Proposed Changes to the 457 Visa Program - Good for Business
Less stringent English standards, removal of Labour Market Testing (LMT), and the introduction of a fast-tracking system for visa application approvals are among a number of changes to Australia’s 457 visa program recommended by a panel established by the Federal Government earlier this year. The recommendations have the potential to substantially increase the flexibility of the 457 program.
The major recommendations include:
- A more transparent and responsive Occupations List. Despite what it describes as its shortcomings, the Panel recommends retaining the list for skill level 3 and above occupations, but with amendments. These amendments include adding skilled jobs recognised in the community to the list and refining it “where there may be integrity or appropriateness concerns”;
- Amending the existing English language requirement so that instead of applicants having to score at least 5 in each of the 4 components in the international testing system, they would instead have to get an average of 5 across the 4 competencies. It also recommends alternative English language test providers, expanding the list of nationalities exempt from the testing, and accepting 5 years of cumulative rather than continuous study as an exemption to the English requirement;
- A reduction of the market salary threshold from $250,000 back to $180,000: so that for salaries above $180,000, employers wouldn’t have to demonstrate market salary;
- Keeping the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) at its current rate of $53,900 pending a full review, within 2 years. This rate normally increases annually on 1 July in line with average weekly earnings. The Panel argues that there is justification for lowering the threshold by 10% for determining the eligibility of nominated occupations;
- Introduction of a three-stream approval process, with fast-tracking available to the two top tiers:
Stream 1 - would include companies with a turnover of more than $4 million that have been an approved business sponsor for more than four years, have a sanction-free track record and are sponsoring individuals in occupations with salaries in excess of $129,300;
Stream 2 - would include companies with a turnover of at least $1 million, have no sanctions for more than one year, and are sponsoring workers in occupations with base salaries of between $96,400 and $129,300; and
Stream 3 - would capture the rest, and have a more rigorous approval process;
- Enabling the Labour Agreement pathway to be more open and accessible for additional industry sectors by developing additional template agreements that will address temporary local labour shortages in industries of need; and
- An increase to the approval period for standard business sponsorship from 3 years to 5 years for existing businesses and 12-months to 18-months for start-up businesses, with the Department to develop a simplified renewal process.
The Government has made positive comments about the recommendations. If legislated (which of course depends on the Senate), these reforms will give Australian businesses easier access to skilled workers from overseas.
For more information on the above or for any other visa-related enquiries or assistance, please contact our Employment Law team:
Phone: +61 2 9895 9208