On 23 February 2013, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship announced a number of reforms to the subclass 457 program, to further enhance the integrity of the program. The changed will take effect 1 July 2013 and the reforms outlined by the Minister include:
- the introduction of a genuineness criterion under which the Department may refuse a nomination if the position does not fit the scope of the business’s activities
- an increase in market salary exemption threshold from A$180,000 to A$250,000
- the removal of English language exemptions for certain positions. Applicants who are nominated with a salary greater than A$92,000 will remain exempt from the English language requirement
- enhanced regulatory powers for the Department to ensure that the working conditions of sponsored visa holders meet Australian standards, and that subclass 457 workers cannot be exploited or used to undercut local workers
- amendments to existing training benchmark provisions, to clarify that an employer’s obligation to train Australians is ongoing and binding for the duration of their approved sponsorship. This includes newly established businesses
- amendments to clarify that 457 workers may not be on-hired to an unrelated entity unless they are sponsored under a labour agreement
- amendments to allow the Department to refund a visa application fee in circumstances where an employer nomination has been withdrawn.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has confirmed that labour market testing will not be introduced as part of the 457 visa process. However, it is likely that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship will increase monitoring resources to ensure that business sponsors are adhering to all sponsorship obligations and that training benchmarks are maintained.
Further developments and information will be provided by the department in the coming months. Expat will provide further information as soon as it is available.