Foreign oil and gas workers’ visas thrown into limbo by Senate vote

16 Jul 14

AUSTRALIA

IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? A vote in the Australian Senate has struck down several temporary visa categories for foreign workers in the oil and gas sector.

What does the change mean? The vote blocks a regulation issued by the Australian Government to classify foreign oil workers into three visa categories.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Permanent visas, Subclass 988 (Maritime Crew) visas, Subclass 400 (Temporary Work [Short Stay Activity]) visas, Subclass 457 (Temporary Work [Skilled]) visas.
  • Who is affected: Companies and foreign workers in offshore oil and gas activities.
  • Impact on processing times: Unknown.
  • Business impact: This has a significant impact on business in terms of creating uncertainty at least in the near term about the immigration status of oil and gas industry workers.
  • Next steps: BAL will update clients as information becomes available.

Background: The controversy dates back to a Labor Government law to create a new “offshore resources” visa category for foreign offshore oil workers, essentially tightening regulations on those workers to protect Australian jobs. When Tony Abbott’s Coalition Government took office, it tried to override that law by implementing a regulation that instead classified foreign oil workers into three existing visa categories.

The Senate vote on Wednesday night blocked that regulation. Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash was quoted in The Australian as saying that the effect of the vote was to put any “person who was not an Australian citizen or permanent resident…in breach of their temporary visa conditions if they participated in or supported an offshore resource activity.”

BAL Analysis: It is not yet clear how this development will impact the visa status of foreign workers in the offshore oil and gas industry.

This alert has been provided by BAL Australia. For additional information, please contact australia@balglobal.com.

MARN: 9683856

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