AUSTRALIA – Legislative maneuver reverses vote on foreign oil worker visas

  • Australia
  • 09/26/2014
  • BaL Corporate Immigration// Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP

What is the change? In response to a Senate vote Wednesday night that blocked several visa categories for foreign oil and gas industry workers, Australia’s Immigration Minister issued a Legislative Instrument on Thursday to override the vote.

What does the change mean? The Legislative Instrument clarifies the visa status of foreign workers in offshore resources activities.

Implementation timeframe: Immediate and ongoing.

Visas/permits affected: Subclass 457 (Temporary Work – Skilled) visa, Subclass 400 (Temporary Work – Short Stay) visas, Subclass 988 (Maritime Crew) visa.

Who is affected: Companies and foreign workers participating in or supporting offshore resources activities.

Impact on processing times: Unknown at this time.

Business impact: The Instrument provides clarity for the moment, but is part of an ongoing controversy over changes to visa requirements for foreign oil rig workers that is likely to continue.

Background: On Wednesday night, the Australian Senate voted to disallow a regulation that put foreign workers into three visa categories. That regulation, Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Regulation 2014, was intended to quash a more restrictive law put in place by the previous government that would have required a new “offshore resources” visa for those workers. Both measures had effective dates of 30 June.
Following the disallowance vote, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Michaelia Cash quickly issued Legislative Instrument IMMI 14/077 – Determination Subsection A(6) Migration Act 1958 to override the vote.
In a statement, she said the Legislative Instrument has the following effects:
For offshore resources activities involving an Australian resources installation fixed to the Australian sea bed – such as a traditional oil rig – a non-citizen will be required to hold an appropriate work visa, such as a Subclass 457 visa. A Maritime Crew Visa is only valid for work as the crew of a ship.
Other offshore resources activity falls outside the migration zone and, as such, is not subject to visa requirements.
“The Legislative Instrument effectively restores the situation that existed prior to 29 June 2014 – which was in place for the entire duration of the former Labor Governments,” Cash said.
The Legislative Instrument is to take effect immediately and sunsets on 1 October 2024. The instrument states that it is exempt from disallowance and that due to its urgency, it does not require consultation.

BAL Analysis:
The new law restores short-term certainty for the immigration status of foreign workers in Australia’s $200 billion oil and gas industry.
This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact australia@balglobal.com.
MARN: 9683856