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Changes to ENS and RSMS - Frequently Asked Questions

The changes to the permanent employer sponsored visas (ENS and RSMS) announced on 9 March 2012 are quite substantial.

This document is a "Frequently Asked Questions" covering the main aspects of the changes. It is based on the information released by the Department of Immigration so far, and there may be further changes prior to introduction of the new legislation.

Please contact Acacia if you would like an individual assessment of how the changes will affect your case.

When will the changes come into Effect?

The changes will affect any ENS and RSMS visa applications lodged on or after 1 July 2012.

If your employer has an approved nomination dated prior to 1 July 2012 which is still within the 6 month validity period for the nomination, this can still be used in the new system.

What are the new Visa Subclasses?

From 1 July 2012, there will be only two permanent employer sponsored visa subclasses, down from the six which currently apply.

The ENS Subclass 186 visa will replace both the offshore subclass 121 visa and the onshore subclass 856 visa.

The RSMS Subclass 187 visa will replace both the offshore subclass 119 visa and the onshore subclass 857 visa.

The Labour agreement subclass 120 and 855 visas will be subsumed into the new subclasses 186 and 187.

What are the new Eligibility Streams?

There will be three eligibility streams for the new ENS and RSMS Subclasses:
  1. Temporary Residence Transition: where applicants have worked with the employer on a 457 visa for the last 2 years.
  2. Direct Entry Stream: for applicants who have not worked in Australia, or who have worked in Australia on a visa other than a 457 visa
  3. Agreement Stream: for applicants whose employer has a Labour Agreement

What will be the English Requirement?

The basic English level for Direct Entry stream applicants will increase to Competent English (6 minimum in each component of IELTS). The current level for ENS is 5 minimum (Vocational), whilst for RSMS it is functional (4.5 average).

For Temporary Residence Transition stream applicants, the English requirement will be 5 minimum in IELTS (Vocational) for both ENS and RSMS visas.

Will There Be Exemptions for English Language Ability?

If English testing has been conducted for the purposes of obtaining a 457 visa, further English tests will not need to be completed. Exemptions for English language ability will apply for:
  • Holders of British, US, Irish, Canadian or NZ passports
  • Gazetted occupations - eg Ministers of Religion
  • Temporary Residence Transition Stream applicants who have studied for five consecutive years at a secondary level or higher in English medium

What will be the new Age Limit?

The current maximum age limit for ENS and RSMS is 45 - this will be raised to 50 under the new arrangements.

Will there be any Exemptions for Age?

Age exemptions will apply for:
  • Gazetted occupations such as Ministers of Religion or research scientists
  • Temporary Residence Transition Stream applicants who have been employed with their sponsor for the last 4 years and have a high salary level (currently AUD 118,000)

What will be the Skill/Qualifications Requirments?

Skills assessments will be required for:
  1. ENS applicants applying through the Direct Entry stream; and
  2. RSMS applicants in trade occupations applying through the Direct Entry stream

In the case of ENS Direct Entry stream applicants, applicants must also show 3 years of work experience in their occupation.

RSMS applicants must show that they have a qualification at the AQF III level or higher relevant to their occupation.

Will there be any Exemptions for Skill/Qualifications?

Skill and Qualification Exemptions will apply for:
  • Gazetted occupations such as Ministers of Religion or research scientists
  • High salary earners (AUD 250,000)

What are the Employer Training Requirements?

ENS employers must meet the same training requirement as currently applies to 457 visas, namely either:
  • 1% of payroll spent on formal training activities; or
  • 2% of payroll paid into a training fund

Currently the ENS training requirements are not as strict as the 457 training requirements.

For RSMS, there is currently no training requirement, and this will continue under the new arrangements.

What Salary Level Applies?

Employees must be paid at the market rate, similar to the 457 program. The current minimum salary level for ENS ($49,330 for most occupations and $67,556 for ICT occupations) will no longer apply.

How Long Does the Position Need to be Available?

The position must be available for the next 2 years.

Which Occupations List Applies?

The occupations list for ENS, 457 and State/Territory Sponsored Points tested migration will be combined to form a single list. This is likely to be composted of most of ANZSCO occupations at skill levels 1-3. This should include managers, professionals, associate professionals and trades. Select occupations will be excluded on the basis of being only available for Australian citizens or where there have been integrity issues in the past.

Most significantly, any applicant with a 457 visa who remains with the sponsoring employer for two years will potentially be able to apply for permanent residence through ENS. This is in stark contrast to the current situation where certain 457 occupations, such as restaurant and catering managers, are not able to apply for ENS visas because their occupation is not on the ENS list. The occupations list for RSMS will be all ANZSCO occupations at skill levels 1-3.

What Should I Do to Check if I'm Affeected?

Contact Acacia Immigration for a consultation. We will provide you with an immigration roadmap which gives you full details of your immigration options, costs and likely timeframes.

If it's in your best interests to lodge before the changes come in on 1 July 2012, we can prioritise your case and ensure that it's lodged on time.

You can give our office a call on 02 9230 0888 to set up a consultation, or make an email or skype consultation.