On 18 March 2015, the Government announced that it will support a majority of recommendations made by the Review Committee responsible for assessing the Integrity of the 457 Visa Programme.
Whilst these recommendations have not been implemented yet, it is expected that most will be introduced over the next six months. Recommendations that require consultation with stakeholders may not come into force until 2016.
Key recommendations that are expected to be implemented include:
- The current Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (‘TSMIT’) will be retained at $53,900 p.a. and will not undergo any further increases until it is reviewed within two years.
- The current training benchmarks will be replaced by an annual training fund contribution based on each 457 visa holder sponsored, with the contributions scaled according to size of business.
- The English requirement will be amended to an average score. For example, in relation to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the 457 applicant should have an average of 5 across the four competencies (or the equivalent for an alternative English language testing provider).
- The English exemption which requires five years continuous study will be amended to five years cumulative study in an English speaking institution.
- The approval terms of Standard Business Sponsors will be increased from three years to five years for established business sponsors and one year to eighteen months for start up business sponsors.
- The timeframe for the sponsor to notify the Department of Immigration of notifiable events will be extended from 10 business days to 28 days after the event has occurred.
- A change to 457 visa conditions will be introduced to place an obligation on the visa holder to provide the Department of Immigration with their Australian tax file number.
- Exemptions from demonstrating ‘market rate’ will be aligned with the income level above which the top marginal tax rate is paid (currently at $180,000).
Overall, these are positive changes that are intended to maintain the integrity of the 457 programme and streamline the processes for trusted and low risk business sponsors.