Can I be self-employed on a 457 visa?

The recent changes introduced by the Australian Government to our immigration system make it extremely difficult for temporary skilled workers to self-sponsor on a 457 visa.

There have been cases where the system has been exposed to abuse and fraud, particularly when people self-sponsor. With this in mind, the Australian Government recently decided to implement new measures, which now affect both sponsors of self-employed individuals and applicants who intend to lodge applications as self-sponsors.

Basically, with the new rules, the decision to accept or reject an application is highly dependent on the Government’s assessment of risk factors. Sponsors and individual applicants are classified as being either of “low-risk” or “high-risk”.

Since 1 July 2017, self-employed applicants seeking entry on a 457 visa have had to make the utmost effort to provide the Department of Immigration and Border Protection with substantial and compelling evidence that the Australian labor market is in real need of their businesses and expertise. Their supporting documents are expected to be genuine, relevant and convincing. This is quite a step beyond the previous rules, when applicants’ main concerns were to arrange for their nomination and sponsorship, and to register their proprietary limited company. All the risks they had to worry about were those of being successful with their businesses, getting clients and so on once they settled – the real challenges of self-employment! This is no longer the case.

According to the Government, the idea behind the current restrictions is to make sure that job vacancies, businesses and nominations created in Australia are legitimate, instead of designed to support bogus immigration claims. Fictitious jobs and self-driven businesses appeared everywhere without real market demand – some of which acting as façade for other immigration purposes. Another rationale for the changes is the need for the Government to exercise control over the labor market in order to avoid the challenges it has to face as a result of unemployment caused by unsuccessful self-employment.

In the rare cases where 457 visas are granted or visa holders are allowed to work as self-employed, the Government has announced that it will take strict enforcement measures. Company directors and shareholders who hire staff under this visa category, for example, will be carefully investigated. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will make sure that all jobs and positions filled by self-employed migrants holding a 457 visa are not simply occupied by their family members or acquaintances, and are not created for illegitimate purposes. The bottom line is: from the perspective of the new policy, the self-employed are considered “high risk” skilled workers. This is unlikely to change when the new TCC visa replaces the current 457 visa in March 2018.