Changes to the Temporary Work (Skilled) (Subclass 457) visa

As anticipated, the following changes came into effect on 1 July 2017.

Character

The subclass 457 visa will now require applicants to submit penal checks. Police certificates will be required for each country in which each visa applicant has lived in for a cumulative period of 12 months or more, over the last ten years, since turning 16 years of age. Military service record or discharge papers for each person who is/has served in the armed forces of any country in the last ten years will also be required. 

Updates to the English Language Exemption

The English Language Salary Exemption Threshold, which exempts applicants whose base salary is at least AUD96,400 from the English language requirement, has been adjusted so that it only applies to applicants employed by a company operating an established business overseas. This indicates that an applicant employed by an oversea business but sponsored by an associated Australian business may still access this exemption. Exemptions for passports holders of the United Kingdom, United States, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand remain in place. Exemptions are also applicable to applicants who have studied at secondary or tertiary level for at least five years in the English language.

New Sponsorship Accreditation Arrangements

There are now additional pathways for a Standard Business Sponsor to become an Accredited Standard Business Sponsor. Accreditation entitles the business to streamlined priority processing for nomination applications and a six year sponsorship approval period. To qualify for accredited status, a sponsor must still meet all the requirements for standard business sponsorship and demonstrate they meet the additional characteristics in one of the four categories below:

  • Category 1: Relates to Standard Business Sponsors that are an Australian government agency
  • Category 2: Relates to Standard Business Sponsors that are approved Australian Trusted Traders
  • Category 3: Relates to Standard Business Sponsors categorised as “Low risk” with low volume usage (of the 457 visa) and high percentage of Australian workers (at least 90%)
  • Category 4: Relates to Standard Business Sponsors categorised as “Low risk” with high volume usage (of the 457 visa) and medium percentage of Australian workers (at least 75%).

The introduction of Category 3 will open the door for many existing businesses which would of previously been ineligible. This category classes low volume as a minimum of one primary 457 visa holder in the previous two years as oppose to Category 4 which requires at least ten 457 sponsorships.

These categories aim to improve the accessibility of the accreditation programme, allowing smaller businesses to benefit from becoming an accredited sponsor.

Updated Occupation Lists

Further occupations were removed from both occupation lists, while other occupations have been moved from one list to another. Notable changes include the movement of executive roles such as CEO/Managing Director, Chief Information Officer and Corporate General Manager to the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) allowing these occupations to access a maximum four year visa term and potentially employer sponsored permanent residence in the future.

The caveats which were previously applicable to some of these occupations have also been amended. For example, CEO/Managing Director and Corporate General Manager roles will need to have a base salary of at least AUD180,001 or will need to be intra-corporate transfers to which an international trade obligation applies.

Changes to the Employer Nomination Scheme (Subclass 186) visa

Age Requirement

As foreshadowed, the age limit for applications under the Direct Entry Stream (DES) has been lowered to 45. Applicants must now be under this age at the time of application in order to qualify under this stream. The age limit of 50 still applies to the Temporary Residence Transition Stream (TRTS), though this is also set to change in March 2018 to 45.

Exemptions to the age requirement under the TRTS remain in place for those applicants who have worked for at least four years on their 457 visa and whose annual income for each year was at least equivalent to the Fair Work High Income Threshold. Holders of the subclass 444 and 461 visas under the DES stream are also exempt if they have been working for their nominated employer for at least two years. English Requirement There is now a Competent English language requirement (equivalent to a test score of at least 6 in each of the four components of the IELTS) applicable to both the DES and TRTS. Applicants under the TRTS will qualify for an exemption if they have cumulatively studied for five years at secondary or tertiary level in English.

Skill Requirement

In an unprecedented move, the exemption for applicants with high annual earnings (minimum AUD180,001) under the DES (which allowed applicants to bypass the requirement of a skills assessment for the 186 visa) has been removed. This reform also applies to applications still processing on or after 1 July. The Department is yet to release any further details in relation to this reform and how applications currently processing in the system will be treated.

Updated Occupation Lists

The subclass 186 visa now has its own separate occupation lists for the DES with both short term and medium to long term occupations applicable. Certain occupations will now also have caveats applicable which must be met for the application to be successful.