Senate Inquiry Into the Use of the 457 Visa Stream

On 17 March 2016, the results of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Education and Employment References Committee inquiry into the impact of the 457 visa programme on the Australian labour market and the exploitation of 457 workers were released. The inquiry has made a number of recommendations which, if implemented, will have a significant impact on the programme, including:

  • Removing the current exemptions on labour market testing for ANZSCO skill levels 1 and 2.
  • Requiring sponsors to take on a local apprentice or graduate for each 457 visa holder they sponsor.
  • Imposing a training levy of up to US$4000 per 457 visa worker to replace current training benchmarks.
  • Requiring labour hire companies to be licensed.
  • Putting responsibility onto franchisors for franchisees’ treatment of visa holders and compliance with workplace laws.

A copy of the inquiry and recommendations can be found here

Changes to the 457 Visa Programme

On 14 April 2016, the government amended the Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) to introduce changes to the 457 visa programme.

For standard business sponsors, the most significant change relates to the introduction of a requirement not to engage in discriminatory recruitment practices on the grounds of citizenship or visa status. This change has been introduced to address community concerns that sponsors are using the 457 programme to employ foreign workers without regard to the local labour market.

The new provisions require all employers to make a declaration as part of their sponsorship application that they will not engage in such practices. The government has given “teeth” to the provision by also creating a new sponsorship obligation which requires compliance with that declaration and those who breach the sponsorship obligation may face sanctions or penalties.

To demonstrate compliance, sponsors are recommended to retain documents that show how 457 visa holders were recruited in order to prove that their selection was not based on citizenship or visa status. This could consist, for example, of copies of job advertisements showing roles were advertised both inside and outside of Australia, or evidence showing a lack of suitably qualified applicants in the local area.