Changes to the 457 Work Visa on the way?


Grant Williams

There has been a recent Independent Review into the Integrity of the 457 visa programme. The Government has announced that it will be support at least in principle the majority of the recommendations of the review. Details on the implementation of the recommendations are yet to be announced of course and it must be said that many a recommendation has disappeared between Government support in principle and implementation in the Immigration space over the years. The main ideas being mooted as changes are…

Training Benchmarks A and B will be replaced with an annual training fund contribution based on the number of 457 sponsored and with the contributions scaled according to the size of the sponsoring organisation. These contributions will be made to the Department of Industry and directed to areas of identified training need.  Comment: This may be better than the current system – I’m yet to be convinced.

It will be made unlawful for a sponsor to be paid by a visa holder to be sponsored and a strong penalty and conviction will be applied. Comment: This only works if DIBP can catch people doing this. Sounds good but will it actually work?

Labour market testing will remain however the DIBP will examine ways to reduce the burden to employers and red tape in this process. Comment: Reducing red tape is not something the Government or DIBP are good at. I will believe this when I see it.

The English language level will be altered to an IELTS average of 5 overall, with no less than 4.5 in any band. Comment: Sensible

Alternate English language test providers are likely to be allowed as in other areas. Comment: Sensible

The exemption for demonstrating English language competency will not be extended to further countries, although the current exemption for 5 years continuous study in English will be changed to 5 years cumulative study. Comment: Cumulative is good but many countries could sensibly be added to the exemption list why are we so silly about this if people are educated in English for example?

SBS approvals will be extended from 3 to 5 years and from 12 to 18 months for start-up businesses.  These new approval time frames will commence from the time of renewal or new applications for SBS. Current approvals will not be extended to these time frames. Comment: Sensible and saves money for both The Government and businesses.

The ATO and the Department have signed an MOU which allows information to be shared on 457 visa holder salaries.  The MOU allows the Department to request salary compliance checks across a broader range of the sponsored employees and businesses, without increasing the number of work site visits. Comment: Finally the different bits of the same machine actually talking to each other – sensible in this space.

Visa charges are being reviewed as part of the Joint Review of Border Fees, Charges and Taxes. Comment: Does this mean they think they are charging too much or not enough? Fees rarely fall!

Information provided to sponsors will be reviewed and revised for clarity, but further resources will not be allocated. Comment: Sensible I guess but it really is all quite clear now in my view if sponsors actually read it.

General Comment: For me disappointing overall as it seems like a great deal of time and money has been spent to generate only marginal changes to a system that could be greatly simplified and made far less expensive. It is not all bad but really you’ve got to wait to see what actually happens. Words are easy action less so.