In September 2014 the Independent review into the integrity of the 457 programme, commissioned by the Australian government and conducted by an independent panel, was released.

At this time the recommendations were broadly accepted by the Government, however whilst it was expected that they would be analysed and implemented expeditiously, it appears that the political landscape has caused some substantial delays.

Finally, the Government has today released its comprehensive response to the 22 recommendations made by the review. A comprehensive list of proposed changes can be found on the Department’s website. In general there is overwhelming support for the majority of recommendations.

Some of the key expected changes to the 457 programme include:

  • The replacement of investment in training benchmarks with an annual training fund contribution that will be based on the number of 457 visa holders sponsored and the size and circumstances of the business (recommendation 6).
  • Reduced English language requirements (recommendation 7).
  • Standard Business Sponsors will be able to obtain approval for 5 years. Start-up Business Sponsors will have approval for 18 months (recommendation 10).
  • The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) will remain in place, but be better articulated and frozen at its current level for 2 years (recommendation 5).
  • Compliance obligations will be imposed on employers to provide information to visa holders on their workplace rights, including a department statement and Fair Work Ombudsman Information Sheet (recommendation 12).

The issue addressed in the review which has not received support is:

  • The Government will not be supporting an expansion of the list of countries that must meet the English language requirement (recommendation 7.4).
  • Interestingly, the Government’s response to the recommendation that Labour Market Testing be abolished was ‘noted’ which does not rule out future changes to this component of the 457 regime (recommendation 2).

The Government has committed to implementing the recommendations by the end of the 2015-2016 programme, however much of the implementation is likely to occur over the next 6 months.

What does this mean for employers?

The significant number of changes to the 457 programme will require employers to adapt their models for sponsorship of foreign workers.  FCB Smart Visa will keep you updated on the Government’s implementation of the changes over the coming months.

To discuss how these changes will affect your current and prospective sponsored workers, or to help you decide whether a 457 visa is the best solution for your labour force needs, please contact an FCB Smart Visa migration agent on (02) 9922 5188.