The Australian Government recently introduced reforms to its visa programmes, which will result in the Temporary Skills Shortage visa replacing the Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa. The reforms focus on prioritising Australian workers, ensuring Australia’s skills needs are satisfied and increasing the quality of skilled foreign workers.

In Issue

  • Reforms to Australian visa programmes

Background

The Australian Government recently introduced reforms to its visa programmes, which will result in the Temporary Skills Shortage visa (the TSS visa) replacing the Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa (the 457 visa) by March 2018.

Implementation of reforms

The reforms will be implemented in stages from April 2017 to March 2018.

On 19 April 2017, changes were made to the occupation lists for existing 457 visas, resulting in the removal of 216 occupations and the restriction of 59 occupations. The Short-term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) has replaced the Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL). The Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) has replaced the Skilled Occupations List (SOL). Any 457 visas issued from 19 April 2017 under the STSOL and MLTSSL will be valid for a maximum of two and four years, respectively.

On 1 July 2017, the occupation lists will be reviewed and further reforms will be implemented, including the need for visa applicants to satisfy an English language requirement and provide a police/penal clearance certificate.

457 visa holders’ Tax File Numbers will be collected by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection by 31 December 2017 to ensure employers are complying with payment of the nominated salaries. Employers may be sanctioned if found to be in breach of their obligations under the relevant legislation.

The TSS visa will replace the 457 visa in March 2018. The TSS visa will consist of Short-Term and Medium-Term streams. In circumstances where an Australian business cannot source a suitably skilled Australian worker, the:

  • Short-Term stream allows for temporary employment of a foreign worker for up to two years. This visa can only be renewed once; and
  • Medium-Term stream enables employment of a foreign worker in a high skill and critical need occupation for up to four years. This visa can be renewed and after three years, can lead to a permanent residence pathway.

To be eligible for either stream of the TSS visa, the foreign worker must: have at least two years of relevant work experience in the occupation:

  • satisfy the labour market and non-discriminatory workforce tests; provide police/penal clearance certificates
  • be paid in accordance with the Australian market salary rate and meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold
  • contribute to the Skilling Australians Fund.

Implications for employers

The Australian Government says the reforms focus on prioritising Australian workers, ensuring Australia’s skills needs are satisfied and increasing the quality of skilled foreign workers.

Even though more job opportunities and training will be available to Australian job seekers and workers, the TSS visa will affect employers’ recruitment policies and procedures. Employers will incur substantial costs and spend a significant amount of time sourcing foreign workers when suitably skilled Australian workers are unavailable. Employers will need to demonstrate that Australian workers are not being discriminated against by satisfying the strict labour market and workforce tests.