The Australian Government has today announced significant changes to the policy settings for employer-sponsored visas in Australia. Effective midnight tonight, a new occupation list will come into effect, significantly reducing the number of occupations eligible for sponsorship under the subclass 457 visa program.

From March 2018, the subclass 457 visa will be abolished and replaced with a new Temporary Skill Shortage visa. The new visa will be split into two streams: a four-year Medium Term stream (the same period as the current subclass 457 visa), and a two-year Short Term stream.

The main changes that have been announced are as follows:

  • Increased visa application charges:
    • $1,150 for the Short Term stream; and
    • $2,400 for the Medium Term stream.
  • New occupation lists, with different lists for the Short Term and Medium Term streams.
  • Increase in the English language requirement for applicants for the Medium Term stream to an IELTS (or equivalent test) score of 5 in each band.
  • A requirement for all applicants to have at least two years of work experience in their skilled occupation.
  • Re-introduction of labour market testing for all occupations unless an international obligation applies, where currently labour market testing is only required for certain occupations.
  • Visa holders will have to work for their employers for three years before becoming eligible for permanent residency, increased from the current two-year eligibility period.
  • A requirement that all visa applicants will have to obtain police checks.
  • Visa holders in the Short Term stream will be limited to one onshore visa renewal, after which they would have to leave Australia and apply for any further renewals offshore.
  • New training obligations for employers, which will require payments to a new government-run training fund.

What you need to know:

  • If you are currently in Australia as the holder of a subclass 457 visa, the changes should not affect you unless you need to renew your visa.
  • If you are applying, or have applied, for a subclass 457 visa, you should urgently seek advice as to whether your occupation remains on the occupation list after midnight tonight.
  • If you are planning to travel to Australia as a skilled worker after March 2018, you should seek advice about how these changes will affect your plans.
  • If you are an employer of foreign workers, you should seek advice about how these changes will affect your business and your plans to sponsor any employees in the future.

If you are uncertain about how these changes will affect you, please contact our friendly team for advice.

We are offering 15 minutes of free phone advice to all new clients. Book your consultation through our website or by calling 03 9088 6264.