Published On: Mon, Oct 20th, 2014

AUSTRALIA: (16 October 2014) 4 changes to skilled foreign worker program announced

What is the change? The Australian Government has announced four changes to its temporary skilled foreign worker (subclass 457) visa program.

What does the change mean? The changes will retain the income threshold for two years, streamline processing for low-risk applicants, relax English language and skills criteria, and give start-up businesses more time to achieve viability.

  • Implementation time frame: The Government announced it will adopt the changes but did not specify an implementation date.
  • Visas/permits affected: Subclass 457 visas.
  • Who is affected: Employers and foreign workers applying for 457 visas.
  • Impact on processing times: Low-risk applicants will receive faster processing.
  • Business impact: The changes generally provide more flexibility for businesses.
  • Next steps: The Government is likely to adopt more changes and BAL will update clients as the reforms are announced.

Background: Last month, a review of the 457 visa program was published, making 22 recommendations. Yesterday, the Government announced it will adopt four recommendations:

(1)    The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold will remain at A$53 900 until it is reviewed within the next two years.

(2)    Low-risk applicants will receive streamlined processing of sponsorship, nomination and visa applications so that resources can instead focus on monitoring high-risk applicants.

(3)    English-language and skills testing will be more flexible.

(4)    The sponsorship approval period will be lengthened from the current 12 months to 18 months to give start-up companies time to establish themselves.

“Safeguards will remain in place to ensure that the 457 visa program is not rorted [abused],” the Government said in a joint statement by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison and Minister for Industry Ian McFarlane. “It will continue to be a requirement that a foreign worker receives at least the same market rate and conditions that are paid to an Australian doing the same job in the same workplace.”

The announced changes come on the heels of the Government’s statement yesterday that it will reform the Significant Investor Visa program and add a new Premium Investor Visa.

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