AUSTRALIA – Changes to 457 Visa from 1 July 2013
Australia’s Department of Immigration & Citizenship (DIAC) has announced several significant changes to the nomination and application process for the Temporary Work (Skilled) Subclass 457 visa, effective 1 July.
Meeting the training benchmarks is now an ongoing and enforceable requirement rather than a commitment. In addition, sponsors will be obliged to maintain records relating to training. This includes start-up businesses (i.e. businesses trading for less than 12 months) who initially provide an auditable training plan.
DIAC must now be satisfied that the nominated position is genuine and may refuse the application if:
- the tasks of the nominated occupation do not correspond to the tasks of an eligible occupation, or
- the position associated with the nominated occupation is not genuine.
Employers Limited to Approved Number of Sponsored Workers
Previously, sponsors were able to sponsor and nominate unlimited workers for 457 visas. After 1 July 2013, employers are restricted to sponsoring the number of 457 visa holders that was approved in their sponsorship application over the term of their sponsorship. Accredited sponsors will not be required to nominate the number of workers they intend to sponsor.
The assessment of generalist occupations has been strengthened, and is now required for two more nominated occupations: Applicants for 'Program and Project Administrator' and 'Specialist Manager not elsewhere classified' must undertake a formal skills assessment.
The market salary rate provisions have now been expanded to apply beyond the particular workplace to that workplace's regional locality.
Where there is no equivalent Australian worker, the employer is still required to satisfy the Department that the terms and conditions of employment are appropriate for that location and industry. Further, it is not necessary to show market rates if the applicant is on guaranteed earnings of at least AUD$250000 (this market salary assessment exemption threshold is also an increase).
Occupation-based Exemptions to the English Language Requirement Removed
Before 1 July 2013, most occupations were exempt from the English language requirement with the exception of Technicians and Trade Workers. After 1 July 2013, occupation-based exemptions have now been removed, so the only exceptions to a 457 visa applicant having to pass the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) are:
- a nominated salary that is over the increased English Language Salary Exemption Threshold (ELSET) of AUD$96400, or
- a passport from Canada, United States of America, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland or New Zealand, or
- at least 5 consecutive years of full-time study in a secondary and/or higher education institution where the instruction was delivered in English.
The test can be sat around the world and is administered by The British Council. Information can be found here.
Restricted Terms of Sponsorship for Start-ups
Before 1 July 2013 the terms of sponsorship for start-up businesses were the same as for standard business sponsors. After 1 July 2013 the term of sponsorship approval for start-up businesses has been amended to an initial 12 months and all subclass 457 visa holders sponsored by start-up businesses are limited to an initial 12 month visa.
Begin Work Within 90 Days of Arrival
From 1 July 2013 it is now a part of the employment condition that the 457 visa holder must commence work with their sponsor within 90 days of arriving in Australia.
Extended Period in which a Visa Holder Can Seek New Sponsored Employment
From 1 July 2013 the time period for Subclass 457 holders to find a new sponsor or to depart Australia, if they cease employment with their sponsoring employer, has been extended to 90 consecutive days.
Mandatory Electronic Lodgement
After 1 July 2013, all subclass 457 sponsorship, nomination and visa applications must be lodged online, and all applications associated with overseas business sponsors will now be processed in Australia, rather than at the nearest overseas post.
Requiring Mandatory Registration, Licensing or Membership
457 visa holders must now seek to obtain 'within 28 days' any mandatory registration, licence or membership for their occupation in the state or territory they are employed.
Nomination Fee Increase
From 1 July 2013, the 457 visa nomination application fee will increase from $85 to $330 in order to reflect the real cost of processing and administering nominations, and to bring Australia's visa system in line with international benchmarks. The fee to apply to be an Approved Sponsor under the subclass 457 program remains unchanged at $420.
- Note all items above, but in particular the key change: the English language test. Applicants who do not fall into one of the exemption categories must take have taken the IELTS English test, which costs AUD$330 and can take up to two months to sit and await the results. Review upcoming moves to Australia and plan accordingly.