Are you an employer who is struggling to find suitably qualified and experienced workers for your business? Would you like to learn about how to sponsor an employee for a work visa? Work visas provide a pathway to permanent residency for your sponsored worker. There is also an employer nominated visa which grants immediate permanent residence to your nominated employee.
If this sounds like a potential option to help you to fill skills shortages in your business, you may be wondering how to sponsor an employee, including how to sponsor an employee for permanent residency.
Well, the good news is that there are several work visa options available to employers in Australia to sponsor suitably skilled foreign workers in occupations where identified skills shortages are identified.
You may be able to sponsor an employee for a Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa, which provides a pathway to permanent residency after two years via a Subclass 186 Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa. The ENS visa consists of three streams, one of which grants immediate permanent residence to your nominated worker. Or, if your business is located in regional Australia, you may like to consider sponsoring an employee for a Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa. This visa provides a pathway to permanent residency for your sponsored worker after three years via a Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa.
How Can You Sponsor An Employee For A Work Visa?
Standard Business Sponsorship Or Labour Agreement
Well, it depends on the visa being applied for. In some cases, you will need to first apply to the Department of Home Affairs (the Department) for sponsorship approval or for a labour agreement. In order to do so, your business must meet specified requirements.
It is also important to note that sponsoring employers must comply with prescribed sponsorship obligations, some of which extend beyond the term of the sponsorship approval or labour agreement (the standard term of which is five years). A sponsorship application is only required to be lodged if a sponsorship approval or labour agreement is not already in place. If the sponsoring employer is an approved sponsor, then only a nomination and visa application is required.
A labour agreement provides greater flexibility as it enables you to sponsor suitably skilled overseas workers for a work visa in accordance with the terms which are negotiated with the Department in the executed labour agreement (different types of agreements allow for varying levels of flexibility).
There are five types of Labour Agreements, as listed below:
- Company specific labour agreements
- Designated Area Migration Agreements (DAMA)
- Project agreements
- Global Talent Employer Sponsored (GTES) agreements
- Industry labour agreements
One type of labour agreement is a Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA). This enables employers in regional areas of Australia to sponsor suitably qualified overseas workers. A DAMA provides access to more foreign workers than the standard skilled migration programs (such as the TSS and SESR visa programs) because a DAMA operates under an agreement-based framework, thus providing greater flexibility for individual regions within Australia to respond to their unique economic and labour market conditions.
The nomination application deals with the position that is sought to be filled by the overseas worker. Some of the key requirements that your business will need to meet for nomination approval may include undertaking labour market testing to demonstrate that you are unable to find a suitably qualified and experienced Australian worker or eligible temporary visa holder who is readily available to fill the nominated position; nominating an occupation that is listed on the relevant skilled occupation list or in a labour agreement; and demonstrating that the position associated with the nomination is genuine.
The visa application is about the applicant meeting the prescribed criteria for visa grant. This may include demonstrating that they have the required qualifications and/or work experience to perform the nominated occupation; satisfying the minimum English language competency; and meeting an age threshold.
So to answer the question how to sponsor an employee, including how to sponsor an employee for a work visa and how to sponsor an employee for permanent residency, let us now take a look in more detail at the main employer sponsored visa options that are available, as introduced above.
Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage Visa
The Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa is a temporary visa which allows the sponsored employee to live and work in Australia for up to either two or four years, depending on the stream under which you apply. It also provides a pathway to permanent residence after two years if certain requirements are met.
The TSS application process involves three stages, namely:
- As the sponsoring employer, you must apply for, and be approved as, a Sponsor. Alternatively, you may enter into a labour agreement with the Government;
- You must apply to nominate the foreign worker for a position in your business (the nominated occupation must be included on the relevant skilled occupation list or be specified in the labour agreement); and
- The foreign worker must separately apply for the visa.
The above applications can all be lodged at the same time. If your business already has an existing approved sponsorship or labour agreement in place, then only a nomination and visa application are required.
TSS Visa Streams
The Subclass 482 visa comprises of the following streams:
- Short-term stream – for occupations that are included on the Short-term Skilled Occupation list (STSOL);
- Medium-term stream – for occupations that are included on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL); and
- Labour Agreement stream – as the sponsoring employer, you must enter into a labour agreement with the Department.
