Migrating to Australia? Tighter rules from July 1

A number of changes will be implemented to the 457 visa programme beginning July 1.

According to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIC), the primary aim of the changes is to safeguard the integrity of the program.

The 457 visa program was developed with the purpose to enable employers to fill skills shortages by recruiting qualified overseas workers where appropriately skilled Australians are unavailable.

It is a temporary visa, lending a quick-fix solution to labour shortages. However, over the years, the program has been prone to misuse by employers as well as foreign employees.

As a result, the position of the local employee has been undercut, and the conditions of overseas employees have been neglected in certain cases.

“The 457 program has expanded well above the national employment growth rate, and while most employers are using the subclass 457 appropriately, the nature of the program’s use by some employers indicates that the objectives of the program are not being fully met,” the DIC explained on its website.

“Within the program, significant growth in applications was recorded in 2011-12 from working holiday maker and student visa holders. Many of these subclass 457 visa applicants were nominated to work in occupations and regions which are not experiencing widespread skills shortages, and in some industries, they accounted for over half of total grants. This trend suggests that usage of the program is being increasingly driven by temporary visa holders seeking to remain in Australia instead of the demands of the Australian labour force.”

With the changes to the program, the DIC hopes to increase its capacity to respond to the integrity concerns by strengthening current legislation. The following changes will be introduced by the beginning of next month:

- The position must be a genuine vacancy within the business. When there are concerns the position may have been created specifically to secure a 457 visa without consideration of whether there is an appropriately skilled Australian available, investigation may be carried out;

- DIC may take action against sponsors who engage in discriminatory recruitment practices;

- The market salary exemption threshold will be increased from $80,000 to $50,000 to ensure that higher paid salary workers are not able to be undercut through the employment of overseas labour at a cheaper rate;

- The English language exemptions for certain positions will be removed. In this way 457 visa who have an ongoing position with their employer and want to apply for permanent residence in the long-run will not disadvantaged because of their language ability;

- Applicants who are nominated with a salary greater than $92,000 will continue to be exempted from the English language requirement;

- The requirement for sponsors to train Australians will be strengthened with some amendments, introducing an ongoing and binding requirement to meet training thresholds for the duration of their approved sponsorship;

- Workers with a 457 visa must be engaged with the company through an employment contract, as opposed to a business contract for services;

- Sponsors will solely be responsible for recovery costs.

“The changes will not adversely affect the vast majority of employers who are using the program appropriately. The changes will, however, strengthen the government’s capacity to identify and prevent employer practices that are not in keeping with the purpose of the 457 program,” stated the DIC.

Likewise, existing 457 visa holders will not be affected by the rule, because presumed is that they are already doing the right thing. Potential applicants for the 457 visa program will have to take notice of the rules because they might be required to provide with additional evidence to prove their integrity, the DIC concluded.

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