The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has announced that it will be rolling out a number of changes to the way that it operates its permanent employer-sponsored visa programs.
From July 1 2012 the six subclasses that relate to this type of arrangement will be collapsed into two separate subclasses - Employer Nomination (Class EN) Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) and the Regional Employer Nomination (Class RN) Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187).
This will remove the distinction between onshore and offshore applications and replace permanent labour agreement visas with streams in the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) and Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS).
The DIAC will also be altering certain English-speaking requirements, age limits and the consolidation of sponsored occupation lists.
These changes have been made in response to a lengthy review undertaken by the DIAC in order to bring migration policies closer in line with Australia's economic requirements.
In particular, the new pathways that relate to permanent residency will commence operations at the same time as the SkillSelect program that uses an expression-of-interest system to determine which applicants will be invited to apply for the right to live and work in the country.
The DIAC said that these new programs will be flexible enough to respond to the "short-to-medium" demands faced by local labour markets as they experience competitive pressures from a range of environmental factors.
In addition, the department explained that special measures would be made to ensure that employers in "regional, remote or low population growth areas" of the country would have access to the skilled staff members they need "to manage and grow their operations".
These considerations include competitive application fees, access to a wide focus of skilled occupations, special training criteria and optimised experience benchmarks.
According to the immigration department, these changes serve to recognise the "short-to-medium term demand" for skilled workers, while also recognising the importance of training Australian employees.
Of course, the criteria for businesses taking part in these programs has also undergone some changes - with elements such as full-time positions and a minimum of two-years employment becoming standard across the board.
However, other alterations can be more industry specific, leaving it to employers to investigate their hiring prospects - perhaps with the assistance of an immigration lawyer - in order to determine their best course of action.