Some of the main requirements that apply to the TSS visa program include:
- for the Sponsorship – your business must be lawfully operating in or outside Australia, and no adverse information must be known to the Department about the business (or it is reasonable to disregard);
- for the Nomination – the occupation must be listed on a prescribed skilled occupation list or in the labour agreement that you have entered into with the Government, and in some cases, the foreign worker must obtain a positive skills assessment for their nominated occupation. The position which you are seeking to fill must also be genuine and labour market testing may be required;
- For the Visa – the foreign worker must have the minimum qualifications and/or employment experience as specified for their nominated occupation, in addition to two years of minimum skilled employment experience. They must also meet specified English language requirements.
Also be mindful that as part of the nomination application, your business must pay a training levy (this is in addition to the nomination application lodgement fee).
Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS)
The Subclass 186 ENS visa program is an employer nominated visa class granting permanent residence and which comprises of the following two streams:
- Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) – this requires the foreign worker to hold a Subclass 482 visa and to have worked for you (their nominating employer) full-time for at least two years (note there are other specified requirements); and
- Direct entry – this option grants immediate permanent residency.
To apply under the ENS visa program, two applications are required to be lodged in all cases: one for the nomination and one for the visa.
Some of the main requirements that apply include (note these vary depending on which stream is applied for):
- The skilled occupation must be listed on a specified skilled occupation list (under the Direct Entry stream) or in a labour agreement (under the Labour Agreement stream), and the foreign worker must have the minimum qualifications and/or employment experience as specified for the occupation. Alternatively, the nominated occupation must be in the same 4-digit ANZSCO unit group which formed the basis for granting the Subclass 482 visa (under the Temporary Residence Transition stream);
- The foreign worker must be under 45 years of age at the time of application (note there are exemptions to this requirement);
- A positive skills assessment may be required; and
- The foreign worker must have Competent English (there are exemptions to this requirement).
Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) Visa
The Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (SESR) (Provisional) visa is a provisional visa which provides a pathway to permanent residence with the Subclass 191 Permanent Residence (Skilled Regional) visa after three years if the foreign worker satisfies certain criteria at that time. This visa requires your sponsored employee to live and work in a designated regional area of Australia. The SESR visa has a term of five years.
To sponsor an employee under the skilled employer sponsored regional visa program, as the sponsoring employer, your business must meet a number of requirements, depending on the stream under which you apply. There are two streams, namely an employer sponsored stream and a labour agreement stream.
Some of the key requirements to be met to sponsor an employee under the employer sponsored stream include the following:
- your business must be an approved standard business sponsor and an Australian business;
- you must demonstrate that the nominated position is genuine, full-time and likely to exist for five years;
- the sponsored worker must be engaged as an employee under a written contract of employment (unless an exemption applies)
- the nominated position must be located in a designated regional area of Australia;
- the nominated occupation must be on the prescribed skilled occupation list;
- Labour Market Testing must be undertaken (unless an exemption applies);
- you must demonstrate that the Annual Market Salary Rate (AMSR) is at least equal to or greater than the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT);
- you must demonstrate that the nominated annual earnings of your sponsored employee will not be less than the AMSR, and will be equal to or greater than the TSMIT;
- an independent body (called a Regional Certifying Body or RCB) must confirm that the sponsored employee will be paid at least the AMSR;
- a Skilling Australian Fund (SAF) levy applies ($3,000 if your business turnover is less than $10 million, and $5,000 payable is for businesses with a turnover above this threshold); and
- the terms and conditions of employment for your sponsored employee must be no less favourable than for Australian employees.
The labour agreement stream is for employers in regional Australia who have a labour agreement with the Government to source skilled overseas workers to work in an occupation specified in the labour agreement for five years. As with the employer sponsored stream, Subclass 494 visa holders under this stream are also eligible to apply for permanent residence after three years.
