New 457 Visa Scheme Changes Planned

After a full independent review of the Australian skilled migration program in Australia, the government has announced some changes to the subclass 457 visa program. The media has done a poor job in communicating these changes, and the 457 visa compared website has been flooded with concerns. To clarify the new changes the key details are listed below.

1) Streamlining Of Most 457 Visa Applications (to shorten waiting times)

The average waiting time for a ‘ low risk’ 457 visa applicant is two months. This is much longer than most other temporary subclass visas and can be an extremely frustrating wait for both the applicant and employer. The Australian government has committed to streamline this process to make it quicker and easier for all parties. This will free up resources for the Department of Immigration which will then refocus on ‘high risk’ applications from countries that that do not issue ETA eligible passports.

ETA Countries For 457 Visa Holders

For those applicants from ‘high risk’ countries, the average waiting period should remain approximately 3 months (as of 15/10/2014).

2) Relaxation In English Requirements For 457 Visa Applicants

The government plans to change the English requirement based on the occupation and/or industry in which the applicant plans to work. While there is a lack of detail, a hypothetical situation may be that a cook (who has minimal interaction with customers) may have a more relaxed English requirement compared to a store manager where communication is more critical. The relaxation of the English requirement cannot be universal across such a broad spectrum of jobs for which a 457 visa holder can nominate, and more specific detail will be required for each individual industry or role.

3) Increase The Sponsorship Approval Period For Start-Up Businesses

Start-ups in Australia work in a volatile and demanding environment so there is a need for certainty with these businesses during their initial years. For this reason the sponsorship approval period will increase from 12 to 18 months. This is a logical change but will impact a minimal number of applicants as start-ups employ a relatively small share of skilled migrant workers.

In truth these changes are very minor and more detail will be needed before a true evaluation can be made as to their effectiveness. It is surprising to see that no discussion occurred around the cost of a 457 visa application (especially for a family) or around process simplification for employers. The government did however indicate that within the next two years another review will occur which most likely will be more in-depth. For this reason the minimum income threshold for a 457 visa holder will remain at the current level of $53,900p.a.