Introduction of payment for visa legislation

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On 14 December 2015 new legislation was introduced addressing payment for visas activity through criminal, civil and administrative sanctions, and visa cancellation powers. Asking for, receiving, offering or providing a benefit in return for visa sponsorship or related employment is now illegal.

The payment for visas legislation applies to a range of temporary sponsored and permanent skilled employer nominated visas. It is unacceptable for sponsors, nominators, employers or third parties to make a personal gain through a payment for visa arrangement.

New criminal penalties of up to two years imprisonment and/or penalties of up to $324,000 for each instance apply to people requesting or receiving a benefit in return for a sponsorship event. Civil penalties of up to $216,000 may apply for people found to have offered or provided a benefit in return for a sponsorship event occurring. In addition to these penalties, if the people involved in this conduct hold a visa, either temporary or permanent, this may also be subject to cancellation. If visa applicants are involved, their applications can be refused.

Payment for visas undermines the integrity of skilled work programmes, which address genuine skill shortages in the Australia labour market by making employees available from overseas.

For more information about what constitutes payment for visas behaviour including the list of temporary sponsored and permanent skilled employer nominated visas affected, go to:

If you have been a victim of, or are aware of payment for visas conduct, please report it to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection:


Determining Australia’s Migration Program

Australia’s migration program for 2013–14 was announced in May 2013. This sets the number of places available for people who want to migrate to Australia permanently. But have you considered how the Australian Government plans and determines the size and composition of the program each year?

To manage permanent migration to Australia, the government sets annual planning levels, which determine the number of people who may be granted the privilege to call Australia home each year.

The planning levels are informed by many factors, including:

  • social, demographic and economic trends
  • government policies relative to migration and population
  • expected demand for skilled labour
  • estimated demand for family reunion places
  • net overseas migration levels.

The department also undertakes comprehensive consultations with state and territory governments, industry and community leaders to prepare advice about migration levels and inform its submission to government on the size and composition of the migration program for the following year.

In 2013–14 the migration program maintained 190 000 places with a small reallocation of 700 places from skilled to family migration.

The shift in places between skilled and family will result in 128 550 places available in the skill stream and 60 885 places available in the family stream in 2013–14. The remaining 565 places in the migration program are allocated to the special eligibility stream, which hasn’t changed from the previous program year.  

During the past decade the composition of the migration program has shifted towards the skilled component in support of Australian labour demands.  The skilled migration program has evolved into a mix of demand driven and independent skilled migration.

A slight rebalance of the program in 2013–14 will continue to respond to Australia’s skills shortages under a slightly softer labour market, while addressing the strong demand for family reunification, enabling more Australians to unite with their close relatives.

With the launch of SkillSelect in July 2012, the skilled component of the migration program has become more targeted—helping the Australian Government to better deliver the skills Australia needs.

For more detailed information on the 2013–14 migration program go to the migration program fact sheets available on the department’s website.

New visa subclasses announced on the SkillSelect website.



SkillSelect website viewed on ipad

We have just published information about the new visa subclasses that will be introduced under SkillSelect on 1 July 2012. You should visit the SkillSelect website to find out the latest information.

We hope this information will be useful if you are thinking about migrating to Australia and researching your visa options. Further updates on the legislative framework for the visa subclasses will become available in June 2012.

Details on the outcome of the review of the business skills program will be published when they are available. We will provide you with this information as soon we can. Keep checking this blog and the SkillSelect website for updates.

You will notice that the SkillSelect website looks quite different to the departmental website. The new format aims to make web content easy to access and read for all our clients. We would really appreciate your feedback on the new format, so please let us know what you think in the comments.


To help us ensure that we are providing you with the information you want, we would appreciate if you can answer a simple question below in our poll.


Why did you visit the Migration Blog today?

  • 1. I’m an intending migrant, researching my options. (50%, 70 Votes)
  • 2. I’m a visa holder who wants to keep up to date with current migration policy. (22%, 30 Votes)
  • 3. I’m an employer looking for skilled workers. (2%, 3 Votes)
  • 4. I’m an advisor to people seeking to migrate to Australia. (7%, 10 Votes)
  • 5. I’m an Australian Government officer. (8%, 11 Votes)
  • 6. I’m a member of the public interested in migration policy. (6%, 9 Votes)
  • 7. I don’t fit into any of the above categories. (4%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 139

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Regional consultation on Regional Migration Agreements

We last wrote about Regional Migration Agreements (RMA) in July. Since then staff from the Labour Market Branch have been travelling around the country speaking with representatives of regional areas that may be suitable for a RMA. We wanted to get an idea of people’s feelings about the program at a local level. We also organised meetings with representatives from Australian Government agencies, national unions and industry in Canberra and Sydney to brief them on the proposed program and give them the opportunity to provide feedback. 

