The Australian government has announced that it will adopt an “Australians first” approach to our skilled migration program, by ending the increasingly-politicized 457 visa program.
The Temporary Work (Skilled) (Subclass 457) visa scheme will be replaced by the introduction of the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa. The government will begin implementing the reforms immediately, with an expected completion date of March 2018.
The TSS visa will be comprised of two new visa streams that are being described as a short and medium-term program.
The short-term visa will allow foreign nationals to live and work in Australia for a two-year period, offers no pathway to permanent residency, and has an option to extend the worker’s stay for a further two years. It will also significantly reduce the number of occupations that are eligible for the visa by approximately 200.
The medium-term visa program will be specifically targeted at higher skilled workers from a limited pool of 183 occupations. To qualify for the four-year visa applicants will also need to achieve a significantly higher standard of English language proficiency than the two-year program. This may include achieving a score of 5 in each component of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), although the exact requirement is still unconfirmed.
Migrant workers who qualify for the four-year visa program will also be offered a pathway to permanent residency.
Additional reforms announced by the Department of Immigration include:
- A requirement that visa applicants now have at least two years’ experience in their skilled occupation.
- The introduction of a minimum market salary rate, to ensure that temporary migrants cannot be used to undercut local Australian workers.
- Mandatory labour market testing, unless an international obligation applies.
- An extension of the permanent residency eligibility period from two to three years.
- The introduction of a non-discriminatory workforce test to ensure that employers are not actively discriminating against Australian workers.
- An increased requirement for employers to contribute to training Australian workers.
- All skilled visa applicants will be required to pass a mandatory criminal background check and provide penal clearance certification as proof.
The Department of Immigration has confirmed that employers in rural Australia will continue to have access to skilled migration concessions that they currently enjoy. Regional employers will not be prevented from accessing occupations under temporary and permanent visa programs to reflect their ongoing skill shortage needs.
Existing concessions for regional employers—such as exemptions from the nomination fee and age requirements for certain occupations—will continue to be retained. Consideration is also currently being given to introducing further exemptions to the age requirement for additional regional occupations.
According to the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, the changes have been specifically designed to aid in recruiting “the best and brightest” to Australia’s shores, and will also feature increased market testing requirements.
“We are putting jobs first, we are putting Australians first … we are an immigration nation but the fact remains that Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs,” Turnbull said.
“Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs, so we are abolishing the 457 visa, the visa that brings temporary foreign workers into our country. We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians.”
“The 457 visa will be replaced by a new temporary visa specifically designed to recruit the best and brightest in the national interest. The new visa will better target genuine skills shortages, including in regional Australia,” he said.
The Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, has also confirmed that individuals who are already in Australia will not be affected by the changes.
“They will continue under the conditions of that visa,” Dutton said.
“What we are doing is making some significant changes in abolishing the program, but introducing a temporary skills shortage visa through two streams.”
“At the moment the existing 457 visa program is conducted for a period of four years, but essentially it is open-ended, and it results, in many cases, in a migration outcome, somebody going into permanent residency and becoming a citizen, which is a significant part of the attraction to using the 457 visa,” he said.
It was also confirmed that newly introduced visas will see a 32.5% increase in fees, with the four-year visa spiking in cost from $1,810 to $2,400, while the two-year visa will raised to $1,150.
The government has additionally indicated that there will be a tightening of the requirements for employer sponsored permanent skilled visas, including:
- A requirement that applicants possess at least three years’ experience in their skilled occupation.
- An increased English language proficiency requirement.
- Applicants must now be beneath the maximum age of 45 at the time of application to qualify.
- Increased requirements for Australian to contribute to training Australian workers.
- A requirement that employers pay the Australian market salary rate, and meet the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold of $53,900.
This update is intended for explanatory purposes only. Any questions should be directed to a Registered Migration Agent at International People Solutions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org