Many of you reading will know Doctors who moved to Australia under the 457 visa system. This is where an employer will sponsor the 457 business visa. Your friends may now be Permanent Residents or Australia citizens. Or, they may have returned to their home countries following a rewarding – or unrewarding – experience of working in a different country.
Understandably it is easy to assume that your experience – within a workforce visa context – of moving to Australia in 2018 will be as straightforward. This assumption, my friends, is incorrect. If you are already thinking of or in the process of moving to Australia it is therefore vital that you read this post about changes to the workforce visa scheme.
Please note, I only discuss 457 and the proposed new TSS visa scheme. This article does not refer to skilled migration or any sub-class visas. Please speak to migration agents, consultants etc about concerns or queries around these different visas.
Let me go on a brief self-indulgent tangent to provide some context to the decisions made to the working visa scheme.
The necessity of recruiting its first police force from a pool of inveterate convicts set an historical tone for Australia that reverberates down to the present day.
No entity struggled more with this legacy then the Queensland Police Force where institutional corruption was revealed in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Queensland Police Force’s most illustrious ex-employee is the politician in charge of the government department shaping and delivering immigration policy, Peter Dutton.
Hosting a head shaped like a King Edward Potato, Dutton is the prominent far-right ideologue in the government. This ex-cop has risen through the political establishment like mould up a damp dunny wall. Credit where credit is due though. Dutton must be talented for an ex-drugs cop. He’s skilfully amassed a AU$6million property portfolio on a meagre policeman and then politician’s salary.
Dutton is also the Minister in charge of Australia’s extreme and brutal right-wing policies toward asylum seekers. Asylum seeker debate in Australia triggered the reemergence of racism back into the political mainstream. Asylum seeker policy has been used by politicians from both major parties to dog whistle protectionist and insular views around migration in general. I’m not being radical here, this is mainstream consensus.
Why am I talking about Dutton? Well, primarily it is an opportunity to stick a self-indulgent gratuitous boot into him for the benefit of a wider audience. Also, it is useful to acknowledge the far-right leader of the immigration department to provide context to the changes made earlier in the year to replace the 457 workplace visa with the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS).
In April 2017 and completely out the blue, King Potato Head and his Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a major overhaul to Australia’s workforce visa program – replacing the 457 program with a TSS (Temporary Skill Shortage) visa. Announced without warning and without evident consultation with stakeholders, this announcement took everyone surprised, including yours truly and all medical workforce and HR personnel that I know. My opinion is one of the objective of these changes is to pander to rightwing concerns skilfully stoked up by Dutton and his ilk over the years, about migration levels and maintaining a workforce primarily for Australians.
For Doctors thinking about moving to Australia or for doctors currently in the recruitment or bureaucratic process, it is crucial to reflect on these visa changes scheduled for March 2018.
For many years doctors have been traveling to and working in Australia under the 457. Many are now Australian citizens having transitioned to permanent residency via the 457. The 457 will soon be no more as of March 2018 and there are implications for Consultant/Specialist Anaesthetists as well as those keen on pathways to permanent residency under the new system for everyone else.
Anyway, to the TSS. The TSS will have two distinct “streams”: a Short Term Stream and a Medium Stream.
The Short Term Stream has been developed for employers to plug skill gaps for up to two years with overseas workers where an Aussie isn’t available. To determine which jobs apply to this stream they will use the Short Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) which – the Aussie gov claims – is reviewed every 6 months.
The Short Term Stream can only be renewed once which means a 4 year maximum stay. At Consultant/Specialist level, Anaesthetists have been the only discipline to be listed on the STSOL. I have absolutely no idea why they are on the STSOL. I will be looking at Consultant/Specialist stats in Anaesthesia in the future so hopefully provide some insight on workforce levels then.
Junior/Middle grade doctors going to Australia for 6-12month contracts will also go on the TSS Short Term option as they are listed on the STSOL.
Because they are on the STSOL Anaesthetists or Junior/Middle grade doctors don’t have a pathway to Permanent Residency via the TSS Short Term Stream.
The Medium-Term Stream is the 4 year option for employers. GPs and all other Consultant/Specialists other then Anaesthetists will be offered jobs on this stream. This visa can be renewed more then once. Eligibility for Permanent Residency exists on this stream with very important differences to the existing 457 scheme.
Under the current doomed 457 scheme medical practitioners have an exemption up to the age of 55 for age eligibility for permanent residency (50 for everyone else).
Under the new TSS scheme under the Medium-Term Stream, you can only apply for permanent residency after 3 years on the visa have expired and you must be no older then 45 at time of application. At the moment DDU has no detail around an exemption although I fully predict an exemption for doctors in respect to age and/or regional locations. I recommend keeping an eye out close to March 2018. Please speak to your migration agent, proposed new employer’s workforce/HR team or agency recruitment consultant if you have a query about this.
Please note – you can be over 45, 50, 60, 70 and still be granted a TSS visa (short or medium stream) and have it renewed (only once on short term stream though) the material changes only really impact eligibility for permanent residency.
Unlike in SE Asia or the Middle East there are no working age restrictions in Australia. As long as a service is prepared to sponsor your work visa and each party is happy to renew contracts, you can work until you are 99 if you really want to.
For those over 50 it may be useful stating to hiring managers, recruiters etc when you are applying for a job that you are interested in working in Australia for a period of time rather then seeking permanent residency. This will help to avoid any ageism that develops by those managing a recruitment process. What I mean is unconscious discrimination may develop by those who assume permanent residency is the key motivation of all medical practitioners seeking employment in Australia.
I have a 457 visa already?
The Australian government has stated that you will not be affected by the new system and you will be eligible to apply for permanent residency if you have worked for the employer who is sponsoring you for 2 years EXCEPT if you change jobs or employers and you have been renominated on or after 19th April 2017 then you will transition to the new system and it’s permanent residency eligibility will apply.
I have a job offered to me before 19th April 2017 but expect to travel after March 2018?
Then you and your dependents will under the conditions of the new TSS visa.
Will holders of the new TSS visa be eligible to apply for permanent residency?
Yes, but only on the Medium-term stream after 3 years. Anaesthetists can’t.
Will there be concessions for regional Australia?
Yes, health services in regional Australia will continue to have some flexibility to reflect their skills needs which change annually. Also I have been informed by a contact in Canberra that existing permanent visa concessions for regional Australia, such as fees and providing age exemptions will be retained.
Couple of things to bear in mind. Legislation of the new TSS is planned to go through parliament in March 2018. As such, no details at this stage have really been released and there is a real chance the government might fall prior to March. Either the Prime Minister Truffles Turnbull will be knifed in the back and replaced or a new centre-left government will have been elected. Some of the detail affecting the proposed changes that impact doctors may change – so watch this space. I will update you when I hear of anything.
Remember, this post is to notify you of the changes. Please seek professional advice by contacting a migration agent or lawyer.
Canberra, Australia Social Estate