, especially business visitors. As with any implementation of new regulations and visa types, processing times for these applications may be delayed as the authorities streamline their procedures and requirements.

In addition, at the time of this writing, immigration providers are still awaiting confirmation from the DIAC as to the specific document requirements and details for these applications. Pro-Link GLOBAL will provide detailed updates as to any requirement changes as they are made available.

Finally, it is not expected that these new policies, specifically the stronger designation between business and work activities, will be applied retroactively; however, employers should begin ensuring that any visa applicants as of 23 March 2013 adhere to the new regulations.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change a moment’s notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by SooHyung Smit, Coordinator, Knowledge Management. Pro-Link GLOBAL worked with our PLG | KGNM Correspondent Office in Australia to provide you this update.

Information contained in this Global Brief is prepared using information obtained from various media outlets, government publications and our KGNM network of immigration professionals. Written permission from the copyright owner and any other rights holders must be obtained for any reuse of any content posted or published by Pro-Link GLOBAL that extends beyond fair use or other statutory exemptions. Furthermore, responsibility for the determination of the copyright status and securing permission rests with those persons wishing to reuse the materials. Interested parties are welcome to contact the Knowledge Management Department (km@pro-linkglobal.com) with any additional requests for information or to request reproduction of this material.