SAY FAREWELL TO 457 MIGRATION VISAS

April 26, 2017

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It was a recent announcement that surprised many: the Australian Government’s declaration that it will abolish the 457 skilled migration visa. As a temporary visa, it had been used by thousands of people wanting to migrate to Australia, but now it is to be replaced.

457 migration visa

The 457 visa is a temporary work visa that can be used by skilled workers to enter, live and work in Australia.

Workers must have first secured the sponsorship of a business. That is, an approved Australian business must have offered employment to the worker and must have agreed to fulfil the visa’s sponsorship requirements.

The 457 visa allows workers to:

  • Work in Australia for a maximum of four years.
  • Bring their family members to Australia (for work or study).
  • Travel to and from Australia as they wish.

To be eligible for this visa, not only must workers be sponsored by their employers, they also must be able to work in an occupation that is listed on the Government’s Skilled Occupation List (SOL), which sets out the occupations that are in demand in Australia.

The purpose of the 457 migration visa is to fill genuine skills gaps where businesses have first tried unsuccessfully to recruit Australian workers.

In announcing the changes, the Australian Government said that it wanted to do more to protect Australian jobs – to ensure that Australians are able to access these jobs before employers look to recruit foreign labour.

The Changes

Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) Visa

The 457 migration visa will be abolished and replaced with the TSS Visa in March 2018. The Australian Government has said that the TSS visa will help businesses overcome genuine skills shortages and will also help to prioritise Australian workers. This too should protect TSS visa holders from being exploited for less pay or poor work conditions.

There will be 2 streams for the TSS visas:

  1. Short-term visas for up to two years.
  2. Medium-term visas for up to four years.

Occupation Lists

Effective from 19 April 2017, the Government changed the SOL by removing about 200 occupations from the list. It has also created two occupation lists:

  1. Occupations listed on the Medium and Long Term Strategic Skilled List (MLTSSL) allow for a visa to be granted for a maximum of four years (although 16 occupations on this list would not be available for 457 visa applicants).
  2. Occupations listed on the Short Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL)allow for a visa to be granted for a maximum of two years.

In some circumstances, caveats will apply. This means that an occupation that has been excluded from either list may be allowed in certain circumstances. If your occupation is excluded, you should seek advice about whether a caveat may apply.

Applicants must now have a minimum of two years’ experience working in their nominated occupation (and at least three years’ work experience overall).

It is expected that there will be further changes to the occupation lists by 1 July 2017.

Other changes

Other changes include:

  • A minimum market salary rate which will help to reduce the risk that visa holders are paid less than their Australian counterparts.
  • Stricter English language requirements for visa applicants.
  • Short-term visa holders will not be eligible to apply for permanent residency.
  • Medium-term visa holders will be eligible to apply for permanent residency after three years.
  • It will be mandatory for applicants to prove their good character by providing penal clearance certificates.

Who is affected?

If you already hold a 457 migration visa, you will not be affected by these changes – you will continue to hold your visa with all the same conditions until it expires. However, once expired, you will not be able to apply for another 457 visa. You will need to apply for a TSS visa or another type of visa.

If you are yet to apply for a 457 visa, you will need to take into account the new occupation lists and get advice about how and when to apply, as well as which visa would be best for you.

If you are part-way through the application process, you should get advice immediately about whether the changes to the occupation lists will affect your application. If you must withdraw your application, you may be eligible for a refund of your application fees. This “grace period” is for a limited time only, so you should seek immediate advice if you believe that you are affected by the changes.

The process of applying for an Australian visa can be complicated and time-consuming. Any mistakes made along the way can also cause further delay and expense. The changes to the 457 visas will certainly add to the complexity, at least in the short-term. If you are wishing to migrate to Australia as a skilled worker, it is now more important than ever to tread carefully through the application process and to have a firm grasp of the changes to the migration laws.

That’s why you should consult a skilled migration lawyer as soon as possible, especially when dealing with employment law issues or trying to understand your legal rights as an employee.

Websters Lawyers has excellent experience in handling migration law matters. Whether you are concerned about your 457 visa status, wondering how the occupation lists affect you, or unsure which visa would best suit you, we can help. Contact us today to find out more.