The 457 visa rules can be complicated and convoluted. The three distinct parts of the application (Sponsorship, Nomination and the Visa application itself) require a lot of work to put together and must be done right in order to achieve a successful result. This is especially true in the current environment, with the Department taking a very strict approach to visa assessments.
This is largely the reason why the changes announced to the 457 program on 18 April 2017 came as an unwelcome surprise to many businesses.
More than the usual basic tinkering, the Department proposed to abolish the entire 457 visa subclass, and replace it with a ‘Temporary Skills Shortage’ visa with two streams – Short-term and Medium-term (in addition to the Labour Agreement Stream, which will be retained).
For new visa applicants, the implications of the changes are significant, including:
- Applicants with occupations on the Short-Term Skills Shortage List (STSSL), but not the Medium-Long-Term Skills Shortage List (MLTSSL), can now only apply for a 2-year visa, which does not have a pathway to Permanent Residency.
- Applicants with occupations on the Medium-Long-Term Skills Shortage List (MLTSSL) can apply for up to a 4-year visa, with a pathway to Permanent Residency after 3 years.
- Tighter eligibility requirements (including a reduction in eligible occupations, lower age requirement (max 45 years), stricter English language requirements).
If you already hold a 457 visa:
Scenario 1: Your visa was issued prior to 19 April 2017:
If you are already holding a 457 visa, which was issued prior to the announced changes (i.e. prior to 19 April 2017), then we have good news for you – you will not be directly affected by these changes.
Your existing work and sponsorship arrangements will remain unchanged, as will the conditions of your visa and your eligibility for Permanent Residency (i.e. a transition to the subclass 186 visa).
However, if you wish to change employers the new employer will need to apply for a nomination under the new program (even if they are already an approved sponsor under the old 457 arrangements). This will require that your occupation exists on a relevant skills shortage list.
It is critically important that you understand your obligations, and that you make sure your employer understands theirs. If you change employers and they do not meet their obligations as your sponsor, it can have dire consequences for your visa – and therefore also for your future in Australia.
Under transitional arrangements, you may be eligible to apply for a permanent visa (subclass 186), even if your occupation does not appear on the MLTSSL.
Scenario 2: Your visa was issued on or after 19 April 2017, but before March 2018:
Your subclass 457 visa falls within the transitional arrangements, and will have either a 2-year or 4-year validity, as outlined above.
After March 2018, your visa will continue to operate as before, subject to the same conditions and expiry. However, please note the advisory on changing employers, outlined above and extracted here:
if you wish to change employers the new employer will need to apply for a nomination under the new program (even if they are already an approved sponsor under the old 457 arrangements). This will require that your occupation exists on a relevant skills shortage list.
If you are employed in an occupation that appears on the MLTSSL, you may be eligible to apply for a permanent residency visa after 3 years.
New TSS Visa – from March 2018:
From March 2018, no further subclass 457 visas will be granted; instead, it will be necessary to apply for the new TSS visa. This means that if you have not lodged your 457 visa application prior to this date, you will need to instead lodge an application for the TSS visa.
Employers with existing approved sponsorship under the 457 program will be able to sponsor employees on both the 457 and TSS visa subclasses.