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Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) Levy - Your Questions Answered

Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) Levy - Your Questions Answered

We are here to answer your questions about the Skilling Australians Fund levy


An Introduction to the Skilling Australia Fund program
What is the SAF levy?
Where did the SAF levy come from?
Does the SAF levy apply to me?
Am I exempt from having to pay the SAF levy?


Cessation of Employment

What if my employee leaves?
Loss of levy
Who can I contact about unfair loss of SAF levy?


A variety of Australian businesses, big and small, have been using the TSS visa 482
and other programs to fill staff shortages in their business with overseas workers. 

A big part of the cost analysis for this is the Skilling Australians Fund levy.

We’ve collated some answers to some pressing questions you likely have if you:

  • Are looking at using an employer nomination scheme pathway for your business,
  • Are going to be asking your employer (or a business you might be interviewing with soon!) to sponsor you, and need to be ready to explain what’s involved for them, or
  • Have applied to sponsor a worker for your business, but have been refused.

You can watch a section about the SAF levy from a video by our principal solicitor and migration agent Chris Johnston here on:

An Introduction to the Skilling Australia Fund program

What is the SAF levy?

The Skilling Australians Fund levy Nomination training contribution charge (referred to generally as the “SAF levy”) is a charge to be paid
by employers who are sponsoring overseas workers to fill positions in their business. This levy goes into the Skilling Australians Fund,
which is a fund used to support training programs and initiatives for Australians.

The SAF levy replaces the old “training benchmark” system which previously applied to employer-sponsored visa programs.


Where did the SAF levy come from? (A history of the SAF levy)

On 22 May 2018, the Migration (Skilling Australians Fund) Charges Act 2018 was assented to, which included the details of the SAF levy.

The amounts for the SAF levy were later set in the Migration (Skilling Australians Fund) Charges Regulation 2018. 

The SAF levy came into effect from 12 August 2018.

The charges regulation was updated on 16 November 2019 to include the fees for the 494 visa.


Does the SAF levy apply to me?

skilled workers in Australia

The SAF applies to all nomination applications lodged on or after 12 August 2018 for the following visa subclasses:

This is subject to very limited exceptions (see below).


Am I exempt from having to pay the SAF levy?

The SAF levy does not apply to the occupations of 272211 Minister of Religion and 451816 Religious Assistant where the application
is a Labour Agreement stream nomination under the TSS 482 and ENS 186 programs.

This is the only exemption from the requirement to pay the SAF levy.


Paying the SAF levy

How much SAF levy do I need to pay?

The amount of SAF Levy which you need to pay depends upon:

  • Visa subclass being nominated
  • The business’ annual turnover for the most recently completed financial year
  • Number of years nominating (for the TSS 482 visa only)

The table below sets out the amounts of SAF levy to be paid in different circumstances:

Nomination program subclass Duration proposed in nomination application (years) Contribution for the business with less than $10million annual turnover Contribution for businness with $10million annual turnover or more
Subclass 482 1 $1,200 $1,800
Subclass 482 2 $2,400 $3,600
Subclass 482 3 $3,600 $5,400
Subclass 482 4 $4,800 $7,200
Subclass 187 - $3,000 $5,000
Subclass 186 - $3,000 $5,000
Subclass 494 - $3,000 $5,000









You may be required to pay a credit card surcharge on top of these.

Does the SAF levy apply to a DAMA TSS visa?

Yes, as the DAMA program enables applications under the TSS 482 visa, 494 visa and ENS 186 visa programs labour agreement streams, the SAF still needs to be paid.

The only exemption to this is Ministers of Religion and Religious assistants.

The SAF levy applies to all streams of the following visa subclassess:

  • TSS 482 visa,
  • ENS 186 visa,
  • RSMS 187 visa, and
  • 494 visa

Does the SAF levy apply to a Global Talent Employer Sponsored (GTES) TSS visa?

Yes, the SAF levy must be paid for GTES.
This is because the GTES program is under the TSS visa’s labour agreement stream.
Only the occupations 272211 Minister of Religion and 451816 Religious Assistant are exempted from paying the SAF levy under the labour agreement stream.


Where does the SAF levy go?

The Skilling Australians Fund is used to support the training of Australians.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (“DESE”) allocates money from the SAF to projects which aim to grow the number of apprenticeships and traineeships for Australian citizens and permanent residents.

The policy behind its introduction is to allow Australians to be trained to fill skills shortages, funded in part by those who need to fill these shortages in a shorter timescale.

For the 2018-2019 period, DESE has indicated that the SAF has achieved:

    • More “fee free” apprenticeships in New South Wales
    • Additional incentives for the building of small businesses in Western Australia
    • Development and trial of a new traineeship program in South Australia dealing with disability care industry and digital industry
    • In Tasmania, the creation of new pathways to beginning an apprenticeship
    • Collaboration with industry in the ACT
    • Rollout in the Northern Territory of a training-related grants program


Can the worker pay the SAF levy?


The SAF levy must be paid by the business itself only.

The visa applicant cannot pay the SAF levy cost for the business.
This is required under the legislation and breaches of this can lead to sanctions,
including bars on sponsorship and financial penalties.


Can I get a return of service or clawback for the SAF levy and have the employee pay the business back for the SAF levy if they leave?

No, this is a cost which must be paid by the employer and, even if they leave ahead of the agreed period of service,
you cannot request the worker pay you for any portion of this.


When do I need to pay the SAF levy?

