This week the Government released its response to the “Independent review into the integrity of the 457 programme”.
Full details of how these changes will come into effect will unfold with time, but some of the key issues are:
- Training Benchmarks A and B will be replaced with an annual training fund contribution based on the number of 457 sponsored and with the contributions scaled according to the size of the sponsoring organisation (6.1) These contributions will be made to the Department of Industry and directed to areas of identified training need (6.2/3). The Government will undertake further consultation with stakeholders on how this will be implemented. It is believed that this will increase the integrity of the way these funds are used and remove the payment of commissions. Training expenditure cost may decrease for sponsors under this new arrangement.
- It will be made unlawful for a sponsor to be paid by a visa holder to be sponsored and a strong penalty and conviction will be applied (10.7)
- Labour market testing will not be abolished, however, the Department will examine ways to reduce the burden to employers and red tape in this process (2.0)
- The English language level will be altered to an IELTS average of 5 overall, with no less than 4.5 in any band (7.1)
- Alternate English language test providers are likely to be announced next month (7.3)
- The exemption for demonstrating English language competency will not be extended to further countries, although the current exemption for 5 years continuous study in English will be changed to 5 years cumulative study (7.5)
- SBS approvals will be extended from 3 to 5 years and from 12 to 18 months for start up businesses. These new approval time frames will commence from the time of renewal or new applications for SBS. Current approvals will not be extended to these time frames (10.1)
- The ATO and the Department have signed an MOU which allows information to be shared on 457 visa holder salaries. The MOU allows the Department to request salary compliance checks across a broader range of the sponsored employees and businesses, without increasing the number of work site visits (18.1)
- Visa charges are being reviewed as part of the Joint Review of Border Fees, Charges and Taxes (11.0)
- The age limitations and the TRT time frames for transition to ENS are being reviewed as part of the Skilled Migration and 400 Visa Series Review, but the recommendations on these from the 457 review are supported (15.1/2)
- The Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration cannot be replaced, but advice is being sought on whether it can be reconstituted to be more responsive on labour market issues (1.1/2)
- Information provided to sponsors will be reviewed and revised for clarity, but further resources will not be allocated (16.0)
I acknowledge the assistance of the Migration Institute of Australia in providing this summary in MIA Notice 2015.22 circulated to its members on 18/3/15.