The key requirements that the sponsored employee must satisfy to be eligible for a subclass 494 skilled employer sponsored regional visa are that they must:
- they must be aged under 45 years at time of application (unless an exemption applies or in accordance with the labour agreement);
- have a positive skills assessment for a skilled occupation on the relevant skilled occupation list (unless an exemption applies or as specified in the labour agreement);
- have a minimum of three years employment experience in the nominated occupation on a full-time basis and at the skill required for the occupation (unless an exemption applies or as specified in the labour agreement); and
- have a minimum level of Competent English (unless an exemption applies or as specified in the labour agreement).
As discussed above, a labour agreement enables approved businesses to sponsor skilled overseas workers when there is a demonstrated need that cannot be met in the Australian labour market and the standard temporary or permanent visa programs are not available. Labour agreements are not aimed for wide application but rather, are designed to be used in limited or exceptional circumstances where the standard skilled visa programs are not available. It applies to the following skilled migration visas:
- Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa;
- Subclass 186 Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa; and
- Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) (SESR) visa.
To learn more about how to sponsor an employee under a labour agreement, including how to sponsor an employee for a work visa and how to sponsor an employee for permanent residency under a labour agreement, please refer to our article on the Labour Agreement Visa.
Company Specific Labour Agreement
The company-specific labour agreement is designed for an employer where:
- a genuine skills need is not already covered by an industry labour agreement;
- a DAMA or project agreement is not in place; and
- the occupation/s in shortage are not already available under the standard skilled visa programs, unless the business can demonstrate a strong and compelling business case.
Designated Area Migration Agreement
A Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) is a type of labour agreement which is executed between the Commonwealth and a State or Territory Government for the purpose of enabling an employer to sponsor skilled or semi-skilled overseas workers for positions in a defined regional area which cannot be filled from within the local labour market.
Each DAMA covers a defined regional area of Australia and is based on a two-stage process. At the first stage, a five-year deed of agreement (or head agreement) is executed between the Commonwealth Government and the region’s representative (called a Designated Area Representative or DAR). Each DAMA contains a range of occupations as well as agreed to terms and concessions for skilled visa eligibility criteria, as negotiated between the parties to the agreement.
At the second stage, businesses in the specified region may seek individual DAMA labour agreements under the head agreement terms and concessions. Individual DAMA labour agreements are between the Australian Government and endorsed employers/businesses operating within the relevant designated region. Employers must first apply for and be granted endorsement from the DAR before lodging a labour agreement request with the Department.
Where a DAMA labour agreement is approved, the business will be able to nominate and sponsor skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers for certain occupations (each DAMA head agreement covers a specified range of occupations).
DAMAs ensure that employers recruit Australian citizens and permanent residents as a first priority. Employers must therefore demonstrate that they have made a genuine attempt to hire Australians before getting access to a DAMA labour agreement.
South Australian DAMAs
The following two DAMAs are currently in force in South Australia:
- The Adelaide City Technology and Innovation Advancement Agreement – this covers the Adelaide metropolitan region and focuses on Adelaide’s high-tech growth industries, with occupations in the defence, space, advanced manufacturing and technology industries; and
- The South Australian Regional Workforce Agreement – this covers the entire state of South Australia, with occupations in the regional high growth industries in agribusiness, forestry, health and social services, aged care, hospitality, tourism, mining and the construction sectors.
A project agreement is designed for project companies that are experiencing genuine skill shortages during the construction phase of resource or infrastructure projects.
To establish a project agreement, a project company must first negotiate an overarching deed of agreement with the Department. Individual labour agreements are then negotiated by the Department directly with employers.
Global Talent Employer Sponsored Agreements
The Global Talent Employer Sponsored (GTES) program enables employers to sponsor overseas workers for highly-skilled niche positions that cannot be filled by Australian workers through other standard visa programs. The program aims to bring globally mobile, highly-skilled and specialised individuals to Australia who can act as ‘job multipliers’ in Australian businesses, helping them to hire more local staff and fill critical areas of need.
Before the Department enters into a GTES agreement, a business must be able to demonstrate that they cannot fill the position through existing skilled visa programs. Once a GTES agreement is executed, the business can sponsor suitably qualified overseas workers for a TSS visa under the GTES.