The SAF levy is required to be paid at the time of lodging your nomination application. 
If the SAF levy is not paid, the nomination cannot be lodged.


Can I pay the SAF levy after lodging? Can I pay the SAF levy in instalments?

No, Unfortunately, there are no arrangements for the SAF levy to be paid after the nomination is lodged.
There is also no ability to set up a payment plan.


Can I change the number of years of SAF levy for a TSS nomination later?

No, If you wish to obtain further years of sponsorship for a TSS later, you need to undergo both the nomination and visa application stages.
It is not as simple as paying the other years of the SAF levy.

In some circumstances, it can be beneficial to apply for the maximum number of years you might need, to avoid additional expenses and difficulties in the future.


How much SAF levy do I pay if I am sponsoring an existing 457 or 482 visa-holder?

If you are nominating a prospective worker who already holds a 457 visa or a TSS subclass 482 visa so that they can work for your business
instead of their current sponsor, you are required under policy only to pay one year of the Skilling Australians Fund Levy.

This is regardless of the number of years remaining on the prospective workers visa.

Cessation of Employment

What if my employee leaves? 

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You are required under your sponsorship obligations to notify the Department of Home Affairs of this. The impact of this is different depending on the visa sponsored.
For the TSS visa, you can seek a refund of some of the SAF levy. See below for further details on this.For the other programs, you cannot request a refund.

Ceasing employment can have significant impacts for the visa holder, including visa cancellation.
You cannot ask for them to pay back any of the SAF levy costs when they leave.

Refunds of the SAF levy

Can I get the SAF levy refunded?

Only in very limited circumstances. Please see below for more detail.

If your employee ceases employment (or fails to commence employment), you can request a refund of the SAF paid for any years in which the employee did not work.

For example, if you have sponsored a Diesel Mechanic for 3 years on a TSS visa, the mechanic works for 9 months before leaving. You can seek to have 2 years of the SAF ($2,400 or $3,600, depending on the business’ turnover at time of nominating) refunded. The SAF for the first year, of which the employee worked 9 months, cannot be refunded.

My nomination was refused, can I get a SAF levy refund?

Unfortunately not.This is not a prescribed circumstance for refund of the SAF levy.

If your nomination application is refused, the Department does not refund your SAF levy contribution.

This means that it is especially important in the age of the SAF to ensure all requirements for the application are met at the time of lodging,
such as the Labour Market Testing requirement, a common basis for nomination refusal.


I need to withdraw my TSS 482 nomination application, can I get a SAF levy refund?

This is available in certain circumstances.

If you withdraw your nomination:

  • After your standard business sponsorship application is refused or withdrawn
  • Before a decision is made on your request for a labour agreement
  • After negotiations for a labour agreement have failed

If you withdraw the nomination otherwise, the SAF levy will not be refunded.

My sponsored worker never started work, can I get a SAF levy refund?

My sponsored employee ceased work before the end of their visa, can I get a SAF refund?
My nomination application was refused, can I get a SAF refund?

For example: you sponsor a cook to travel to Australia and work in your restaurant.
You have sponsored them under the TSS subclass 482 program for a 2-year visa. Everything is going well and all 3 stages are approved
(Standard Business Sponsorship, TSS Nomination and the TSS visa). 2 weeks after the decisions, the cook emails you to say they have
changed their mind and will be going to Canada where their cousin lives.

As the cook will no longer be joining your restaurant, the Skilling Australians Fund levy can be refunded.

My sponsored worker left before the visa was finished, can I get a SAF levy refund?

When a sponsored worker ceases employment before the sponsorship period has ended, you can have the SAF levy refunded for any years of sponsorship in which they did not work.
If the sponsored worker worked for part of a sponsorship year (even for only one day of that year) you are not able to have the SAF levy cost relating to that year refunded.

For example: you have sponsored an Electrical Linesworker who is a member of your time because their visa will be expiring soon
and you would not be able to replace them from the Australian labour market. You sponsor them for the full 4 years available for this occupation.

Your turnover is under $10 million and you pay a Skilling Australians Fund levy contribution of $4,800.

The linesworker continues to work for your business after the visa is granted for a period of 14 months before leaving to pursue an opportunity
with a different business. As the linesworker worked for parts of years 1 and 2 (out of 4), but did not work at all in years 3 and 4, you can request a refund for $2,400 of the SAF levy paid.

My sponsored worker was refused their TSS 482 visa, can I get a SAF levy refund?

Only if their visa is refused on the basis of:

  • S 501 of the Migration Act (Character concerns, such as criminal convictions), or
  • not meeting Public Interest Criterion:
    • 4001,
    • 4002,
    • 4003,
    • 4007, or
    • 4020.

If the worker’s visa application is refused because they do not meet the skills or English requirements (for example), you are not able to have the SAF levy refunded to you.

 Can I get my costs other than my SAF levy refunded (such as nomination application charge)?

If your nomination is refused, the nomination application charge cannot be refunded.
If you withdraw the nomination application, you may be able to have the nomination application charge refunded.

How long does a SAF levy refund take?

Unfortunately, the Department of Home Affairs does not provide statistics on timing for SAF levy refunds.


Loss of Levy

Who can I contact about unfair loss of SAF levy?

If the nomination is refused, the SAF levy is not refunded.

If this has happened to you and you would like to express yourself on this issue, you may wish to:

We note that none of the above listed persons have the power to appeal or reassess the decision you have received. The correct process for appealing a negative outcome is through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

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