Changes to the 457 Visa Program are Coming

Traditionally, the 457 visa has been the visa of choice to address temporary skills shortages in the labour market. Since 2007, many adjustments have been made to the 457 visa framework depending on the government policy of the day.

In September 2014, after a lengthy and extensive period of consultation, an independent review panel released the report “Robust New Foundations: A Streamlined, Transparent and Responsive System for the 457 Programme”, making a number of recommendations to make the system, well, more streamlined, transparent and responsive.

The Government has announced on 18 March 2015 that it will implement many of the recommendations in the Report over the course of this year, starting with the changes that are easiest to make.

For those who practise in the 457 space, the following changes will be particularly pertinent:

  1. The English language requirement will be lowered from 5.0 in each category of IELTS to an average band score of 5.0;
  2. Whilst the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) is to be retained at the current figure of $53,900 per annum, it will not be increased for at least two years;
  3. Subject to further consultation, the training benchmark will be replaced by an annual training fund contribution;
  4. The period of sponsorship validity will be increased to 5 years for established businesses and 18 months for start-ups;
  5. The timeframe for notifying the Department of notifiable events will be extended from 10 to 28 days (this change has already been implemented).

Interestingly, we have now been informed that the labour marketing testing requirement, which the present government strongly opposed (when it occupied the other side of the House) is now being applied in accordance with its terms, when in the past (since the government came into power), the Department had applied a “light touch”. Even so, and despite slowing economic conditions, many employers are still struggling to find suitable Australian workers and have had to resort to the 457 program.

If you need assistance in relation to 457 sponsorships or visas, please email Lester Ong (MARN 0427625) or call 08 9426 6222.