For the first time in several years, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (‘DIBP’) has introduced very minimal changes to the Subclass 457 visa on 1 July 2014.

Importantly, the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (‘TSMIT’)  has remained at $53,900. Traditionally, the TSMIT has increased every 1 July with this year being the first not to implement a further increase today. Sponsors must continue to show that the position to be filled by the sponsored employee commands a base salary of at least $53,900. Very minor exceptions apply to this requirement.

Also on a positive note, the skilled occupations of Hydrogeologist (ANZSCO 234413) and Exercise Physiologist (ANZSCO 234915) have been included on the list of occupations deemed eligible for the Subclass 457 and Subclass 186 visas.

Changes to the Subclass 186 Employer Nominiation Scheme

Skill Assessments

The Migration Regulations have been amended as of 1 July to provide that Skill Assessments will be valid for three years, unless a shorter period of validity is provided by the relevant assessing authority.

Applicants for the Subclass 186 visa are required to evidence a positive Skill Assessment in instances where they have not worked for their employer on a Subclass 457 visa for two years and where their annual earnings are not equivalent to the current top individual income tax rate.

Temporary Residence Transition Stream (TRTS)

An employee can apply for permanent residence through the Temporary Residence Transition Stream if they have been working for their sponsoring employer in Australia on a Subclass 457 visa for at least two years.

Subclass 457 visa holders were previously disadvantaged when their sponsoring employer was taken over or underwent a business restructure and a new legal entity was created, and therefore necessitating a change in sponsor. If an employee was approaching their two year employment period with their sponsor, they were in fact not eligible to apply for the TRTS as the employer was considered to have changed as a result of the change in business.

As of 1 July, changes have come into effect to allow employees to apply for the TRTS even if they have had more than one standard business sponsor during their two year period of employment. This is permitted if the DIBP considers the standard business sponsors to be, in effect, the ‘same employer’.

If the working conditions of the employee are largely unaffected by the takeover and the sponsoring entities have been trading with the same business name, it is likely that the current and previous standard business sponsors will be considered to be the same employer for the purposes of the TRTS.

This is great news for sponsored employees who have been caught in the middle of recent business restructures. A further two year employment period with the new sponsor is no longer required in order to meet the requirements under this stream.

Application Fees

Application fees have not increased on 1 July. We note, however, that in the past 12 months there have been substantial increases in application fees which could not possibly warrant a further increase at this point in time.

On the Horizon - Subclass 457 Programme Integrity Review

The DIBP is currently undertaking an impact survey with business sponsors regarding the changes that occurred on 1 July 2013. This is an additional measure to the submissions requested from stakeholders to allow the panel to report on the Subclass 457 visa and how it can be improved.

We are yet to hear when the panel will report back and as a result, when changes to the Subclass 457 visa might occur.