Australia 2017 Budget: Hefty levies to finance future immigration sector improvements

Australia 2017 Budget: Hefty levies to finance future immigration sector improvements
Just a few weeks after announcing that they will be scrapping the 457 visa program, the Australian government is continuing its overseas worker clampdown through a string of weighty levies.
Starting March 2018, local employers with a turnover of less than $10 million per year have to pay an annual charge amounting to $1,200 if they plan to acquire or sponsor foreign talents through temporary work visas. While those who will choose the permanent visa routes (subclass 186 and 187) will have to face a $3,000 one-off charge to complete their application.  This fee will be payable for each employee sponsored by the company.
For those who are making over $10 million annually, they will be required to pay an upfront fee of $1,800 per worker on a temporary skilled visa. They will also be asked to make a one-off payment of $5,000 for employees acquired through a permanent Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa or a permanent Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) visa.
Treasury Secretary Scott Morrison said that it’s high-time to put more priority to balancing the influx of foreign workers and the need to make local jobs accessible to Australian job seekers. “Skilled migration has always played a significant role in driving our economic growth. Yet it must be on our terms and we must [train] more Australians to secure jobs,” he told the press.
The government said that the levy is expected to hit the $1.2 billion mark after a year, a decent amount enough to finance the new Commonwealth-State Skilling Australians Fund, which will focus on apprenticeships and traineeships in high-demand jobs that are heavily dependent on skilled migration.
All Visa Application Charges (VACs) in all subclasses and categories—primary, adult dependent, child dependent—will also increase starting July 2017. The government said that all existing VACs would be indexed yearly in accordance with the forecast Consumer Price Index (CPI).
For non-Australian investors, they will be subject to a Foreign Investors Tax Levy of $5000 per year should they fail to occupy or lease their Australian properties for at least 6 months in a year.
Beyond levies
The new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa, which will be introduced to replace the 457 visa, will come into operation in March 2018. The new scheme will be made up of two streams—short-term (valid for two years) and medium term (valid up to four years). It will be subject to labour market testing, with applicants required to have at least two years of work experience, a spotless criminal record, and an average or above-average English language proficiency.
In November 2017, a new temporary parent visa will be introduced. A total of 15,000 slots will be made for this route every year, though further changes could still be imposed along the way. This visa route will allow sponsored parents to remain in the country for 3-5 years.
Despite this number, the government stated that the permanent migration programme—which covers all visa types and immigration routes—currently remains unchanged at 190,000 places for 2017-18.
Renewing and extending the new temporary parent visa will also be a bit costly at $5,000 (for three years) and $10,000 (for five years).
In July 2018, it will be harder for new migrants to access Australian pensions as they will be required to stay in Australia for fifteen years to become eligible for the Age pension or Disability Support Pension (DSP).
Overall systems enhancement
The Australian government has efficiently countered criticisms that it is making the immigration segment less accessible by significantly increasing the number of refugees to be admitted to the country for the year 2017-18. An additional 1000 places will expand this number through the Community Support Programme, which will enable individuals, organisations, and entrepreneurs to sponsor humanitarian applicants to the country.
A total of $185.4 million will be invested in various significant endeavours focused on reforming visa processing arrangements. The government said that funding the augmentation of visa framework for economic and migration objectives and existing ICT systems will help the country deliver better services in the near future. It will also pave the way for enhanced verification and screening systems essential in upping security and reducing delays in all ports of entry.
The only thing unclear now is how the charges from the employers and applicants will be deducted and levied. Experts say that it will be payable directly to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection or the SAF, but this, too, needs to be confirmed by the government.

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