You may have noticed a lot of commentary about the Australian immigration changes that were effective from the start of this month. I have been asked many questions by clients, candidates and colleagues about the changes and what affects it will have so I will attempt to discuss the highlights of these changes and the most misunderstood aspects of the new laws. A lot of the commentary has been political in nature so I will try to avoid adding my opinions to the debate!
The basic changes made to the 457 visa laws include:
- Increased fee costs
- Occupations added and removed and two separate lists created for different visa subclasses
- Changes made to the Training Benchmark system
- Changes to exemptions, age limits and requirements
There seems to be a fair amount of confusion about what’s what in the new 457 visa rules, and my hope for this article is to make things a little clearer.
Expect DIBP Outages
While most outages to the DIBP system are planned, there could be some unplanned outages during the process of updating the system and dealing with extremely high traffic.
As of 1 July 2017, all programme applications will be taken through the new ePlus (Elodgement Plus) platform. This will replace the Immi Account.
Increase in Visa Application Fees
Visa fees are being increased, including visitor to $140, student to $560, ENS/RSMS to $3,670, GSM to $3,670, Subclass 457 to $1,080, NZ Relationship to $330, Partner Visa to $7,000, just to name some of the most prominent increases.
Current 457 Workers
The new 457 visa conditions don’t have any impact on workers already working under the former 457 laws. They are grandfathered into the system accordingly.
Hiring Foreign Workers
If you’ve heard rumors stating that businesses can no longer hire foreign workers, they are false. The 457 is still in effect and will be replaced by the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa from March 2018 however there are some differences. The TSS visa, while similar to the 457, will be more expensive and potentially slower and more difficult to get; this is due to the amendments to the application process and the reduced occupation list.
The previous 457 visas covered 651 occupations, whereas the new occupation list has been reduced to 435 eligible occupations. Some of these occupations have also been moved to a new Short-Term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) and these workers will no longer be able to obtain permanent residency.
• Skilled applicants whose occupation is on the STSOL are eligible for 2-year visas only and can only be renewed onshore once
• Skilled applicants whose occupation is on the MLTSSL are eligible for 4-year visas, these can be renewed onshore and Permanent Residency applied for after 3 years.
Examples of STSOL occupations would be recruitment professionals, management consultants, marketing, advertising and PR specialists, certain IT specialisations and financial dealers who now only qualify for a 2 year 457 visa. Further, from March 2018 they will no longer be able to obtain PR. 457 holders in STSOL occupations are advised to apply for PR prior to March 2018.
- Training requirements are more clearly defined
- Additional caveats apply to some occupations (e.g. recruitment consultants, marketing specialists, managing directors, etc.) such as minimum company turnover, number of employees, minimum salary and work experience.
- Exemptions from English test requirements based on salary abolished
- Police checks are now mandatory for all applicants
Permanent Residency Impact
Permanent residency isn’t affected by the new 457 visa changes until March 2018. If you are eligible the recommendation is to get it done as soon as possible before the changes come into effect, particularly if your occupation has been removed or moved to the STSOL list. The employer nomination scheme (Sc186) comes with new rules that will be enforced, such as the English language requirement, the age limit being reduced to 45, Increased Work Experience Requirements, Mandatory Labour Market Testing etc.
NZ Workers – Any citizen of New Zealand who has worked and lived in Australia for a minimum of 5 years is eligible for PR under the new laws as of 1 July 2017. (This currently affects 80,000 workers).
The new TSS will be much like the 457 visa, but with stricter criteria such as smaller occupation lists, mandatory labour market testing and two years of work experience in the occupation for which the skilled migrant is applying.
While the occupations affected could change in the long run as reviews are conducted, these new 457 visa laws will be strictly enforced, which is why it’s crucial to get a grasp on these changes and how they affect you and your business/industry.
Businesses should concentrate on risk mitigation by collaborating with their peers, government agencies, and key industry bodies. Legal professionals and immigration consultants can help during the transition process. I have heard of some situations where businesses have ceased considering 457 applications as they have been wrongly informed about the costs or difficulties. This has meant that they have let go current contractors on working holiday visas who they were going to sponsor.
My recommendation is to speak to experts and make sure that you have all the facts as there is so much misinformation out there. Bear in mind that someone else’s personal experience may no longer be valid as things are constantly changing. Personally it’s imperative I have a good understanding of immigration rules so that I can advise my clients accordingly. If I am ever unsure I always check with someone who I consider to be THE subject matter expert in this field – Claudia Vasko of Vasko Migration (and yes she has checked the facts in this article)!