The Australian government has implemented major changes in relation to its temporary employer sponsored skilled migration program.  These changes affect the Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa (457 visa). 

Amongst other changes, on 19 April 2017, 216 occupations were removed from the list of occupations for which 457 visas are available and access to a further 59 occupations was restricted.  Relevantly for fintech businesses, the following occupations were removed from the 457 visa occupation list:  web developers, multimedia designers, market research analysts, ICT support technicians and ICT support and test engineers.

Additional requirements were also imposed on certain occupations, with more than 2 years relevant work experience now required for 457 visas for the following occupations: ICT project manager, ICT support engineer and ICT systems test engineer.  There have also been restrictions on access to 457 visas for certain occupations (such as corporate general manager or customer service roles) where the nominating businesses have annual turnover of less than $1 million and less than five employees.

These changes are effective immediately.  If a 457 visa application was being processed on 19 April 2017 for a removed occupation, then the application cannot be approved.  Current holders of 457 visas will not be impacted by the changes to the occupation list unless a further 457 visa is applied for or the holder changes occupation/employer.

Further changes will be made to 457 visas over coming months.  For instance, the list of 457 visa eligible occupations will be reviewed from 1 July 2017 on advice from the Department of Employment and, by 31 December 2017, the ATO will audit 457 visa holders’ tax returns to ensure they are being paid the declared salary.  The 457 visa will be abolished in March 2018 and replaced by a new Temporary Skills Shortage visa.

Fintech Australia has been critical of the changes and is seeking industry views. 

Fintech businesses are reminded that it is important that employer sponsored migrants are categorised for the correct occupation when applying for 457 visas.  There are also other visa classes which may be more suitable for fintech founders or employees:

  • The 188 visa (Business Innovation and Investment Provisional Visa) targets people wishing to invest in, own or manage Australian businesses and includes a specific entrepreneur stream, introduced as part of the Innovation Agenda.
  • The 132 visa (Business Talent Permanent Visa) has two streams, one for high-calibre business owners or part-owners who want to do business in Australia (provided the person has assets of $1.5 million and annual business turnover of $3 million) and another for people who have sourced venture capital funding from a member of the Australian Venture Capital Association Limited.