The Australian Government is introducing new measures to help religious institutions access the skills they need.
Changes to the Minister of Religion Labour Agreement settings will allow religious institutions to sponsor overseas workers under the additional occupation of 'Religious Assistant'.
This broadens visa sponsorship options which were formerly limited to the occupation of 'Minister of Religion'.
Thresholds for sponsoring the occupation of 'Minister of Religion' have also been made more flexible.
Previously, a nominee for 'Minister of Religion' was required to work in a specified location in the most senior position. Under the new measurers, the nominee can work in any senior position.
There are more than 23,000 Ministers of Religion in Australia with this number set to grow over the next three years. The number of religious assistants who support the work of religious institutions is also expected to grow very strongly over the same period.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman said many multicultural and faith-based communities have raised concerns of increasing difficulties in sourcing locally skilled professionals to work in religious institutions.
"These new measures will help address Australia's religious-worker skills shortage," Mr Coleman said.
"Religious freedom is a fundamental tenet of our nation and religious institutions should be supported in their important work."
Sponsors must be a religious institution under the Migration Regulations and provide evidence of Australian business registration and charitable status. The sponsor must also meet salary requirements unless a concession is awarded owing to a vow of poverty being declared by the nominee.
Nominees will still need to meet occupation requirements related to qualifications and skills.
Sponsors will need to demonstrate why the nominated position is unable to be filled by an Australian worker.
Temporary Skill Shortage visas under the labour agreement stream can be granted for up to 4 years.
The new measures will take effect from Monday 11 March 2019.