The Federal Government's response to the recommendations of the independent review into the integrity of the subclass 457 visa programme was announced on 18 March 2015 by Senator the Hon. Michaela Cash, Assistant Minister for Immigration.
The Government noted the importance of the 457 program in supplementing the Australian workforce, while protecting Australian jobs.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has advised that most of the changes arising out of these recommendations will occur over the next six months. However, the recommendations that require consultation with stakeholders may not come into force until 2016.
Some of the recommendations being supported by the Government, which are already in the process of being implemented, include:
- standard business sponsors will be approved for a period up to five years and start-up business sponsors to be approved for a period of 18 months
- The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) is to be retained as A$53,900p.a for the next two years when it will be reviewed again
- Labour Market Testing will not be abolished, however the DIBP will examine ways to reduce the burden to employers and red tape in this process
- English language requirements to be less onerous and greater flexibility to be provided to industries or businesses to seek concessions to the English language requirement for certain occupations
- current training benchmarks will be replaced by an annual contribution to a government training fund, which will be reinvested into training and support initiatives, including job readiness, life skills and outreach programs for disengaged Australian groups
- close collaboration between the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the DIBP to uphold the integrity of the subclass 457 visa programme
- a summary of visa holder rights prepared by DIBP and the Fair Work Ombudsman's Fair Work Information Statement, to be included as part of the signed employment contract, and
- to criminalise the act of sponsors accepting payment from visa applicants for a migration outcome.
What does this mean?
Australian businesses will benefit from the Government's response and the integrity of the subclass 457 programme will be strengthened by these changes. The Government has announced that the changes arising out of these recommendations will reduce the complexity of hiring and transferring overseas skilled workers to Australia. We expect the Government to introduce changes to simplify and deregulate both the temporary work visa and the permanent skilled pathways in stages in the next 6-18 months.