The Australian 457 visa allows skilled foreign nationals to travel to Australia and work temporarily in their chosen occupation for an approved sponsor. The Temporary Australia Work Visa (skilled, subclass 457) allows employers to address labour shortages in Australian by bringing in genuinely skilled workers where they are unable to find an appropriately skilled resident worker.

A list of occupations that are eligible under the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa category can be found on the following Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection webpage:

http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Work/Work/Subclass-457-visa-Legislative-Instruments

The Subclass 457 Australian Work Visa permits the holder to work in Australia for up to four years, as well as being able to travel in and out of Australia as often as they desire.

An additional benefit that the 457 Australian Work Visa holders can enjoy is the possibility of bringing their family to Australia. Family dependants of a Subclass 457 Australian Work Visa holder will also have permission to work or study during their stay in Australia.

In order to be eligible for a Subclass 457 Australian Work Visa an applicant must meet the following requirements:

  • Satisfy character requirements;
  • Have adequate health insurance;
  • Meet health requirements;
  • Speak vocational English (or meet one of the exemptions);
  • Meet the required skill level for the nominated occupation;
  • Meet registration and licensing obligations;
  • Be nominated to work in an approved occupation on the Skilled Occupation lists; and
  • Be nominated by an approved business.

Recent changes

Recently the Australian Government has implemented a number of changes to the Subclass 457 Australian Work Visa. The changes came about following an independent panel’s report (by Robust New foundations) despite some opposition in Parliament, and there is an anticipation that more changes will occur throughout the 2015-16 financial year. Changes within the Subclass 457 Australian Work Visa category is something that occurs quite commonly as the Australian Government continuously tries to tighten the immigration rules of this category.

Recent changes to the Subclass 457 Australian Work Visa are as follows:

  • Exemptions from the Market Salary Rate evidence – The Market Salary Rate that employers must demonstrate to nominate a Subclass 457 Australian Work Visa applicant has been removed where the applicant will receive a salary of AUS$180,000 per annum or more. Previously the exemption level was at AUS$250,000.
  • Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) – The TSMIT will remain at the same level, currently AUS$53,900, however it is expect to change when the current review of the 400 series of visa is completed.
  • English Language Changes – The English Language requirement has been reduced to allow more of a range in the test scores. The change allows for an averaged band score that has a fixed minimum. Score minimums for specific test centres are as follows:
  • IELTS – overall 5 (minimum 4.5 in each component);
  • TOEFL iBT – overall score of 36 (minimum 3 in listening & reading, minimum 12 in speaking and writing);
  • PTE Academic – overall score of 36 (minimum 30 in each component);
  • CAE – overall score of 154 (minimum 147 in each component) ;
  • OET – a score of B in each component.

Applicants must complete the English test within three years of the date of the visa/ nomination application submission.

Exemptions for the English Language test are available and could be included on the basis of nationality, or by evidencing five consecutive years of schooling in the English language.

  • Extension of Notification Periods – The permitted period for employers to notify the Immigration Department of any changes to a worker’s circumstances (such as change of duties, completion of work or salary, etc.,) under the company’s Business Sponsorship obligations has been extended from 10 days to 28 days.
  • The Subclass 457 Australian Work Visa application form – It will now include a wider range of character declarations by the applicant. This change will bring the application form in line with the current Australian legislation.

Given the ever changing nature of the Subclass 457 Australian Work Visa category, all 457 visa applicants are recommended to keep themselves updated by reviewing the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection website (https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/457-).

China-Australia Free Trade Agreement 

This summer, Australia saw the signing of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (signed (in June 2015). The Agreement is intended to provide better access to both countries’ economies and job markets. It is also expected to promote a two-way investment and reduce import costs between the nations with expected trade to be boosted by $20 billion by 2035.

Through the Investment Facilitation Arrangements – under a separate Memorandum of Understanding that had been concluded through the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement – it is expected that Australia’s infrastructure will be developed and will see large amounts of Chinese investment, which will in turn lead to the creation of jobs and an increased economic prosperity for Australia’s workforce.

With such a historical Free-Trade Agreement taking place it will be no surprise if the likes of the Subclass 457 visa category and/ or other visa categories are amended to tighten rules or if exceptions to the rules are introduced.