The UK did it with Brexit, America did it with Trump and now Australia seems to be following suit. Picking on migrants for political gain is certainly a growing trend.

The Australian Government dealt a blow to thousands of workers and employers yesterday when it announced plans to abolish the 457 visa scheme and replace it with two new temporary skilled visas as part of a Temporary Skill Shortage Visa Program.

Within hours of the announcement, two significantly condensed lists were released, the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) and the Short-Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL).

The program is being axed despite the fact that 457 visa grants have fallen significantly in recent years, down from a peak of 126,000 in 2012 to just 95,000 in 2016.

It’s no secret that the 457 visa system has been under attack for some time now, with employers and applicants both having to cut through an increasing amount of red tape. The horrific application process was already enough of a deterrent to ensure that only employers who genuinely needed skilled labour would use 457s.

Reforms have already commenced and will be completed by early next year.

Here is the list of occupations being removed entirely.

Don’t start celebrating just yet though, even if your occupation is still on the MLTSSL or STSOL. Many of the occupations that remain now have caveats placed against them. For example, Customer Service Managers must work for an employer with an annual turnover in excess of $1M and must have a base salary over $65,000.

Similarly, a Beauty Salon Manager cannot be employed by a business with fewer than five full-time employees and a Massage Therapist can no longer be employed in a “therapeutic setting”, ruling out spas.

It’s a minefield and we recommend seeking advice from a Registered Migration Agent prior to making an application.

Here’s a summary of what we know so far. We will update this article as soon as more information becomes available.

Key 457 changes scheduled at various dates over the coming months:

• Shorter occupation lists
• Minimum of two years’ full-time work experience required
• Minimum salary rates
• Labour market testing required
• Only one onshore renewal allowed for applicants under the short-term TSS stream
• Medium-term TSS visa holders may be eligible for a PR pathway after three years
• Short-term TSS visa holders can renew onshore
• PR residence eligibility period will rise from two years to three
• Strengthened training benchmark requirements
• Data matching between ATO and Border Protection
• Mandatory police clearance certificates

Changes to eligibility requirements for employer-sponsored PR:

• Minimum of three years’ work experience required
• Maximum age of 45
• Strengthened training benchmark requirements
• Employers must meet minimum salary requirements and pay a ‘market rate’ salary
• Have an IELTS of 6+
• Commit to working for the company for 3 years

These reforms will be staggered over the next 11 months. Timelines have been released containing key dates.

457 Reform Timeline
186 / 187 Reform Timeline

Existing visa concessions for regional Australia will remain in place. For example, the waiving of nomination fees and age limits for certain roles.

457 changes – other key points:

• If you have lodged a 457 visa application and your occupation has been removed from the list, you will be entitled to a refund of your Department of Immigration and Border Protection application fee.

• Anyone applying for a 457 visa from now until March 2018 must be working in an occupation listed on the STSOL or MLTSSL. If you’re on the short-term list, your visa will only be granted for 2 years and you will not have a pathway to PR. If you’re on the medium-term list, your 457 visa can still be granted for up to four years and you may have a pathway to PR after 3 years.

• Short-term applicants must demonstrate that they only wish to remain in Australia temporarily.

• The 457 visa program will end completely in March 2018.

• The new TSS program requires applicants to have at least two years of relevant work experience. This means that most graduates will not be eligible for sponsorship as of next year.

• Regarding current 457 visa holders who wish to transition to PR. Speaking to the media, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said they will not be impacted by the change and will still be entitled to apply for residency. Information relating to this is still coming through and we will provide an update as soon as things become clear.

Commenting on the announcement, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “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.

“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.”

It is speculated that application fees of $1,150 and $2,400 will be payable for the short and medium-term visas respectively.

What happens next?

If you’re on a 457 visa and concerned about your residency pathway or you’re planning to apply for a 457 visa, you can contact our team to arrange a free consultation. Our Registered Migration Agents will assess your options and recommend the best course of action for you.

For a free consultation with a Registered Migration Agent, call (WA) 08 6189 5333 (VIC) 03 9038 9070 or email changes@truebluemigration.com