As of the 18th of April 2017, the Australian Government announced the abolishment of the 457 Visa, to be replaced by new temporary visas. You might be wondering what these changes mean for you.

What was the 457 Visa?

Introduced in 1996, the 457 Visa was a business visa allowing Australian employers to bring highly skilled foreign workers into the Australian workplace, to occupy positions unable to be filled by local Australian workers.

457 Visa holders were able to:

  • live and work in Australia for up to four years.
  • be eligible for over 650 occupations listed on the Consolidated Sponsored Occupation List (CSOL).
  • bring family members to Australia via a 427 secondary visa.
  • become permanent citizens in Australia after two years (under employer sponsorship).

What’s changed?

As announced 18th April via Facebook and press release, under new government regulations the 457 Visa will be removed and replaced in March 2018 by two new temporary skills visas – a two-year visa (renewable for two more years), and a four-year visa (recruiting foreign workers with high-level skills).

  • Be aware of stricter requirements.
    Both new visas will require you to provide evidence of a police/criminal background history check, at least two years relevant work experience and (for the four-year visa) higher proven English language ability.
  • Many eligible occupations have been removed. It’s a good idea to check out the updated list of Eligible Skilled Occupations.
  • ‘Mandatory labour marketing testing’ will be required.
    Put simply, Australian employers will be required by law to advertise all jobs to Australian citizens first, before they are able to extend job offers to foreign workers.
  • Permanent Residency will be harder to ascertain.
    The two-year visa now provides no ‘residency-pathway’. The permanent residence eligibility period of four-year visa holders will be extended to three years.

Why remove the 457? And what are the impacts?

It’s debatable.

The Australian Government states changes are ‘designed to recruit the best and brightest’ foreign workers to ‘fill real skill gaps’ where necessary, but ultimately ‘put Australian workers first’. This is partly due to complaints that employers have privileged the hiring of ‘cheaper’ 457 visa holders over local workers.

But the fact remains that exploiting or underpaying foreign workers is illegal. Pay rates for local and migrant staff must be equal. Sadly instances where employers harass foreign workers into working for less do occur.

Acknowledging this, Henry Sherrell of the Crawford School of Public Policy at the ANU argued that policy language focusing on migrants felt ‘backward’, as “what we should be looking at are employers, how they allocate their workforce and how they make those decisions”.

Sherrell also stressed that the myth of foreign workers ‘stealing’ local jobs is untrue;  in actuality, 457 visa holders constitute less than 1 per cent of the overall labour market.

Sydney-based immigration lawyer Michaela Byers noted the 475 Visa program afforded Australia a fantastic source of permanent residence for highly skilled migrants. Unfortunately, many people still hold common misconceptions.

“[Many foreign workers] end up becoming citizens, so they’re not just foreign workers that are here that have low skills or don’t assimilate into the Australian culture,” Byers said, “I’m a bit disturbed that Australian Values have been […] cited as one of the reasons for considering scrapping the 457 visas.”

So, will I be affected?

International Education Association of Australia CEO Phil Honeywood has reported that there appears to be no direct impact on international students.

Don’t be misled – your work rights while on a student visa will not be impacted, see our article on Working in Australia for more information on that subject.

However, if you or someone you know is on an existing 457 Visa – don’t worry. The announced 475 Visa abolition will not have any effect on your circumstances; 457 Visas issued prior to the 18th of April 2017 will remain unchanged.

“You’ll get to have the rest of your time on the visa, all okay,” Buzzfeed OzPolitics reporter Mark Di Stefano assured viewers recently on The Project, “The Government has grandfathered the program, meaning anyone who’s here already – you don’t have to worry.”

If you lodged a 457 Visa application on or before the 18th of April 2017 which has not yet been decided, you might be eligible for an application refund.

For general reform outlines and handy info-guides  (see Fact sheet one and Fact sheet two), check out the Department of Immigration and Border Protection site for more details.