The Australian Government introduced significant changes to the employer sponsored visa program in 2017 and 2018, which effectively limited the ability of many sponsored visa holders to access a permanent residence pathway.

To ensure that visa holders already pursuing a permanent pathway were not disadvantaged, the Australian government introduced transitional arrangements for a protected visa cohort, to provide them with concessions to the new stricter requirements.

These transitional arrangements are due to expire on 18 March 2022. Employers with temporary visa holding employees that fall within this protected visa cohort should now be considering pathways to retain these visa holders permanently before the transitional arrangements expire.

Who does this apply to?

These transitional arrangements apply to the 'protected visa cohort', which is defined as anyone who:

  • held a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017; or
  • had lodged an application for a subclass 457 visa on or before 18 April 2017 that was subsequently granted.

The visa holder does not need to still hold the same subclass 457 visa to be eligible for these concessions. They can also hold a subsequent subclass 457 visa (457 visa), subclass 482 visa (TSS visa), or related bridging visa.

What does this mean for your 457/TSS visa employee now?

These concessions make it easier for the protected visa cohort to transition to a permanent subclass 186 or 187 visa, without being subject to the new arrangements introduced from 18 March 2018.

For Employer Nominated Scheme (subclass 186) or Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) nominations and visa applications in the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) Stream lodged before 18 March 2022, the following concessions are available for the protected visa cohort:

  • occupation list requirements will not apply;
  • the applicant must be under the age of 50 at time of application (unless exempt); and
  • the minimum period an applicant is required to have been employed in their nominated occupation/position as the holder of a subclass 457 or TSS visa will remain at two of the last three years.

What will this mean for your 457/TSS visa employee after 18 March 2022?

If an employee who is within the protected visa cohort does not make an application for a subclass 186 or subclass 187 visa before 18 March 2022, they will no longer be able to benefit from the concessions and will be subject to the current requirements.

Without the concessions, the applicant must demonstrate the ability to meet certain criteria including:

  • being under the age of 45 at time of application (unless exempt);
  • working in the nominated occupation for their sponsor for at least three years on a TSS/457 visa (the 3-year period stats when the visa holder starts working on their TSS/457 visa) out of the previous four years; and
  • the nominated occupation must be on Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).