Temporary Work subclass 457 visa changes

Frank LanzaRecently, the Temporary Work visa has been in the spotlight of the national media. Both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader have commented on proposed changes to the visa requirements. But despite the widespread media coverage, there is little concrete information about what will change.

The 457 visa is for skilled workers from outside Australia who have been sponsored and nominated by a business to work in Australia on a temporary basis. (Previously this visa was called a ‘business visa’). The government argues that changes are needed to stop businesses bringing workers to Australia who will take the jobs of Australians and will be paid less than an Australian employee would be paid. These changes are due to take effect from 1 July 2013.

The Department of Immigration has stated that:

There should be no adverse effects on existing visa holders if they are already doing the right thing. The 457 visa is a temporary visa, intended for filling short to medium term skill shortages, in a quick, flexible way to meet business needs.

Until last year, the 457 visa was rarely used by people living in Cairns. As Cairns is a regional area, people here could take advantage of the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme to get permanent residency. It was easier to get permanent residence than it was to get a 457 visa. This changed last year, when the English level required for PR became much higher. Now, an IELTS score of 6.0 is required for PR, whereas a 457 visa requires IELTS 5.0.

There are three stages to employing a skilled worker under the subclass 457 visa:

  • employer applies to be a sponsor
  • employer nominates a position
  • employee applies for a visa.

Applications for each of these three stages can be submitted at the same time.

The minimum salary that must be paid to a 457 sponsored employee is $51,400 per year. Fortunately, there has not been any suggestion this amount will increase as part of the changes.

The important change will be that after the visa is granted, there will be ongoing monitoring of the employer to check whether they are complying with the visa conditions. This will include checking that

  1. The visa holder is paid the correct rate as specified in their visa; and
  2. The job being done by the visa holder matches the job title and description approved in their visa.

Other changes announced by the Minister for Immigration include:

  • a requirement for the nominated position to be a genuine vacancy within the business. Discretion will be introduced to allow the department to consider further information if there are concerns the position may have been created specifically to secure a 457 visa without consideration of whether there is an appropriately skilled Australian available.
  • introducing a provision to allow the department to take action against sponsors who engage in discriminatory recruitment practices.
  • strengthening the market salary requirements to provide discretion to consider comparative salary data for the local labour market when deciding whether a nominated position provides a fair salary.
  • strengthening the English language requirements by removing exemptions for applicants from non-English speaking backgrounds who are nominated with a salary less than $92,000 and requiring applicants who were exempt from the English language requirement when changing employers.
  • strengthening the requirement for sponsors to train Australians by introducing an ongoing and binding requirement to meet training requirements for the duration of their approved sponsorship.
  • strengthening the existing obligation regarding recovery of costs to ensure that sponsors and solely responsible for certain costs.