In a government-commissioned report published in September 2014, an independent panel concluded that Australia’s 457 visa program was too complicated and burdensome for employers and applicants. The report proposed several changes to simplify and streamline the 457 visa process.
The Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) allows skilled workers to work for a sponsoring employer for up to four years. A company can only sponsor a foreign worker if it cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the work.
In 2013, the Australian government updated the 457 program and implemented labor market testing requirements. Since then, there has been a steady reduction in the number of 457 visas being approved.
Among some of the more noteworthy recommendations in the report include getting rid of the labor market testing and creating an intra-company transferee visa program.
Employers shouldn’t get their hopes up that the burdensome labor market testing will disappear, however. While he indicated he supported many of the report’s recommendations, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said that labor market testing was unlikely to be abolished.
In terms of compliance, the report also suggested information sharing between the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) and the Australian Taxation Office. The report also endorsed the granting of immigration inspection powers to the Fair Work Ombudsman Inspectors, as we reported here last month.
The DIBP reports that compliance activities have increased by nearly 15 percent since September 2013. The rise in enforcement actions logically follows as the collaboration with the Fair Work Ombudsman resulted in ten times more inspectors to investigate sponsorship compliance.
Employers should expect that compliance activities will continue to rise as the Australian government seeks to maintain the integrity of the 457 program while simultaneously improving on its efficiency and effectiveness.