To learn more about how the GTES program works, including how to sponsor an employee for a work visa and how to sponsor an employee for permanent residency under this program, please refer to the following articles:
These are agreements for a specific industry with fixed terms and conditions. In order to establish an industry labour agreement, the specified industry needs to demonstrate ongoing labour shortages and extensive consultation within the industry. The following industry agreements are currently in place:
- Minister of Religion
- Restaurant (premium dining)
The Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement increases access to skilled and semi-skilled migrant workers for the horticulture industry where appropriately qualified Australians are not available.
We recommend that you refer to our article on the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement And Visas to learn more about how to sponsor an employee under the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement, including how to sponsor an employee for a work visa and how to sponsor an employee for permanent residency.
If you are looking at sponsoring workers in your business, you may also consider applying to become an accredited sponsor provided that your business meets the eligibility requirements (these are in addition to those that apply for a standard business sponsorship). The aim of the sponsorship accreditation process is to identify low risk entities, which are businesses that have a long history of good dealings with the Department by lodging a high volume of good quality applications that are decision-ready and are in compliance with relevant laws.
Sponsors that receive accredited status are rewarded with priority processing for all nomination and visa applications lodged under the following employer sponsored skilled visa programs:
- Subclass 482 Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa; and
- Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (SESR) (Provisional) visa.
As an accredited sponsor, your subclass 482 and 494 applications will be processed ahead of other non-accredited nomination and visa applications, in most cases within 5 business days.
Sponsors who were accredited on or after 1 July 2016 also receive streamlined processing of certain low-risk TSS and SESR nominations. In this case, certain nomination provisions can be satisfied based on a certification made on the nomination form, as well as additional documents and information provided at the sponsorship application/accreditation approval process.
You can learn more about how to become an accredited sponsor under the TSS and SESR visa programs in our article on the Business Requirements For Accredited Sponsorship, in which we outline the sponsorship accreditation requirements, how to apply for accredited sponsorship, accredited sponsor conditions and how character references from the sponsor can replace overseas police clearances that would otherwise be required from the visa applicant.
All employers who sponsor overseas workers under the Subclass 482 Skill Shortage (TSS) visa and Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa programs must comply with a number of sponsorship obligations. These are designed to ensure that:
- the working conditions of sponsored workers meet Australian workplace standards;
- sponsored workers are not exploited by their sponsors; and
- visa programs are used for their intended purpose.
If any of these obligations are not met, the Department can issue penalties. It must also publish details of any approved sponsor or former approved sponsor that fails to satisfy a sponsorship obligation and has had sanction action imposed.
It is therefore very important before you embark on the process of applying to sponsor workers in your business, that you have a full understanding of what obligations you will be subject to as an employer sponsor
We recommend that you refer to our 482 Visa Employer Obligations article, in which we discuss an employer’s sponsorship obligations and the sanctions that may be imposed for non-compliance with sponsorship obligations (note that the sponsorship obligations discussed in our article referred to above also apply to employer sponsors under the Subclass 494 Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa program.
Get More Information
Skilled Visa Options For Selected Occupations
Please refer to our series of articles on the skilled visa options that are available for selected occupations below:
Designated Area Migration Agreement
For further information on the DAMA in South Australia, please see the following articles:
Employer Sponsored Regional Visa
For further information on the subclass 494 regional employer sponsored visa, please see the following articles:
Employer Sponsored Visa
To learn more about an employer sponsorship visa, please see the following articles:
To learn more about applying for a skilled visa, please see the following articles:
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In conclusion, we note that the above discussion provides an overview about how to sponsor an employee, including how to sponsor an employee for a work visa and how to sponsor an employee for permanent residency. We also provide links to further information so that you can learn more about how to sponsor an employee in your business.
Australia’s migration laws are complex, and each case is different. We recommend that you seek professional advice if you are seeking to sponsor workers in your business, as being fully informed will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your case. A migration professional can help you to do this.
For up to date advice on how to sponsor an employee, including how to sponsor an employee for a work visa and how to sponsor an employee for permanent residency, book your confidential consultation with a migration agent in Adelaide. PAX Migration Australia is a leading immigration advice service based in Adelaide.