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Confusion expected over offshore visas in coming weeks



Changes are coming to the rules regarding offshore Australian visas, with new legislation coming into effect at the end of this month, while a bill repealing these rules makes its way through parliament.Immigration News

Changes are coming to the rules regarding offshore Australian visas, with new legislation coming into effect at the end of this month, while a bill repealing these rules makes its way through parliament.

This means there could be days or even weeks of confusion. The Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Act 2013 is due to come into effect on 29 June 2014.

Under the Act, every foreign vessel that comes into Australian waters will need a 457 visa for its workers, even if they’re only there to lay a cable as part of a highly skilled work crew.

However, international practice itself does not require these foreign workers (in a highly specialised, very niche industry) to have visas precisely because they are so highly skilled.

As a result, the current government introduced a new bill to make the rules less onerous, but timing means it is unlikely to become law before the other bill passes.

The Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Repeal Bill 2014 has passed through the Lower House and will be debated by the Senate in the coming days. This means that workers will still need to have a visa, but it will be the existing Maritime Crew Visa, so there’s no additional compliance or cost for the time being.

Unless the legislation is repealed, starting 29 June 2014, any person who enters Australian waters to participate in, or to support, offshore resources activity is in Australia’s migration zone and will need to hold an appropriate visa.

The government has recently made some important announcements regarding the types of visas that will be acceptable if the legislation is not repealed before the 29 June deadline.

Vessels that could be covered by the Act include those engaged in pipe laying, supply, tugs, other specialist vessels and floating platforms, both towed and self-propelled.

Depending on the vessel and the activity concerned, the type of visa required will be one of the following; a permanent resident visa, a maritime crew visa (subclass 988), a temporary work (Short Stay Activity) visa (subclass 400) or a temporary (Skilled) work visa (subclass 457).

Those working in the industry are urged to closely monitor the situation in the coming weeks to make sure they comply with whatever law is in place.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association instructs those unsure about the circumstances of workers and visas to consult the AMMA’s registered migration agent, Jules Pedrosa.

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