What happened

The Government announced an independent review of the integrity of the Subclass 457 programme on 25 February, 2014. The aim of the review was to examine: 

  • the current framework to better understand whether the existing requirements balance the needs of business with the integrity of the programme 
  • the level of non-compliance in the 457 programme 
  • the viability of a deregulation strategy of the current programme; and 
  • the appropriateness of the current compliance and sanctions. 

The review report, 'Robust New Foundations – A Streamlined, Transparent and Responsive System for the 457 Programme' was released in September 2014 with 22 recommendations. On 14 October 2014 the Government further announced that the following reforms will be adopted from the review. The adopted recommendations include: 

  • a more streamlined system of processing sponsorship, nomination and visa applications built around risk factors including business size, occupation, salary and sponsor behavior. This streamlining will reward low risk applicants and enable the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) to refocus its compliance and monitoring activities on high risk applicants; 
  • increase the sponsorship approval period from 12 to 18 months for start-up businesses. This is aimed at giving start-ups more time to make their businesses sustainable; 
  • provide greater flexibility in relation to English language testing and skill requirements for 457 applicants, to ensure that the standards required are appropriate for the industries and occupations being sought; and 
  • retaining the current Temporary Skilled Migration Threshold at $53,900. It will not undergo any further increases until it is reviewed within two (2) years.

What's next

Further announcements of the recommendations from the review will be made progressively during the course of the 2014-2015 years. Other major report recommendations included: 

  • Changes to core solutions, including a new tripartite ministerial advisory council established to report to government on skilled migration issues including providing advice on the Consolidated Sponsored Occupation list; 
  • Abolishing the current legislative requirement for labour market testing due to it's current ineffectiveness in determining market requirements; 
  • Retaining the Consolidated Sponsored Occupations list as a list of occupations which are at a Skill Level 3 and above; 
  • The Market Salary Rate framework continuing to operate as a core component of the 457 programme; 
  • Giving further consideration to regional concessions to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold; 
  • Replacing the current training benchmarks with an annual training fund contribution based on each 457 visa holder sponsored; 
  • Amending the English language requirement to an average score across the four components; 
  • Reviewing the current fee structure (in particular, secondary visa applicants and visa renewal applications); 
  • Giving greater priority to monitoring acitivities; 
  • Ensuring further Inter-agency cooperation with the Australian Taxation Office and enhancing of the role of Fair Work Ombudsman and Fair Work Commission within the 457 framework; 
  • Making dedicated resources available to the DIBP for investigation and prosecution.