You will have found it hard to miss the Australian Government’s recent announcement of the abolishment of the 457 visa and other upcoming changes. In many ways, when it comes to law, knowing a little is worse than knowing nothing at all; so keeping this in mind, I am going to try to highlight a few key points from those things that we know right now.
Most importantly, those who have already been granted their 457 visas will not be affected. Unfortunately, those who applied before April 19, 2017, but have not yet been granted their visa will still be affected by the coming changes and will need to fulfil the additional requirements.
Pending applications based on a removed occupation will not be successful. These applications will need to be withdrawn. Individuals who withdraw their applications will receive a refund on the application fees.
For those people here on a 457 visa at the moment, there will be a ‘grandfathering’ arrangement and they will continue under the conditions of that visa.
However, visa holders should note the changes to the English language and skills requirements if they plan to change employment, change their occupation or seek a further subclass 457 visa.
The Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa will be replaced with the completely new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa in March 2018.
- The occupation lists that underpin the 457 visa have been significantly condensed from 651 to 435 occupations, with 216 occupations removed and access to 59 other occupations restricted. The Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL) has been renamed as the Short-term Skilled Occupations List (STSOL) and will be updated every six months based on advice from the Australian Department of Employment. The other occupations list used for skilled migration, the Skilled Occupations List (SOL) is renamed as Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL).
- The maximum duration of 457 visas issued from this date for occupations that are on the STSOL will be two years with an optional two-year extension allowed only once.
Occupations on the MLTSSL will continue to be issued for a maximum duration of four years.
- The two-year short-term visa program will offer no prospect of permanent residency. The four-year medium-term visa holders will be able to apply for permanent residency.
- Four-year visas will require a higher standard of English language skills; a minimum of IELTS 5 (or equivalent test) in each test component. The English language exemption salary threshold, which exempted applicants whose salary was over $96,400 from the English language requirement, will be removed.
- Policy settings about the training benchmark requirement will be made clearer in legislative instruments. Training requirements for employers to contribute towards training Australian workers will be strengthened and are expected to be more carefully monitored.
- Provision of penal clearance certificates will become mandatory.
- Two-years’ work experience will be required for both visas.
- In the majority of cases, mandatory Labour market testing will be required; unless an international obligation applies. Employers must pay the Australian market salary rate and meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold requirements. A non-discriminatory workforce test to ensure employers are not actively discriminating against Australian workers will also be applied.
The Australian Government has announced sweeping changes to citizenship laws, which seek to place an emphasis on “Australian values” and ask applicants to prove their commitment to Australia. How this will be assessed is not yet clear and consultation with the public will be undertaken before the Government settles on the questions has been suggested.
The new measures would see migrants face a tougher citizenship test which will assess their commitment to Australia and their attitudes to religious freedom and gender equality. Those with a history of family violence or organised crime may also be barred from citizenship.
Applicants will be asked to demonstrate that they have integrated into Australian society. This could potentially mean by joining clubs or by providing evidence that they are employed and their children are in school.
If an applicant fails the test three times they will have to wait another two years before they can sit it again.
There is a major chance is that migrants who have become permanent residents will now have to wait four years before they can apply for citizenship. Previously this was to have been, at the time of application, one-year on PR as well as residing in Australia for at least the previous four years.
The current Government will have to pass the changes through Parliament but if they are successful, those who apply for citizenship from April 20 will be subjected to the new legislation.
Benjamin Sandqvist is a director or Access Australia Visa and Migration Services (AAMVS), and a member of the board of the Swedish-Australian Chamber of Commerce’s Melbourne chapter.
AAMVS is a registered migration agency and specialises in providing advice to individuals, families and businesses wanting to work, live or study in Australia. The AAMVS team are highly experienced and have worked with many clients to support them to start a new life in Australia. We have a thorough understanding of Australia’s visa and immigration processes and to help navigate it quickly and efficiently.
Benjamin is the honorary-consul of Sweden to Australia based in Melbourne, and can be contacted on 03 8669 1930 or [email protected]