The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) announced a new set of eligibility criteria and benefits for companies holding Accredited Sponsorship status.
These changes will come into force on July 1, 2016.
Accredited Sponsorship for High-Volume Companies in Good Standing
First introduced in November 2011, Accredited Sponsorship is a program that provides certain benefits to Australian employers that have long-term and exceptionally positive relationships with the DIBP. Those companies holding Accredited Sponsorship are provided with immigration benefits including, but not limited to, priority processing for Temporary Work (Skilled) Visa (Subclass 457) applications and a longer business sponsorship validity period of six years (rather than the standard three-year validity).
New Eligibility Criteria for Companies to Qualify
Beginning on July 1, companies must meet all of the following amended minimum requirements to gain Accredited Sponsorship status [i].
Thus, the company must:
- Be a government agency, a publicly-listed company, or a private company with at least AUD four million annual turnover for the last three years;
- Be an active 457 sponsor for at least three years (with no more than a six-month break in the past 36 months), and with no adverse information (based on monitoring, formal warnings, and sanctions);
- Have sponsored at least ten primary 457 visa holders in the 24 months prior to the application for accreditation. This is a significant reduction from the previous requirement of sponsoring at least 30 primary 457 visa holders in the previous 12 months;
- Have lodged an agreed level of decision-ready applications over the previous two years;
- Hold an application denial rate of less than 3% for the previous three years;
- Demonstrate that Australian workers comprise at least 75% of the company’s workforce in Australia;
- Demonstrate that all 457 holders are employed under a written contract of employment that includes at least the minimum employment entitlements as required under the National Employment Standards (unless an exemption exists for their occupation). This is a new requirement;
- Demonstrate that all Australian employees are paid in accordance with an Enterprise Agreement or an internal salary table reflecting the current market salary rates for all occupations in their businesses. This is a new requirement;
- Provide details of all business activities undertaken by the company’s business. This is a new requirement; and
- Report all Principals / Directors of the company’s business.
Sponsoring companies not currently holding Accredited Sponsorship status, but that now qualify under the above-listed new eligibility criteria may file a sponsorship variation application to be considered for this status beginning on July 1, 2016.
Finally, note that the DIBP will begin an internal review of current companies holding Accredited Sponsorship status to ensure that they meet the current criteria for accreditation. Those companies not meeting current eligibility requirements may face revocation of their Accredited Sponsorship status (to be replaced, instead, by a Standard Business Sponsorship status). The process for any possible revocation has not yet been confirmed by the Australian authorities; more information is expected as July 1 approaches.
New Benefits for Approved Accredited Sponsors
In addition to rolling out new eligibility criteria for this program, the DIBP will also expand the benefits given to approved Accredited Sponsors. Namely, Accredited Sponsors will have access to streamlined processing of nomination applications that meet the following qualifiers:
The nominated occupation is listed as having an ANZSCO Skill Level of 1 or 2; and at least one of the following:
- The nominated base salary is equal or greater than the Fair Work High Income Threshold; OR
- The nominated base salary is equal or greater than AUD $75,000. Exceptions to this minimum salary requirement are provided for the following occupations:
- Recruitment consultant
- Sales representative (industrial products)
- Customer service manager
- Corporate general manager
- Procurement manager
- Quality assurance manager
- Sales and marketing manager
- Specialist manager NEC
- Hotel/motel manager
- Contract administrator
- Information and organization professionals NEC
Beginning on July 1, current Accredited Sponsors will be given the opportunity to apply for and upgrade their sponsorship status in order to access these new benefits. Those Accredited Sponsors who opt out of this upgrade option will continue to receive the current benefits through the end of their sponsorship agreement.
How These Changes Affect You
Companies interested in obtaining Accredited Sponsorship status should take close note of these changes. Not only will the benefits of being an Accredited Sponsor be expanded, but the threshold to qualify for the program has arguably overall been lowered with the significant reduction in the number of 457 visas the company must sponsor in order to qualify for the status.
Current Accredited Sponsors should also take note as they will need to address two primary questions: 1. Does their Australian immigration program still meet the current criteria for Accredited Sponsorship? and 2. Will the company benefit from upgrading their current Accredited Sponsorship status and gaining access to the new benefits?