Broadly speaking, we think there are two labour market environments where RMAs can solve labour shortages. The first is regions experiencing critical short–term labour needs or rapid economic growth where local labour shortages are limiting business activity. The development and ongoing operation of the INPEX Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) project in Darwin is an example of this.

Lady and a kangaroo

The second labor market environment we identified is one where growth is being hampered by short-term inelasticities in labour supply, for example, the strain on industries such as agriculture and manufacturing in the Goldfields-Esperance region of Western Australia, as local workers are attracted to jobs in resources projects in the Pilbara.

With this in mind we travelled to Darwin in the Northern Territory, Broome and Esperance in Western Australia and Gladstone in northern Queensland. Each of these areas is experiencing skills and labour shortages due to labour drain as locals move to nearby construction or resources projects seeking better pay and conditions. What’s left behind are skilled labour shortages that local employers have difficulty filling. In these areas a RMA could be an effective solution to backfill positions and strengthen the local labour market and economy while also encouraging training opportunities and initiatives for locals.

During consultations the main issues we covered were regional eligibility, the skill levels and occupations that will be available, the salary threshold for temporary skilled migrants and the training commitments that will be required.

The strength of the RMA program is its flexibility, which is why we are proposing to steer clear of hard thresholds, such as unemployment or labour force participation rates, to establish regional eligibility for the program. Rather than creating a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model, we propose that eligibility be based on the recommendation and endorsement of the relevant state or territory government. This endorsement will be based on a high level regional scan confirming that labour shortages exist and that attracting and retaining sufficient numbers of Australian workers has not been possible.

Feedback from some stakeholders, such as industry bodies and employers has been very supportive of this flexibility. Others, concerned with preserving job opportunities for Australians, proposed that a RMA be granted only after rigorous analysis to determine that there is a genuine need for overseas workers. This would entail job specific labour market testing and analysis which proves that employers have already made exhaustive attempts to recruit, train and retain local workers.

As mentioned in our previous RMA blog post, one of the major benefits of the RMA program will be that Australian employers will have access to some occupations that are not eligible under the standard program. This reflects a real change in Australia’s skilled migration program from one predominantly targeting highly skilled individuals to creating avenues for semi–skilled migrants. 

For industries such as tourism and agriculture, allowing semi–skilled workers is critical as many occupations within these industries are categorised as semi–skilled and are not eligible under the standard 457 visa program.  

For example, current data from the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism  indicates that in the tourist industry in Broome three of the occupations most in demand now and in the foreseeable future are bar attendants, waiters and café or restaurant managers. Allowing concessions on skill levels may enable tourism employers in Broome to use the program to fill these gaps.

For some stakeholders, especially those representing the tourism and agriculture industries, our proposal to lower the skill level to allow for a broader range of occupations was seen as not going far enough. They called for eligibility for all occupations regardless of skill level if demand and difficulty in employing Australian workers can be evidenced.

In contrast, other stakeholders expressed real concern that lowering the skill threshold would mean that jobs that could and should be done by unskilled or under–skilled Australians would be filled by migrants. Their position is that employers in these regions should be making more effort to recruit and train Australian workers to fill these positions.

We are working hard to finalise the RMA program and plan to release the guidelines in early 2012. Applications from interested regions will be accepted shortly after. In the meantime, let us know what you think. Do you believe RMAs will help to support regional centres and industries? Do you think your region needs a Regional Migration Agreement?

Skilled Migrant Profile— Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS)

Australia relies on skilled migration to meet the growing demands on its health system. Our latest ImmiTV migrant profile features Andrea, a British nurse manager who immigrated to Australia with her husband, Paul, and two daughters, through the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS).

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While attending a Skills Australia Needs event in London, Andrea met a representative from the City of Greater Geelong Council who later helped her secure employment in the Victorian public health sector.

The family have been living in Geelong for more than a year and have thoroughly enjoyed their new life in Australia.  The children have settled easily into school with one of the girls joining a local footy team.  ‘She knows more about the Australian Football League (AFL) code than I do!’ laughed Paul.

They made friends through the local ‘buddy’ system established by the City of Greater Geelong’s Skilled Migration Project, where a skilled migrant family ‘adopted’ them soon after they arrived in the area, answering their many questions about life in Australia.

Andrea is now pursuing a master’s degree at university to further her career as a highly qualified public health professional.

Permanent regional migration visas, including RSMS, are afforded the highest processing priority.  RSMS enables regional Australian employers to sponsor overseas skilled workers for permanent residence in Australia, filling skilled vacancies in their business where the local labour market cannot meet demand.