The Australian government announced changes to the 457 visa and Employer Nomination scheme this week – and it’s left employers and employees in the IT industry confused.
This is due to the large numbers of IT employees currently on the 457 visa.
Robert Walsh from Fragomen, an immigration firm, explains that the 457 program has worked effectively as a demand-driven temporary skilled visa program.
He says that the number of visas granted rises and falls with changing circumstances in the labour market.
“The vast majority of companies using the 457 program and the individual holders of these visas have fully complied with the program’s requirements. Importantly, the 457 visa program has made it clear to the world that Australia is open for business,” Walsh says.
“However the 457 program has been caught up in the allegations of abuse of temporary visa holders in some sectors, largely involving visas other than the 457 visa," he says.
Walsh continues, “any changes must ensure the integrity of the program and support within the Australian community is maintained.”
Although a broader debate around the policy continues, Walsh advises that those impacted by the changes should seek advice about what the changes mean for them.
He says, “we know that many IT companies in Australia are concerned about whether they can retain their current workforce and continue to employ people from overseas.”
Walsh notes that with such significant changes to these visa classes it is important to know how the changes will affect individual employees and their families, companies and their sponsorship arrangements.
He says that one example of these changes is the combined occupation lists that have been significantly shortened.
651 have been reduced to 435 in total with 216 occupations removed.
According to Fragomen, access is now restricted to 59 other occupations, now subject to caveats based on factors such as the occupation itself; location, size and nature of the business; proposed base salary; and minimum level of experience required.
The immigration firms says that another key change are broader English language requirements. Police clearances will become mandatory for all 457 Visa applications.
Mandatory labour testing will be introduced and a requirement for employers to contribute to training Australians will be strengthened. There will also be new restrictions on visa renewals, according to Fragomen.
“The new occupations lists will impact all lodged 457 nominations and visas that are still being processed,” comments Walsh.
He goes on to say that this may mean these applications may need to be withdrawn and an assessment made as to whether a new 457 application can be lodged based on a new occupation.
He says that the amendments will also impact employees who currently hold 457 visas in terms of eligibility for a further visa application.
“The changes are many and complex and we know how stressful it is for many people from overseas working in Australia or companies with a workforce supported by employees on 457 visas,” adds Walsh.
"Getting the right advice is critical so that those impacted can work out what their options are and to plan ahead,” he says.
It is imperative that the successes and core policy drivers of the 457 program are not lost in the current round of changes as announced.
“We need to make sure that our migration program continues to play a central role in Australia’s economic development across all sectors, competing effectively against other countries and creating an environment that attracts and supports talented people from around the world.”
Walsh concludes, "it is fundamentally important that the successes and positive impact that the 457 visa program has had over many years are not thrown away in the implementation of the changes over the next 12 months.”